By Matthew Jones - Adventure Expert at Universal Dialect
We’ve parked the car in the dirt parking lot on the side of the road that spills out from the trail and leads into the woods. As we pile out of the car, the uproar inside the car generated from our laughter crashes into the silence of the forest, announcing our arrival to the wildlife within.
Central Connecticut is not normally considered a hiking destination. But as it’s nestled into the foothills of the Appalachians, there are a few small mountains - hills, really - that make for an interesting afternoon, and on this particular August day, a few friends and myself have decided to head out for an adventure.
We set out into the woods along the trail and begin zigging and zagging through the patchy forest, the tall trees providing shady relief from the summer sun that blazes above.
The area is hardly a nature reserve. In fact, at one point the trail took us right alongside the property lines of several homes, depriving us of the seclusion that hiking often brings. Once at the top, we could see nothing but trees for miles, and the Hartford skyline, which stuck out on the horizon like disrupting it as if it were the final heartbeat of a flatlining EKG.
A nice view, sure, but far from spectacular.
All in all, this hike is “unimpressive” when compared to the standards set by most hikers. But the day sticks out in my mind as a memorable afternoon for many reasons that have nothing to do with the hike.
Over my years traveling and exploring the world, I’ve had the chance to go on many hikes, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do because it reminds me of some important life lessons I’ve learned over the year that make it easier for me to grab life and enjoy every day as much as I possibly can.
Here is a summary of these lessons that I hope you will apply to your life so that you too can turn each moment into an opportunity for an adventure.
Don’t Focus on the End Result
Whenever I get to the top of a mountain or hill, the first thing I almost always do is reach into my pocket for my phone or camera so that I can grab a shot of the view. But then as soon as I snag a photo, I say, “it really doesn’t do it justice.”
Part of this is because no matter how good your camera is there is no replacement for the real thing. Yet I feel this sensation also comes from the fact that the hike really isn’t about the end result.
Instead, I enjoy hiking because it gives me the chance to get out into nature, enjoy some peace and quiet, and turn my busy brain off for a period of time. In this sense, the walk is essentially meditation, and my time at the summit is merely a break in that meditation.
This is a great reminder of the classic saying, “life is a journey, not a destination,” and while this is a bit of a cliche, it’s one we would all do well to remember.
I find we all too easily focus on achievements and objectives, which effectively pushes our happiness to some undefined future moment. And as we know, this does little to help us enjoy the moments in life that come to us in the here and now.
When I’m out hiking, it’s easier for me to remember to not focus on the end result and instead enjoy the path I’m on. But I’ve had to train myself to apply this perspective to more than just hiking. And when I do, I find I’m much more positive and excited about life, and everything, even the small moments of my routine, start to feel more like an adventure.
Pushing Yourself Always Feels Good
Not everyone in my life enjoys hiking as much as I do, and this means I am often having to convince people to come along with me on an adventure. This is fine; I understand everyone has different interests.
However, what I find interesting is that the first thing people say to deflect my invitation to go on a hike usually has to do with the level of physical activity that might be involved.
“How far is it?”
“Is it steep?”
“I’m really not in good shape.”
Of course, I understand why this might be a concern, but I am by no means a hardcore hiker. As I’ve mentioned, I go on hikes not to be able to say I reached some towering summit but rather to enjoy a day, or sometimes even just an afternoon. Reminding people of this usually convinces them to give it a go.
After the hike, though, I can feel a surge in positive energy from those around me because pushed themselves beyond their normal limits. Physical activity is never a bad thing, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being tired after a day of hiking. You sleep better, and the after hike meal feels more sacred.
This reminds me of the fact that it’s always good to push yourself. And this doesn’t always need to be something physical. In fact, sometimes pushing yourself has more to do with overcoming mental barriers and inner demons than physical limitations.
Challenge is a good thing in life, and it’s important to face them and rise up to whatever life throws your way. Even if you fail, you’ll feel better for having tried.
It’s All About the Company
The faster you learn that life is defined by the people you share it with and not the things you have or do, the more you will enjoy your time on this planet.
The hike I described earlier is a perfect example. The views and nature were not all that exciting, but that afternoon is frozen in my mind because of how much fun I had goofing around with friends who I, unfortunately, don’t get to see too often.
This particular life lesson is not one I learned just from hiking but from all the adventures I’ve had over the years.
However, it’s important to remember that sometimes the best company is actually yourself. I prefer to do things with other people, but there are times when your soul will require time by itself. When these moments come, it’s important to respect that wish and to take time to be alone.
But taking the perspective that life is about the company with which you share it you’ll find that you can enjoy almost any experience, even if it’s not something you would typically choose as a leisure-time activity
Let's Go For a Hike!
Or whatever other adventure that comes to mind! In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it’s an adventure. This is because adventures are not only great ways to enjoy life and make the most of it, but they are also great opportunities to reflect. And from this reflection, you, as I have, will gain a new perspective on life, one that will allow you to grab each moment as it comes and treat them for the precious gifts they truly are.