So, this will be a deep dive into the metaphor of ascending a mountain. Ever since one beautiful winters day that I walked up a hill in the absolute smack bang geographical centre of Sweden in the beginning of March this year I have had these notes with me. Actually I had been thinking about the many joys of walking up a hill even longer than that. Because a few days before a friend had asked these particular questions on Facebook:
“Uphill. Do you have any uphills in your life?
Do you consider it taking height or does it mostly burn energy?”
Thank you Joel, your questions definitely got me thinking.
So needless to say. A couple of days later I found myself walking in an actual uphill but also mentally climbing some hills. It got me thinking through the many ways of metaphorically enjoying the uphills of life.
So I decided to make a list and post it here to share my thoughts about it with you and maybe even get some new perspectives on it. If you have anything to add to my list, feel free to comment below. Let’s start treading!
1. The challenge
To take on a hike like this one needs to be aware of the challenges on beforehand. To climb a mountain, however small it is, will always push you and take some energy from you. But it will also challenge you in good ways, like building strength or proving your own capability and capacity to yourself and the world. It will test your boundaries and perhaps even show you your limits of your capacity. Which also is valuable knowledge in life.
2. The preparation
I always love preparing for adventure, however small or big it may be. I enjoy thinking ahead and gathering all the necessities that I can think of. And then taking some of them away to not make the pack to heavy for me to carry all day. It’s partly knowing the risks and trying to prepare for them, and partly actually taking some extra risks in order grow. I always bring a lot of snacks and warm clothes, but usually unpack the second spares of dry socks and sometimes even my mobile phone (depending on the safety situation). I feel good knowing how prepared I am, and also that I will get to test my skills at handling things as they come along during the hike.
3. The longing expectations
While planning any excursion there is hopefully always some longing and excitement involved (if not you should consider if this hill really if yours to climb). There has actually been a bunch of research done saying that the anticipation of something good to come can be even greater than the actual experience. This is definitively one of the many joys of hiking adventuring for me. The planning.
4. The adventure
As you know life is itself an adventure, but hiking or doing everyday excursions into nature really ads something extra to the sense of living my life. As long as I can chose the scale of it and adapt the effort and risk taking involved to my capability it is a true joy to go out looking for new adventures in life.
5. Slow travel
To slowly walk uphill, or go by skis or bicycle, makes you notice things you might not see from the window of a car or even during the faster descend. It’s easier to keep the eyes lifted and take short breaks to really notice nature, how I feel, what’s above and what’s below. Scents, sounds and vistas are so much more easily accessible.
6. Being in nature
There are so many well documented health benefits of hanging out in nature soaking in some sun, breathing clean air and just hanging out with the trees. Besides what the research so clearly states, I just have to mention one of my favorite ecotherapy ideas which is Shinrin Yoku, a Japanese concept that translates to “forest bathing” and which is used as therapy or as alternative medicine for humans to feel good.
7. The best things in life are free
Have you heard it before? It doesn’t make it less true and wise. To take a hike up a hill for one day not only improves your health but it’s near completely free of charge. At least my hike was free due to the fact that this mountain sits just outside the village where I live. So no paying for transport, no admission, no gym membership fee. Just fresh air, a good workout and a nice view.
8. The overview and perspective
Reaching the top is not so much a goal (you still have half the way to walk back down again) but still gives yet another treat on the journey. Peak hike if you will. To see the world from above gives so much clarity yet is still so humbling. The houses seem small and the cars are tiny. The people can’t even be seen from this far above. Maybe almost none of the personal issues you may have really matters in the big run?
9. The reward
Another perk of peak hike is that even though you’ve only reached the halfway mark this is the time to celebrate. Take a longer break, relax and enjoy the view, some food and the stillness. It’s almost silly how luxurious it can feel to have a big celebration half way. One of the many joys of walking up a hill, indeed…
10. The descent
But wait a minute! Because toward the end of the hike it actually gets even better. What was tough and straining in the beginning of the journey now gets easy and fun to do. Ah, downhill. The backpack is lighter with less food and water in it and all muscles can relax a bit and work in new ways with some help from gravity. The pace speeds up and you look at the scenery with a new perspective, from the other way around.
10. The memory and sense of accomplishment
Once the hike is finally over and you’re back home again after many hours walking, the things you would usually consider mundane and boring can all of a sudden become highly appreciated. Roof over the head, a nice comfortable bed to rest in, a meal of hot food, a nice shower and a safe and peaceful place to live in, are at an instant clearly things to feel great appreciation and gratitude for. Since the hike was major and took a day to do it will linger in the memory for a while. The experience will keep giving insights, a sense of accomplishment and some muscle pain for at least a week to come. Or as in my case two months and counting…
So all and all my daylong excursion turned into a quite spiritual exploration of the concept of hill climbing. And funnily it has stuck with me ever since. What do you think, did you find the metaphor of “walking up a hill” helpful to understand challenges in your day-to-day life any better?
Here is some bonus food for thought:
“To see the mountain more clearly you have to put some distance between you and it. To experience the mountain fully you have to be willing climb it in your own pace.”