When I began to embrace the outdoorsy/ hippie side of myself, I felt like I was hiding a massive secret. A secret so forbidden that if it was exposed, I would be kicked out of the Outdoorsy Hippie club. I was pretty sure that- at least part of me- hated hiking. There, I said it. I longed to love it, to crave the mountains and the glute burning struggle of slogging up the trails. But I was never that excited to go out for a hike. I only really enjoyed the part at the top, when you summit and get gorgeous views and eat a bar of chocolate.
When I arrived in New Zealand, I still questioned my ability to fully love hiking; I was determined to do as many hiking trips as I could in the hopes of fixing this unacceptable part of myself. I realized today that I have done more hiking here in these past three months than I have in my entire life combined! Maybe that’s what it takes? Unclear. But I do know that I was able to thoroughly change my mindset: I am now 100% certain that I love hiking. Every part of me.
And I credit New Zealand for this:
New Zealand’s attitude towards the mountains seems fundamentally different to what I have been exposed to in the US. I have always thought of hiking as a chance to conquer nature. Hiking entails ‘bagging’ a peak, a chance to prove yourself in the outdoors. Man battles obstacles to summit mountains. And then when the mission is accomplished, pack it up and check another one off the list.
But here in New Zealand, at least from what I’ve experienced, most tramps are not geared towards summiting a mountain. The trips that I’ve done are beautiful, immersive experiences done for the purpose of simply being outside. I could not tell you many names of the mountains that I have actually summited here in New Zealand, yet I’ve never hiked more in my entire life. The emphasis is on appreciating the landscape.
Now when I plan a trip, I am just excited for the chance to be in the mountains! I don’t dread these adventures because I don’t feel pressure to conquer anything. Just get me away from the city and into the woods and I’m happy. Hiking shouldn’t be competitive or stressful- it needs to be cherished and respected.