As we start this Wisdom Note, let us think about some of the small blessings that we experience when we are able to be outdoors hiking and allow that to remind us to be thankful for the small blessings that we experience each day on our trek of life. As we hike through the woods today, visualize and enjoy feeling the soft earth on the path, the crackling of dry twigs under your feet, having your mind blown by the perfect sunset, and feeling the humbling exhaustion of a day’s hike as you finally approach a long-awaited summit.
Hiking on a trail is a powerful, active force that teaches important life lessons. The trails, like life, have an undeniable ability to drive home simple but often overlooked truths as you trek into wild forests, persevere through mountains and rocky coastal paths, and venture out of your comfort zone.
Here are 10 truths I have come across for how life is like hiking through the woods.
1. Slowing down is important.
As you travel through life, you need to experience what it means to follow a path for the love of the journey and not in a mad rush to get to the destination, or you will miss out on life’s simple pleasures.
Hiking teaches you to slow down, observe the world around you, and 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 by realizing that not every path will take you where you intended.
2. Perseverance pays.
Life is like a long hiking trail in various ways. Far too often, we give up on our hopes and dreams, 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 moving forward” 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.
3. Nature is powerful and teaches humility.
If you’re suffering from an inflated ego or far too much vanity in your life, take a long hike. God’s creation 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 those situations that are outside of your control.
4. 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 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.
5. 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 next 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.
6. 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 on the side of a river, the birdsong that’s way sweeter than the voices in your head, and the colorful leaves of a crisp fall morning. You will miss these precious details if you aren’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.
7. Home is a feeling, not a place.
Serious hikers are most at home on the trail and in the tranquil refuge of the woods, moving toward the next milestone, river crossing, or glen. The feeling of home comes from the ability to be yourself: 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.
8. 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. These unexpected detours can bring some of the most wonderful blessings into our lives. 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.
9. Kindness and gratitude are powerful.
Even the most experienced and prepared 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 their head for the night, there’s no scarcity of kindness in the world. Kindness and gratitude go hand in hand, and appreciating their value makes life’s journey more beautiful.
10. 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.
Let us give thanks to God for his wonders that we experience each day, as is written in Psalm 40:5, “O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.”
Until our next trek, think about how life is like hiking in the woods, so many wonders along our journey. Let us take time to enjoy life each day, and not miss those unexpected blessings.