Hiking can help in many different areas of life. In the past, I’ve talked about one of the these; today I would like to talk about another.
My reason for doing this, as with all things in life, is at least partly personal. As you may know from one of my previous stories, February is a hard month for me. Every time it comes around, I’m reminded of a painful series of events that changed me irrevocably. Memories return; feelings ebb and flow; the past becomes the present.
Beyond that, February is the month of Valentine’s Day. And while the ostensible purpose of this holiday is to celebrate the value of sharing a life with the one you love, it’s also a poignant reminder to single people everywhere of exactly what they’re missing out on. And thereby the chocolate industry thrives.
Nevertheless, there is value in being single, especially when the one you love is unable or unwilling to be with you in a legitimate relationship. When that’s the case, especially for any protracted length of time, it may be helpful for you to consider the benefits of being single, at least some of which can be gleaned from the experience of hiking.
So without further ado, here’s a list of the ways in which hiking can teach you the value of being single.
Now it’s true that many people prefer hiking socially. As a matter of fact, I’m one of those people.
But if you’re single for any length of time, you’ll find yourself doing things by yourself in solitude now and then, if only because the activities of others so often revolve around their spouses, children, and families. And while those things are great for those people, they frequently serve to make single people feel like outcasts from polite society.
When you’re hiking, though, going by yourself in the solitude of nature can be an asset. It frees you up to choose your own pace, direction, destination, and time of return. You don’t have to haggle with others about where they want to go, when they need to get back, or whether they’ll be able to get Instagrammable photos along the way.
You can just do what you want and enjoy the ride.
Peace and Quiet
When you’re hiking, you can also simply enjoy the peace and quiet of nature with a minimum of fuss.
Now of course it’s theoretically possible to do this with two adolescents, an aunt and uncle from out of town, and a husband who’s married to his job — all of whom happen to be glued to their phones the whole time you’re hiking. But in reality it’s about as easy as ice skating on the Mississippi River in July.
And while it may seem old-fashioned to say it, there is in fact a need for peace and quiet in our world. In fact, if anything, the proliferation of digital technologies has increased our need for peace and quiet, as can be seen from the increasing trend toward privatization in society — whether on Facebook or in gated communities or with increasingly insular family units, in which single people are frequently made to feel like unwelcome guests.
But when you’re hiking in nature, you don’t have to worry about shutting people out to find peace and quiet. All you have to do is listen.
It should go without saying that when you’re listening, you’re being thoughtful — not so much in the sense of being sympathetic but of applying thought to your immediate surroundings.
In addition, when you don’t have the distractions that are so often present in urban environments — whether advertising, cars, buildings, or highways — you can focus much more easily on what’s truly important in life. After all, close contact with nature isn’t an escape from the real world; it’s an immersion in it, where life in all its multifarious forms is constantly surviving, evolving, and renewing itself every day.
Similarly, by hiking, you may find your senses, emotions, and thoughts expanding beyond the acculturated bubble of your own relationship status. You may begin to recognize that not every plan or achievement in life has to be dependent on a soul mate; that you don’t have to measure your self-worth on the basis of your desirability to a partner; that you can be single and create every bit as much meaning from life as anyone else.
And considering how much emphasis our culture places on being paired up, this is one of the best applications of hiking for single people.
Of course hiking with a bit of thoughtfulness has other perks too.
For one thing, you’ll be more inclined to find what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning when you’re actively engaged in thought on the trail. You may begin to see that you want more time for yourself; that you need to take better care of your body; that you enjoy being physical; that the world is rich with experience; that you want to be immersed in that experience and share it with others, even if not with a significant other.
Beyond that, hiking helps you to keep focus on your immediate environment, which can often be obscured if you’re lost in thought about the absence of a significant other. By hiking, you can keep the purpose of every footstep clear and uncomplicated. You can help yourself to move forward in a physical sense and, by doing so, help yourself to move forward in an emotional sense as well.
And for single people, that’s especially crucial.
From purpose, of course, it’s not a great distance to perseverance.
And while it’s true that perseverance can be difficult for anyone to maintain, regardless of relationship status, it’s especially true when you don’t have someone to come home to at night. When you are your own bedrock in life, you have to be doubly strong, doubly resilient, and doubly motivated in every endeavor.
And this is where hiking comes in. After all, there’s nothing more tempting in life than giving up in the face of an obstacle — whether that happens to be the prospect of growing old without a partner or climbing the next incline on the trail. But when you know objectively that the only way to get back to your nice cozy couch and beverage of choice is to finish what you started, you tend to do just that.
And that is the very heart and soul of perseverance.
When perseverance is a part and parcel of your life, you’re much more likely to achieve a goal. And when you achieve it, you may find that not only has your life changed; you’ve changed too.
Likewise, when you’re hiking in nature, you may find that the world around you takes on a different hue. Different details emerge; different experiences rise to the foreground; different conclusions can be drawn from those experiences. And from those different conclusions, new directions can be discerned and embarked upon.
And this is how transformation begins — with a willingness to see the world through different eyes.
For single people, this is particularly resonant, since so much of our culture is intent on denigrating anyone who’s not married and actively procreating. For these people — and I included myself here — resisting the urge to shack up with the first eligible bachelor who has his own place, a nice smile, and no prior felonies requires something like an act of divine intervention, or at least extreme self-discipline.
And that can only be achieved through personal transformation.
After you’ve changed yourself, you may also find that the world has changed with you.
And this makes perfect sense when you consider that people are less likely to be friendly to someone who looks like he just got dunked in a bath of sulfuric acid and dried off with a blow torch — which, let’s face it, is how most people look when they’ve been rejected by a significant other.
But when people start to see that something about you has changed, possibly because of your newfound love of hiking, they will be inclined to change too. They will start to look at you differently, take you more seriously, and give you the respect you always deserved but may never have received.
And when this happens, you may discover a new sense of wonder — which, along with the six qualities I’ve outlined above, can make a world of difference for anyone who happens to be single.