Keep Climbing: 5 Reasons I Go Hiking
Hiking, especially for non-athletic people like me, means having to battle the blistering sun, bruises, and body pains – all for the sake of conquering a challenge, spending time with/in nature, and creating new memories.
I don’t consider myself a harkor (hardcore) hiker/climber/mountaineer, but I’ve found myself on trails I’ve never imagined being on.
The Slow and Steady Uphill Journey
The jump-off point for my love of hiking started in January 2017. It was during the Christmas break when a friend asked me if I wanted to fill a vacant seat on their hiking trip to Mt. Ulap in Benguet. For some reason, I said yes.
Mt. Ulap is supposed to be recommended for beginners, as it has a rating of 3/9. It was a gruelling 10-hr hike, which included summiting three peaks and braving the cold of Benguet in January.
The whole adventure was exhausting, challenging, and downright surprising. Surprising because all throughout the trail, I experienced/encountered many new things; new limits, new sceneries, and new possibilities.
These limits, sceneries, and possibilities have kept me coming back. So much so that for 2017, I was fortunate enough to go on 12 hiking adventures, one of which was in China, in Huangshan.
This 2018, we started by conquering Mt. Pinatubo. What made this one special was the people we were with: out of the five in our group, three were first-time hikers. I think it’s safe to say they are now converts.
Here’s Ayn’s vlog for context:
So, what exactly keeps me going back to the trail?
1. A Chance to Re-create Myself
The word recreation traces its root to the Old French/Latin word recreare, which means “to create again, refresh, revive, or invigorate”. I see hiking as one of the forms I can re-create, reinvigorate, and revive myself.
Being outdoors tends to ground me in a way that makes me look at things in different perspectives. It also leaves me with more positive emotional energy than I had before. I can’t quite out my finger on it, but I’ve experienced it many times out on the trail. Simply being active and in nature eases the stress without much effort.
The physical activity is already a great way to clear my head, but couple that with the beauty surrounding me in the outdoors and you have a winning combination. When I reach the summit or get back to the jump-off point, I always feel tired but rejuvenated – that I’m better prepared to go back to work and deal with whatever life has to throw at me.
2. Mother Nature is humbling
Mother Nature is a raw force, unforgiving and unrestrained. She can bring you to your knees in awe or in exhaustion; take your breath away with the gruelling walk upwards or with the magnificence of the landscape.
In the mountains, the weather can change without warning, either for better or worse. The vistas of streams, valleys, grasslands, and greenery get more rewarding the higher up you get. The trail will test your strength and endurance no matter your fitness level. The surroundings will provide you a safe space that can easily pose a danger should you take a wrong step.
In such moments, we become more self-aware; that we are one among many – one individual in a big world, one species among millions.
There’s also being lost in the majesty of nature, and that's humbling on a different level.
3. My creative juices gets going
There are many times throughout the week where it literally hurts to think. At some point, the coffee is no longer helping, the words are not flowing, and you’re stuck in a rut. Hitting the trail helps me get those creative juices flowing again.
Research shows spending time outdoors boosts attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50%. I notice this every time I stop for a few minutes just to take in the breathtaking views.
Aside from the fresh air, the stunning views, the unplugging from technology and the internet (even just for a few hours), and the always-changing landscape, just the act of walking in general helps improve creativity. One study found that we can come up with more creative responses when walking rather than sitting down.
4. A sense of accomplishment
There’s something about reaching a mountain’s summit or standing before a beautiful lake after hours of walking and hardships that fills my heart with joy. I get a feeling of pride when I go on an adventure, struggle a little (or a lot), and then enjoy the reward of reaching my destination.
In many ways, it’s an ideal metaphor for life. The memories and experiences that mean the most to us are those that challenge us, push us, and force us to push back. That’s one of the many rewarding things about hiking (or any outdoor activity for me). Even the simplest of trails need a little sacrifice from us, making the reward even sweeter.
5. Happiness is all around
Whether it’s the people I’m with, the sceneries, or the hike itself, hitting the trails is always a happy experience for me. And there has never been a hike where my friends and I didn’t laugh, smile, and felt more positive in general.
Research shows that hiking can be therapy for people with depression, as it helps them feel less hopeless, depressed, and suicidal. It can even be the spark that helps them lead a more active, and positive, lifestyle. “It's just a spark but it's enough to keep me going,” as that one Paramore song goes.
Being out in nature, breaking away from our daily routine and the stresses of life, gives us time to connect with ourselves and the environment in a way that brings peace and a sense of well-being.
There are plenty of other reasons that keep me coming back. There’s the fitness aspect and the bonding with friends, but I excluded those since they’re obvious. In any case, we all have our own reasons for hitting the trail.
How about you? Why do you go on hikes? If you don’t, will you soon start?