A month ago, I took the opportunity to take a mini-sabbatical in one of the best places for breathtaking hikes - La Réunion Island. Before I visited the island, I didn't know much about the terrain, the overall safety for solo-travelers, nor how easy it would be to follow path signs. It was my first solo-hike adventure, without a guide, for several days alone in the foreign mountains. I spent 10 days on the island, 6 of them I hiked from one location to the next and so on. In this post, I want to share what I learned on that journey hoping to inspire others to discover how letting go of the past and being more mindful can impact your wellbeing.
Learning #1: Don't let past experiences limit your vision
Lots of my doubts and fears of going on a multiday hike alone arose due to the fact that in the past I developed knee pains on longer hikes going down the mountain. It once got so painful, that I almost couldn't continue walking. Those experiences and then doubts about whether I could make it on my own made it challenging for me to plan properly on what I wanted to do vs where my physical limits were. With preparation and lots of exercise, I ensured I would be physically fit enough prior to the journey. I felt much more confident overcoming the fear that the past experiences might occur again. So instead of wasting energy on trying to control the uncontrollable or thinking about the past, focus on what you can control and what you can do now.
Learning #2: Turn challenges into opportunities
Steep ascents, unpredictable weather, or navigating unfamiliar terrains are all obstacles that provide valuable opportunities for personal growth and resilience. When faced with difficult situations, you learn to adapt, remain calm, and find solutions. Even when that means walking through water, or realizing that the highest mountain of the Indian Ocean it is not as cold as first thought. I would have missed one of the best moments of the hikes just because I was afraid it would be too cold and challenging.
Each obstacle becomes a chance to focus on the present challenge rather than becoming overwhelmed by the potential difficulties that lie ahead. This resilience built on the mountains translates into everyday life, is helping you face challenges with a renewed sense of calmness and confidence.
Learning #3: Stop overthinking and be mindful
The biggest learning was for me to realize that all thoughts and time spent around doubts and risks disappeared when I was in the present moment enjoying the beauty of nature. None of the bad scenarios I envisioned prior occurred as I was able to turn my awareness towards the now. And in the now, everything was alright. What a waste of time and energy I think to myself now when looking back. Hiking alone meant also to embrace the joy of solitude where I could simply practice mindfulness. Without the influence of external conversations or distractions, I could concentrate on my breath, tune in to my thoughts and emotions, and let them all pass by like clouds as some meditation coaches would describe it.
Learning #4: Embrace the ups and downs
The mountains of Réunion are very unique. I knew that all the meters climbing up also meant that at some point I would need to hike them down. Both have their good sides and I enjoyed the variety. For example would I always wish for the opposite when I felt the intense stress in my legs after a while. In life, both ups and downs play crucial roles in our personal growth and development. The ups bring us moments of joy, success, and celebration. They uplift our spirits, inspire us, and create cherished memories. On the other hand, the downs, though challenging, provide invaluable lessons and opportunities for resilience. They teach us to persevere, adapt, and find strength in adversity. The downs cultivate empathy, compassion, and humility, reminding us of the impermanence of life and the importance of gratitude.
Conclusion: Hiking alone in the mountains offers a remarkable opportunity to embrace the present moment and cultivate mindfulness. Through immersing in nature's beauty, overcoming challenges, and cultivating mindfulness, one can experience a profound transformation. The mountains become a teacher, guiding us towards a more intentional and awakened existence. So, if you're seeking a way to reconnect with yourself and the world around you, tie up your hiking boots, embrace the solitude, and embark on a transformative journey through the mountains. Attention though: Hiking in the mountains requires experience and a fitness condition meeting the difficulty level of the hiking tracks. So please always be prepared and careful. And as you enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature: be a mindful traveler and always take your waste (even the organic) with you.
What are your tips for hiking? Do you see parallels in other activities that you enjoy which impact your wellbeing? Would love to hear from you.