There’s more to the trail than the crackling of dry twigs under your feet, having your mind blown by the perfect sunset or feeling the humbling exhaustion of a day’s hike as you finally approach a long-awaited viewpoint.
Ask any hiker, and she’ll tell you the trail is a powerful, active force that teaches you important life lessons.
The trail has an undeniable ability to drive home simple but often overlooked truths that draw hikers into wild forests, challenge them through mountains and rocky coastal paths and push them out of their comfort zones.
Here are 10 truths every hiker understands:
Slowing Down Is Important
If you’ve never experienced what it means to follow a path for the love of the journey and not in a mad rush to get to the end, you’re missing out on one of life’s simple pleasures.
Hiking teaches you to slow down, observe the world around you and to listen to your body.
When your feet can no longer trudge the path ahead, you learn the power of slowing down and gain a new appreciation for admitting that not everything will go your way when you want it to.
Life is like a long hiking trail in various ways. Far too often, we give up on our hopes and dreams easily, overcome by dejection or disappointment.
On the trail, you learn that as long as you put one foot in front of the other, you’re getting somewhere. "Keep going" is a simple lesson, and when it's applied to other aspects of life, it can produce major results.
That crazy dream of yours that no one else believes in can come true if you just persevere and keep walking toward it.
Nature Is Powerful And Teaches You Humility
If you’re suffering from an inflated ego or far too much vanity in your life, take a long hike.
Nature is a raw force, unfettered and unforgiving, that can take your breath away with the magnificence of a landscape or bring you to your knees with the ruthlessness of a freak storm.
In the mountains, where the weather changes without warning and the vistas of river valleys get more rewarding the higher you get, a hike is a thorough lesson in humility and respect for nature.
Solitude Can Be Inspiring
On the trail and in the midst of nature, you get a chance to filter through all the noise of people, social media updates and smartphone notifications.
You are able to just be yourself in your simplest form. You’re no longer the sum of a bunch of expectations. Instead, you’re free to choose your path and follow it.
A hike gives you the rare opportunity to clear your head of all the clutter. It gives you a blank slate for your creativity to doodle its genius ideas on.
A lot of hikers say trekking feels therapeutic, leaving you inspired and replenished with the energies to cope with life’s challenges.
You’ll Cross That Bridge When You Come To It
You go through life spending so much time worrying about the known and the unknown, letting your enthusiasm and passions fade away.
You focus on things you have zero control over, and sometimes this frantic life-planning stops you from taking the first step in the direction of your dreams.
On a forest trail, it’s not uncommon to come across a river you didn’t know about, a rickety wooden bridge or a line of stones across a gushing stream you didn’t expect.
You wade through it, or you nimbly cross over to the other side because going back to where you started is not an option. It never is, even in life.
If you begin each day with this attitude, you’ll never stop yourself from taking risks by worrying about the consequences.
To Truly Appreciate Life, You Must Pay Attention
The true satisfaction of a beautiful hike lies in the journey itself. It's in the burnt oranges of fire lilies along the trail, the white foam that hugs the sand, the birdsong that’s way sweeter than the voices in your head and the tiny colorful prayer flags around a mountain temple.
You’d miss these precious details if you weren’t paying attention.
Hiking teaches you to look at the world and life itself with the curious and observant eyes of a child so you don’t miss the little joys.
Home Is A Feeling, Not A Place
Hikers are most at home on the trail and in the tranquil refuge of the woods, moving toward the next viewpoint, river crossing or village.
The feeling of home comes from the ability to be themselves: focused, attentive, content and completely alive in the moment. This kind of contentment is what defines home and is not necessarily available to everyone who is stagnant.
Unexpected Turns Can Lead To Life-Changing Moments
You’re hiking along the marked trail, and you see a narrow path shooting off to the side. It's the less trodden path that stirs up your curiosity, and before you know it, you’ve ventured onto it.
Depending on how courageous you’re feeling and how fortunate (or unfortunate) you are, you could find yourself in any of these situations down the road: learning how to meditate with monks in a remote Buddhist monastery, swapping life stories with a shepherd and an audience of mountain goats, or at a dead end that took you over an hour on an annoyingly slippery narrow path to reach.
The point is you’re more likely to experience life-changing moments and epiphanies if you’re open to taking risks and venturing off the beaten path, which is something you do naturally as a hiker.
The Power Of Kindness And Gratitude
Even the most experienced and prepared of hikers can get lost or caught up in a sudden shower. They discover the true meaning of gratitude when they encounter the warm kindness of a total stranger.
From a hand-drawn map or a warm meal to a roof over your head for the night, there’s no dearth of kindness in the world.
Kindness and gratitude go hand in hand, and appreciating their value makes life’s journey more beautiful.
In The End, It’s Always Worth It
You’ll never get to see the awe-inspiring view from the top if you don’t walk the many difficult miles to get there. This includes taking the wrong turn, running out of water, sleeping under the stars or pushing past your fear of heights.
We are the sum of our life choices, dreams, aspirations, mistakes and the risks we take to get where we want to be.
We might not always make the best decisions, and things won’t always go as we plan, but in the end, it’s all worth it. If it doesn’t feel like that, it probably isn’t the end.