The me on the trail is different to the me in real life.
In real life, I’m constantly questioning if I’m where I should be. I’m in my thirties and live in a shared apartment; I don’t have any savings, a partner or kids; my closest friends are back home in the UK.
To put it into perspective, six months ago on the day I bought my little tent my housemate bought an apartment.
According to a Google search (yeah I know, never trust Dr Google), I’m in my sexual prime, yet becoming less attractive to the opposite sex by the day. I’m likely to never own my own property outright, I should have set up a pension 15 years ago, and I have nearly reached my maximum earning potential.
In real life, I’m constantly self-conscious of how I look. My body. My rosacea. And although I kid myself that I don’t care what others think of me – I do.
Not to mention the fact that I get knee pain when it’s cold, and I now get hangovers after three schooners. Jeez, pass me some fluffy slippers and a comfy chair will you? I need to sit down.
Yet out on the trail, it all just melts away.
The outdoors changes me. There’s less judgement. Of myself, my looks, my body, my life, and if I’m truthful, of others. When I’m in the outdoors I feel as though I’m exactly where I should be. In the outdoors I feel stronger, more capable and more focused.
I no longer care about what I’ve achieved in life because I’ve just achieved something amazing. Right here. Right now. Right in this very moment.
In the outdoors, I no longer hate my body. Why? Because it got me here. It got me up this big ass mountain. It carried this big ass heavy pack (yes, a camp chair and bottle of red are essential). In the outdoors, it’s no longer about how my body looks but what my body can do.
I no longer question where I am in life. Because, if I could choose anywhere in the world it would be right here, right now. The sun on my face, the wind in my hair, a campfire, a sunset, the stars above me as I drift to sleep. That strange breed of silence you only get in nature.
The outdoors me is a better person.
The outdoors me is a better person. I care less about what others think. I stress less. After all, when you’re on the trail what is there to think about? Shall we take a break now or later? What’s for dinner? Shall we watch sunrise or sunset? Ah screw it. Let’s do both.
I didn’t discover the power nature had on me until a few years ago when I hiked the Inca Trail for my 30th birthday. It’s like a switch went off inside me and it’s been my focus ever since. I moved to Australia with one goal: to spend more time outside.
If you’d told my younger self that I’d be most happy hiking, sleeping in a grimy tent and sporting a hefty dose of thigh chafe I would have pissed myself laughing. But here we are.
Second guessing myself
I often wonder what I would be like if I’d discovered the outdoors sooner. Whether some of my hang ups and insecurities would still be part of who I am. But I’ll never know.
What I do know, is that I’m grateful that I did discover the outdoors. I’m grateful for the moments of reprieve. Reprieve from a world of carefully curated Insta-feeds that make you question if you’re good enough. Reprieve from that invisible timeframe that we’re apparently supposed to follow.
My only wish now is that I can learn to take those feelings home with me. Although, with each trip that gets a little easier. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll feel on top of the world when I don’t have thigh chafe. Now that’d be nice.