Hike This Way

Serious question: how do you walk?

As a person who loves to hike and go on nature walks, I’ve been trying to observe how my personality makes itself apparent while outdoors. And I’ve been paying special attention to the patterns that show themselves with my friends and family.

I have one friend who loves the social experience of hiking. She’ll venture out for twenty minutes and then find a nice spot to sit, so we can chat. Some days, she brings snacks, so we can have a bit of a picnic in the woods – but on a bench because she’s civilized like that.  She’s afraid of wildlife and even though I’m not exactly fearless, she’s told me on numerous occasions that if we are ever confronted with something scary, it’s on me to protect her. We often stop to take pictures and I appreciate the girl talk, plus the ability to enhance my nature photo album with her.

I have another friend who is super tall and she can masterfully leap from one jagged rock to another. Prepared in hiking boots, she is always ready for something in her path. We walk pretty continuously. She likes some conversation, but for her, it’s a workout. So, a 90-minute session of nonstop movement is her aim. I always feel “productive” when I’m with her.

Having gone with Pawel many times, he’s a nice blend of styles. He’s adventurous enough to explore tucked away areas, but able to stay on a clear path, too. He also flows with the natural surroundings around him as he navigates obstacles without thinking. You can tell by watching him just how intuitive he is. There’s a deep trust in his body, so he isn’t consumed by fear. He’s great with directions, toggles between movement and breaktime for chatting, and he is kind enough to play the part of protector if something scary like a blood-thirsty and ravenous pack of wolves (errr… or unleashed duo of dogs) comes our way. In Pawel’s presence, I feel safe and at peace.

In truth, I appreciate my time with all these people. And in being with them, I’ve come to learn how I have elements of all their approaches. Unlike Pawel, I tend to think about my steps before I take them – there’s a bit more caution (or fear) on my part. But when push comes to shove, I trust my body once I’ve decided which path to take and I’m not afraid of taking that leap if the occasion calls for it. Like Friend Two, I enjoy sometimes feeling the burn of a good incline and knowing that I worked hard while enjoying nature, but like Friend One – and Pawel – I also love to stop here and there, so I can chat, be present, or take pictures.

I think that taking notice of your patterns when hiking or walking is a wonderful thing. You really get to learn a lot about yourself and if you can watch how others approach the hike as well, you get to learn a lot about them, too. It’s also not a competition, so I think as a cautionary message, you shouldn’t obsess with the ways in which you are different from others. Doing that will significantly lessen the joy from the experience. If you allow it, nature has a beautiful way of breeding authenticity, so as a gentle piece of encouragement, just trust the process.

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