Rewilding in Your Own Backyard with Nature’s Apprentice Claire Dunn- EP049

 In Podcast

An interest in health and fitness may begin with a desire to look good on the outside, but most of us stick with sport because of the internal benefits—the sense of aliveness and vitality, the feeling of strength and connection to our bodies and the world around us. Training gives us a few hours away from our busy lives, and if we’re lucky, it allows us to be fully present. Now imagine turning those few hours of escape into a few days, a few weeks, or even a year! What would it be like to leave the modern world and spend time in the wild, developing a deep connection with yourself and the earth?




Claire Dunn was living a typical fast-paced, urban lifestyle. Working as a lobbyist and environmental activist in a high-pressure, highly political environment, she longed for the opportunity to get closer to the wilderness she was fighting for and explore the human-nature connection. Starting in 2010, Claire spent a year in the wild, and that experience became the subject of her subsequent memoir, My Year Without Matches: Escaping the City in Search of the Wild. A trained Vision Quest guide, Claire offers rewilding workshops and retreats as well as personal mentoring for people seeking a greater sense of connection. She is a regular contributor to publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald, Huffington Post, and The Newcastle Herald.

Today Claire shares the inspiration for her year in the wilderness, explaining her preparation and the structure of the experience. She walks us through a typical day in the bush, sharing the skills she practiced, what diet and exercise looked like, and her core practice of wandering. Claire discusses her struggle to readjust to the modern world and her commitment to helping others find connection to themselves, others and the earth. Listen in for Claire’s insight on being versus doing, and learn to pursue rewilding in your own backyard.

Topics Covered

[1:02] How Claire’s upbringing influenced her interest in rewilding

  • Grew up on farm by river, three brothers
  • Comfortable with body, the earth

 [2:37] The impetus for Claire’s year in the bush

  • Working as environmental activist, conservationist
  • Burned out on high pressure of political game
  • Transformational course inspired deep nature connection
[5:15] How Claire prepared for her year of living wild

  • Turned attention to practices of tracking, wilderness survival skills
  • Created independent wilderness studies program in New South Wales
  • Spent two summers at Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School
[6:44] The structure of Clair’s year in the bush

  • ‘Choose your own adventure’
  • Build shelter with found materials
  • Follow sacred order of survival (water, shelter, fire, food)
  • Perfect hand drill fire technique
[9:28] Claire’s instinct to be alone

  • Attention to elements, plants, animals and unseen
  • Unraveling old way of being, learned fluid wandering
[12:49] Claire’s lessons in being vs. doing

  • ‘Trying negates the effort’
  • Making fire blindfolded taught surrender
[14:14] A typical day in the bush with Claire

  • Tried not to have routine
  • Wake up with birds, go to sit spot
  • Explore, journal and read
  • Work on project (i.e.: tanning hide)
[16:45] The skills Claire honed in the wild

  • Hide tanning, basket weaving, rope making
  • Fires, water, bush food and medicinals
  • Bird language, naturalist awareness
  • Expanded sense of vision, fox walking
  • Dynamic listening meditation
[18:28] Claire’s core practice of wandering

  • Follow curiosity, no clear goal
[20:20] How Claire pursued fitness during her year in the bush

  • Bush gym, jogging loop and yoga
  • Making fire = intense burst of cardio
[22:16] How Claire felt after the experience

  • Ready to see friends, family
  • Hit wall of grief with loss of connection to self, others and land
[24:22] Claire’s bush diet

  • Varied quite a lot, restock in town once a month
  • Rice, oats, quinoa and lentils
  • Produce that would keep
  • Lost weight, needed more fat/protein
[27:04] The medicinals Claire utilized in the wild

  • Bloodwood tree sap for cuts
  • Blackened fern for bites, stings
[27:31] How fit and healthy Claire felt during the experience

  • Lost too much weight, depleted some nutrients
  • Gained strength, felt incredibly alive
[28:34] Why Claire is back in the modern world

  • Heart of social activist, contribute to change
  • Satisfying to tell story, explore skills in urban setting
[30:07] Claire’s insight around rewilding in an urban context

  • Connect deeply where you are
  • Find a sit spot, immerse in wildness
  • Forage for edible weeds
  • Expand sense of vision, open senses
[34:54] Claire’s definition of health and fitness

  • Internal sense of aliveness, vitality
  • Sense of purpose, contentment
  • Body strong and flexible

Learn More About Claire

Nature’s Apprentice

My Year Without Matches: Escaping the City in Search of the Wild by Claire Dunn

Claire on Facebook

Claire on Twitter


Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracker School




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