Hiking: A True Test of Relationships
by Kailani Ameele, Girls Who Hike South Carolina Ambassador
Before I met my boyfriend of almost 4 years, I would take the men I dated on a “test.” Now, before you judge me as some shallow girl with no heart, my test has an almost 100% effectiveness rate. Personally, I’d call it foolproof. It’s also simple, painless, and offers quick results.
My test was simple; after about 5-6 dates, I would make a date for us to to go hiking together. Nothing too crazy. It was usually a short, 2-3 mile hike in the woods. A few days prior, I would tell my suitor about the journey he was about to embark upon, I’d print out my map, and we’d have our plans set for the upcoming weekend.
Typically, the first few minutes (even before the hike started) would give me an indicator of how the test was going to turn out.
Was he wearing jeans?
Where is his pack?
Does he really not think he will need water for the next 3 hours?
Beyond the outdoor survival/ zombie apocalypse skills I was looking for (any one else a Walking Dead fan?), I was also looking for enthusiasm. Who doesn’t love shutting out the world and heading into the wilderness with your new beau?
The woods have a funny way of bringing out the real, true soul in people - and I would learn quickly if this relationship would last. I mean, think about it - you’re stuck in the woods with someone for hours. You need to trust, lean on, and encourage this person because both of you need to make it out alive. You’re without cell phone reception and you’re forced to have genuine conversations… you are going to know if you’re compatible. Trust me.
Unfortunately, I’ve had to leave some men on the trail (figuratively) due to their general crabbiness, lack of teamwork, and inability to connect and appreciate nature. I don’t know about you, but I like to unplug and admire the earth’s beauty whenever possible. I can’t imagine a partner who couldn’t do that with me because nature is such a huge part of my life. Luckily, my boyfriend, Brandon, passed with flying colors with the exception of stealing my snacks...
However, I knew if this test was truly effective, I would have to replicate the results. I already had one boyfriend, so I couldn’t truly replicate this experience. Thankfully, I had an idea.
After college I tried to make friends in my new city. I tried attending happy hours, fitness classes, and networking events. I met a lot of great people and had really good conversations, but they didn’t match up to my hiking friends. So, here was my perfect opportunity to replicate my hiking experiment. Yup, I started extending my hiking test to my friends. And guess what, it worked again! I’d ask my new acquaintances if they would be up for a hike, plan a quick Saturday morning trek, and off we went.
My friendships have significantly improved since opening up this door to the hiking world. Since I’ve started making more hiking friends, my friendships have blossomed into beautiful relationships. I truly believe that hiking friends (and boyfriends) are the best friends you can have.
Hiking friends see you at worst - you’re exhausted, you’re hungry, you’re covered in bug bites, and you probably smell really bad. Hiking friends do not care what you look like, how much money you make, what kinds of clothes you wear - the only thing that they care about is your loyalty, your trust, your ability to encourage one another, and your kindness to nature.
Is that not the kind of friendship we ALL strive for? It’s the shared experience and positivity to keep each other going - on and off the trail - that we all yearn for in a companion. Hiking has brought me these people, and they are the best kinds of people.