Take Eight: Q & A with 'Survivorman' and children's book author Les Stroud
From surviving a -50F degree night in northern Canada to munching on grubs in the Australian Outback, Les Stroud’s passion for the outdoors has driven him to some of the planet’s most remote locations. The inventor of the survival TV genre, Stroud, aka “Survivorman” is beloved for navigating (and filming) his own solo wilderness survival expeditions on a hit show that ran for 18 years.
Stroud, a dad of two, just released his first children’s book, “Wild Outside: Around the World with Survivorman,” taking young readers into his world of “Survivorman” wilderness adventures with fast-paced stories, nature facts, and practical advice for spending time outside whenever they may be. In addition to Stroud’s personal accounts, Wild Outside features kid-friendly activities with call-out boxes on how to safely observe wildlife, use a compass, signal for help, build a wildlife blind, track weather patterns and pack a survival kit. The book shows readers that adventure awaits everywhere—whether in a jungle, a backyard or a city park -- proves that the outdoors is a fantastic classroom.
1. What inspired you to create a book for children?
Teaching and adventuring with children has always been a big part of who I am/was as an outdoor guide and educator. Even my work that is ostensibly for adults such as the TV series "Survivorman" was still very appropriate for kids and young adults and the fan requests would often be overwhelmingly from children. Case in point I would receive photos of kids dressing up as me for Halloween.
2. Were you adventurous as a kid?
Yes and no. I certainly wanted to be, however the culture of my family, my neighborhood, my school and area was not one that promoted ‘outdoor adventure’ very well, if at all. However the desire was in my blood and so I would be content with finding adventure in a local field or creek.
3. Kids can be pretty fearless, especially when it comes to nature and the outdoors. How do we teach them about danger without extinguishing their boldness?
First we must learn and be realistic about the dangers ourselves. Too many adults pass their own, often unsubstantiated fears, onto our kids. They see us afraid of something benign and they figure they should be afraid too. This is a problem because then all risk is mitigated which often nullifies the wonder of adventure. Being realistic and showing them where the true and real dangers are will embolden them to properly assess a situation and make intelligent determinations about whether or not to proceed or withdraw. Allowing them to experience controlled risk monitored by experienced and skillful adults keeps them safe while expanding their confidence.
4. You have two adult kids, a son and a daughter. What lessons from survivorship and adventure helped you most through parenthood?
Really it was more about all the wonderful opportunities adventuring and surviving gave me to connect with nature and feel grounded that kept my head in the right space for being as solid as I can be as a parent. That said, surviving in the middle of the Amazon jungle or the middle of the frozen Arctic is much easier than parenthood!
5. What are your top survival tips if you are stranded with your kids?
Practice your Zones of Assessment
Determine a plan of action
Determine and distribute roles to each person
Make your move when all is safe to do so
6. You've been to crazy places. Where would you suggest a family go to get a taste of that wildness, without risking their lives?
The closest park to them. There is great adventure in city parks. There is great adventure in suburban parks a little farther out. And there is great adventure in parks a longer drive away.
7. What kind of survival skills should we make sure our kids know?
Remaining calm (yes that's a skill).
How to assess the dangers and advantages of any situation.
How to make an informed decision on what to do.
8. What else – besides life skills – do children gain from learning wilderness survival?