In a series of three articles titled, Getting Away From Hiking, we will explore the emotional, mental, and social aspects of hiking. These articles are presented to you from experiences, research, and through the eyes of real hikers.
In the first article, we look at how frequently the emotional and even mental readiness is ignored in hiking, and how it can affect a hiker’s outcomes.
GETTING AWAY FROM HIKING I - The Emotion
Adam is preparing himself for the challenge in hiking Mount Kinabalu, a sky high of 4,000 metres. About 1,500 kilometres away in Tangkak, Hermann is getting himself ready to scale the 1,270 metre Gunung Ledang, much less than what Adam is attempting. Both are seasoned hikers with almost 28 hikes each. In our minds, we are likely to conclude that Hermann has a far easier task with a much shorter climb, and less difficult due to better weather conditions. But in reality, Hermann failed to reach the summit. And we start to ask ourselves, “Why did he not reach the top”?
The standard behaviour in most hikers is one of physical preparation. We have seen the countless videos posted online, friends that put up their preparations week after week of their physical endurance, and other people we may have prepared with in pushing our bodies further to be able to be physically toned for the eventual hike. A quick search on Google using “What must I do to prepare for a hike” focuses mostly on fitness and strength, clothing, accessories and planning the trail. And what is critically ignored is mental and emotional readiness and strength!
In any hike – simple for one, difficult for another – we must start to focus on the mental and emotional preparation. Here are some tips to help you with that preparation:
Hike with a friend(s)
It is far easier to go on a hike with friends or seasoned hikers that you know well. Firstly, if you go with a hiker that has a high completion rate, you are likely to find support during any difficult moments. A seasoned hiker would have experienced his own challenges and will be more ready to empathise with you.
Where is the Fun?
Far too many hikers prepare hiking attempts to finish it because they desire to reach the end or summit. Hikers would push themselves daily, and even undertake ‘high-mileage’ days (forcing more kilometres than planned for). This can create anxiety, frustration, and even anguish if achievement was not met each day leading to deterioration of mental stamina. Hermann was physically capable in reaching the summit of Gunung Ledang but his motive for this hike was likely wrong. He may have been hiking to finish it, rather than simply to do it. His preparation was in the future in getting to the top than to enjoy the present, the fun of the hike.
A Heart Hike
There is little time left for our emotions after spending plenty of time in physical preparation for a hike. And if a hiker’s head and heart is not set right, it is a challenge already set wrongly. Even the best hikers quit for their own personal, idiosyncratic reason. A hiker might start to find fault in the trail, the gear and equipment, the people in the group, and even casting back to a difficult marriage or relationship, frustrations with parents and so on. A hiker might realise he might be facing personal strife leading to him fighting himself. The biggest obstacles in his way were his mind and his heart. In doing a hike, do it for a good reason and not one where you carry the weight not of your physical strain and gear, but the heavier burden of the emotional strains and pains in your heart.
Bring Along Your Emotional Tools
- Start and end your hike with a great temperament
- Be contented and happy at any unexpected outcome – people or the trail - during the hike
- Look forward to meeting new people and to learn about them
- Be empathetic, selfless, & considerate to all hikers for someone might need your help
- Enjoy and dwell in the wonders of your natural surroundings
- Remain calm and controlled during a crisis when hiking as others might look to you for help
As with any relatively new and experienced hiker, we pursue the challenge to reach the summit as a means of personal glorification. And most often ignored is our mind and heart in the journey. We each have differences borne out by our personalities, our habits and behaviours, and even our unique set of experiences that we bring along in a hike, some seeking change through a hiking challenge. Yet it is important to bear in mind that we should never undertake a hike predominantly to seek or make a change. The hike must not serve as a mental and emotional entanglement; it is only a hike.