The following list may sound cliche to a lot of people, but it’s 100% how I feel about hiking and why my relationship with it has strengthened over the years. There is something so refreshing and therapeutic about getting away in nature for a bit.
If you haven’t gone hiking before I suggest reading the below notes and deciding to give it a try! It doesn’t have to be strenuous or miles long. Just check out a short trail at a local park. I promise you’ll get something out of it, even if it’s just a break from the chaos.
So without farther adieu, here’s what hiking has taught me about myself…
1. You are far stronger than you think.
Sometimes mountains look too tall to climb or paths look too narrow to cross. I may panic internally and require 20 minutes of convincing and emotional support from friends, but I typically do it. I love looking back on these experiences with no regrets. I overcame my fear of heights on a trail in Utah, I jumped off an intimidating waterfall in Australia, and endured hot as hell weather with a terrible blister to make it to an awesome viewpoint on a trail in Kentucky. That whole quote about diamonds being made under pressure speaks to me at times like this. In the moment I may feel weak and discouraged, but you will look back on those moments with pride and happy memories.
2. You need to relax more.
We live in a world where everyone and everything moves at a thousand miles a minute. Slowing down is important. Your body and soul need it. Hiking gives me the chance to get away and be alone with my thoughts…something I otherwise never reserve time to do. And while the internet is a great gift, it’s refreshing to be disconnected every now and then. There are no work messages to worry about, no political drama in your news feed, and no social media pages to compare yourself to. I find myself often wasting hours mindlessly scrolling through things that I don’t even care about. It’s an ongoing active effort to convert those habits into more fulfilling activities. Side note- for a fun and lighthearted read about how to craft your everyday life into things that make you happy check out ‘Craft a Life You Love’ by Amy Tangerine.
3. Listening to your body is important.
There are hikes when I realize I’m too dehydrated or that I need to take a break to breathe. It’s not shameful or an insult to my athleticism. It’s being human. You only get better by practicing so you have nowhere to go but up, even if you do have to stop 20 times to catch your breathe on a steep ascent. Nutrients are another important thing that so many people neglect to think about for day hikes. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge snack person, so I highly encourage bringing fruit, trail mix, granola bars etc on a hike. Be responsible and bring a zippy bag to put your trash in as well. One of my favorite things is reaching a great viewpoint and taking in the view with a yummy snack in hand.
4. Independence is great, but collaboration is key.
Sometimes stopping to ask for directions is better than getting on the wrong trail for the next few miles. I’m a very strong-headed person, so asking for help can be hard but often worth it. There have also been times when I wouldn’t have made it up a muddy ravine if it weren’t for holding hands with friends and pulling each other up. It’s always neat to see complete strangers help each other out on trails, but it’s sad that this is a fleeting occurrence in society. Our world could be so much better if everyone just worked together more often.
5. Live in each moment, because life is short and there’s a lot to see.
It’s the most cliche phrase ever- but stop and smell the damn flowers! I was taught in college that some of the best hikes are the ones when you stop in place and stay silent for a while to let nature happen around you. Can you imagine 30 college kids shutting up for an hour to get a timid platypus to arise from it’s creek bed? We did and it was awesome! Don’t just watch your feet when hiking….it’s easy to do. There are often so many cool plants and creatures that you will notice if you just look around.