Many frequent hikers will tell you that it is a near addiction for them. They are addicted to the natural highs they can achieve when they’re out alone or with friends in the solitude of nature, challenging themselves to accomplish things they never could have dreamed about. For someone who has never gone hiking, this may seem strange. Here, we’ll detail ten things that might make you think differently about hiking, and possibly help you realize why your friends and colleagues have been raving about it.
1. Raise your Fitness
It’s much easier to go to the gym, sure. You can do that hour walk on the treadmill, and that’s fantastic. No one can or should take that away, you’re doing great work. But what if you could get the same effect (or better) by being outside and hiking a mountain? You can inhale fresh air instead of the stagnant sweaty scent in the air at your gym. Your body is going to appreciate the fresh air, and you’ll ultimately feel more refreshed and accomplished after a long hike than you will after a run on a treadmill or elliptical.
2. Rely on Yourself
Hiking is challenging. It’s a challenge physically, but also mentally depending on how long or arduous the trip is. Some hiking trips last for days at a time, and aren’t just a days-length walk up a mountain. Even if you’re with other people, this type of journey is going to teach you to rely on your own body and instincts, possibly more than you have at any other point in your life. Self-reliance is one of the hardest skills to learn in life, but being out – surviving in sense – in nature will help you get there. If you can survive out in the woods, without the use of technology and general “comforts,” you can take anything the real world can dish out.
3. The Silence is Amazing
Most people need silence. Even the most sociable and outgoing among us need their solitude and alone time. There is no better way to achieve this than out in the beauty of nature on a hike. You’d be shocked just how beautifully quiet the world can be – stop in the middle of your hike and stand still. There are no cars. There is no electrical humming. There is simply nothing but you and nature, and it’s likely you’ll be able to hear your own heart beat in between the chirps of birds and other woodland creatures.
4. Run Away for A Day or Two
The so-called real world stinks sometimes. Being an adult is hard, and you need to be able to take a step away now and then. There is no boss to call you out on not working hard enough (even though you absolutely are, of course) out in nature. No one is going to solicit you with unwanted calls or emails. You can simply walk away from it all, even if it is only for a day or two. And nothing feels better than sitting on the edge of a mountain, looking out over the sea of trees, and knowing there is nothing that can get to you right now.
5. Throw Your Stress Away
This ties into number four quite a bit. You’ve run away, and you’re in a situation where you can’t be bothered by the stuff that nags at you day after day, at least not physically or directly. Now is the time to throw away all that stress you’ve bundled up inside. Use nature as a catharsis of sorts, allowing all those troubles to melt away in the pure innocence and serenity of the woods.
6. That View Sure Is Pretty
We’ve talked a lot about the emotional response to nature, and how it can help you with your problems. Let’s take a break from that for a second to talk about just how darn amazing everything looks out there. Look up some pictures of beautiful mountain views. Go ahead – we can wait…all set? Now imagine seeing that in person, right in front of you. Breath-taking can’t even begin to do justice to some of the things you have the potential to see out on your hikes. This alone is worth the trip.
7. Discovering New Hobbies
You’ve already taken up hiking, so that’s a new hobby. But when you’re out on the trail, you might see someone doing another activity, like rock climbing or riding an ATV. These may be things you never even considered doing until you saw them happening in person and decided you wanted to try them out for yourself. Taking up an outdoor hobby like fishing can be an entry to dozens of other hobbies and interests you never even considered.
8. Break Your Limits
We talked about the gym earlier. You probably have some physical limitations, as we all do. Being out in nature can sometimes help you to bend and break those limitations, especially if they are purely mental in nature. Many people believe they are incapable of performing certain tasks, but you’ll find yourself impressed with what you’re actually capable of if you give things a chance. You might look at a pull-up bar and tell yourself you could never get yourself over that. But on your hike, you may have to climb up on a rock of the same height, or turn around and abandon the hike. You’ll find that when pressed, your body can do some truly astounding things. This broken limits can then translate to your everyday life, and give you a whole lot more confidence day to day.
9. Building Tighter Bonds
Depending on the difficulty of the hike you are going on, it’s not always safe to go alone. Hiking with a friend can be an experience that you, and they, never forget. Being out in nature without cell phones, computers, and televisions to distract you from having real, meaningful conversation can be all it takes to break down walls and form a truly genuine friendship that neither of you will ever forget. People who hike together and spend hours out in nature together form bonds that are almost unbreakable.
10. Creating Memories
You’re likely to experience moments during your hike that you retain for the rest of your life. Every other item on this list ties back to that idea. You might remember that amazing view from the top of the mountain, or the inside jokes you built up with a friend about an event that happened on the way. You’re likely to never forget at least one thing about every major hike you go on, and that is truly one of the most important things in life – creating memories that last.
(Images Credit: Greenland, Foxfield-inn)