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Nullius in Verba: The Importance of Seeing for Yourself

There is no substitute for getting out there.

By: Colin Stouffer + Save to a List

I have long been fond of the motto of The Royal Society of London – “Nullius in Verba.”  It’s Latin for “on the word of no one.”  In other words, be skeptical, run your own experiments and form opinions based on empirical evidence gathered by your own senses.  See for yourself.  Although rooted in a scientific context, I think this phrase has broader applications to life in general.

It's human nature to form quick impressions, often based on insufficient evidence.  We decide we don't like something or that it's not "our thing" based on what others tell us, but without actually experiencing it.  We then hold fast to that opinion for the rest of our life and it becomes more embedded as each year passes.  This type of decision making is undoubtedly efficient, but it can also lead to wildly inaccurate conclusions and half-baked stereotypes.  Worst of all, it creates a kind of "second-hand" life.  Reject this tendency in favor of a more raw and unfiltered acquaintance with your existence.     

It's admittedly easy to get caught in the trap of the routine.  We all have responsibilities and commitments that demand significant amounts of our time, attention, and energy.  In what little down time we enjoy, the path of least resistance is the well-worn one leading to the familiar.  There is much comfort to be found in the familiar, and we are reluctant to spend our leisure hours attempting something new, but we do ourselves a great disservice if we don't occasionally reject comfort in favor of adventure.  Life is nothing but a collection of experiences and we should curate wisely.  Once in a while, put off watching another season of that show on Netflix and do something different.  Go somewhere you've never been, whether it's close by or an airplane ride away.  Try to get to know someone whose ideas and beliefs differ from your own.  Pick an adventure on The Outbound, or go create one of your own.  It doesn't have to be extravagant, it just has to be fresh.  And try to leave your preconceptions at home.  

No matter what you've heard, read, or watched about something, someplace, or someone, nothing can replace the reality of personal experience.  Who knows what sort of impressions you'll form or what stories you'll have to tell when you get off the beaten path and try something outside of your comfort zone.  Maybe you'll discover a new passion.  Maybe you'll find out that the Grand Canyon is even bigger than it looked in your imagination, that you have more in common with your neighbor than you thought, that fireflies in a field are better than anything on TV, or that Rocky Mountain oysters taste even worse than you expected.  The point is, you never know what you'll discover until you get out there.  The world is a wild and wonderful place, but, as Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton said, "you don't have to take my word for it."  Nulius in verba.  Go see for yourself.    


We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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