Don't Forget To Take It All In
By Beverly Atkinson, Girls Who Hike Pennsylvania Ambassador
So maybe I’ve always been a little competitive. Maybe you have too. There’s always that little voice in the back of my head telling me I have to do better, be stronger, go faster. That’s why it’s become so important that I learned to stop and take life in. That’s what hiking is for me. It’s my time to take a step back and slow down.
But when life is telling you to go go go, it can be hard to stop and slow down, even when it comes to relaxing. When I first started hiking and venturing out on hikes with higher elevation gains it was not easy. I was not fast. I had to stop and take breaks to gather my energy. I was huffing and puffing up trails questioning what in the world made me want to climb mountains in the first place. But then the trees would break, and I would catch that first big view and to this day it still takes my breath away every time.
So basically, I had become instantly addicted. I wanted to summit everything. But with each new hike, I wanted to go faster, take less breaks, and get to that view as fast as I could. Get to that rush as fast as I could. But I found, by racing to the top of the mountain, I was losing out on everything in between. I was losing the peacefulness and tranquility that nature offers. I had to tell myself to stop and slow down. I’m out here doing something that I love. Why am I rushing through it? I rush at work, in traffic, at the grocery store. I rush to hit deadlines and cutoff dates. This is my time to relax and do something for myself. Out of all things in my life, why am I rushing through this?
So, if you’re like me, and find yourself barreling through a trail to get to the top the fastest try to remember to slow down and take everything in. This is your time. Your time to be away from work, from social media, from appointments and schedules. So, stop, breathe, and take it all in.
I’m not saying it’s bad to push yourself or to set goals. It’s always great to set your sights a little higher (quite literally when referring to elevation goals). But there is a difference between setting goals and letting hiking become a competition. When you let hiking become a competition, over time it will be less about enjoying yourself and more about completion times and statistics. I find that when I focus less on timing and mileage and more on being in the moment I not only improve my skills, I also benefit from every incentive the trail has to offer.
So just remember, when you’re out on the trail, there is no one at the finish line with a stop watch. Nobody is tracking how many times you had to stop, how many miles you completed, or that not so graceful tumble you took over that root sticking out of the ground. So, don’t be afraid to take a minute to stop and smell the wildflowers, because they smell pretty sweet if you ask me.