Living in Asia, we are fortunate to have access to an abundance of national parks, mountains, rainforests and volcanoes dotted with waterfalls and caves, all of which are available for exploration. With modern life being so full of pressure and stress, we find that it helps to escape the concrete jungle in exchange for being surrounded by nature. One of the best ways to do so is to go hiking regularly, but why all the hype about hiking?
As the founder of the first women-only trekking club in Singapore, Amazing Trekkers Club, I can give you 100 reasons why women – also children and indeed, everyone! – should go for a hike, trek or mountain walk. But for the sake of brevity, here are the top five:
1. Hiking keeps us present and whole
For me, hiking has opened a new world of friendships. There is a group of women I now walk with regularly, and together, we continue to explore and discover new terrains, mountains, and trails. And I truly feel that everyone can experience this too.
I created the Amazing Trekkers Club to enrich the lives of women in two ways. First, to provide ordinary women with the rewarding experiences that come from trekking and climbing mountains. The second is to provide members with the support network and social experiences that come from being a member of a club for women.
2. Hiking elevates our senses, happiness, self-esteem, and is healing
If the idea of trekking in the wilderness sounds like a fun thing to do, trekking in the company of strangers, acquaintances and friends is even more gratifying. Our members come back from trips with not only sore muscles, bruises and sprains, but also a surge in confidence.
3. Hiking puts life’s problems into perspective
Regardless of what life throws your way, like if you’ve lost your job, ended a relationship, stressed about your family and are feeling emotionally drained or devastated, use hiking as a means to step back. The best way for you to get over the hurt is to see the relationship from the viewpoint of your whole life, rather than just the present.
Getting in touch with the natural world, getting in the jungle, a natural terrain, the river or the mountains isn’t very difficult. You just need to step out of your house and out of your comfort zone. It is not that challenging. Sometimes all it takes is a little shift in perspective. Learn to look up and look down. By looking up on a clear night, you’ll be able to see the stars – a good reminder of our place within the universe – and contemplate how small we are in the grand scheme of things. This is a humbling lesson.
By looking down, you’ll realise there are little creatures crawling around on the ground. Getting in touch with nature means appreciating living beings for what they are for the role they have in this universe. Watch a colony of ants go about their day, study the spider’s web, explore the different trees and leaves. Touch the soil you are walking on and be mindful as there are fragile organisms growing under your feet – a testament to the power of nature.
While we should not deny that tragic event causes hurt feelings, it’s important to continue living and dreaming for your future and what is in store for you when one door closes. That is putting things in perspective. Compare what is happening to you with something similar to help you feel better and have a clearer view of your devastation. If you feel that you have difficult problems in life, think about people who live on the mountains, who have to carry 25kg weight on their backs so that you can enjoy a hot chocolate in a mountain hut. Spare a moment to remember those who are worse off. You will soon realise your problems aren’t that bad.
4. Hiking makes life an adventure
At Amazing Trekkers Club, we firmly believe that, as Helen Keller puts it, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.”
As women and mothers, we are, from the time we were young, surrounded by ‘superficial securities’. Traditionally, girls are raised to be perfect while boys are raised to be brave. Trekking as an activity helps to challenge these stereotypes. Children can be raised to take risks, take on challenges and try new things, even though they might not be good at them. It’s essential for us to teach our children to be tough, brave and strong, and for our girls to be fierce. And it’s okay not to be perfect; life is about making progress.
So how do we teach our children to equalise those expectations and how do we raise a generation of fierce women? The answer is simple. We have to take risks ourselves. And how do we begin? The first step is to put aside our own securities and comfort, and give importance to solitude and freedom. Ironically, women do crave a sense of independence and freedom – so set goals, make plans and decisions, and work towards personal achievements.
5. Hiking frees the mind and provides space to think
Women are often juggling numerous aspects of life: Work, raising a family or looking after ageing parents besides managing the day-to-day of running errands. Often, we are so busy looking after everyone and everything else that we neglect our own needs. Our confidence may dip along the way too.
We can easily lose a sense of who we are, but when we go on an adventure activity like mountain trekking or hiking with a group, we discover sides to ourselves that we may have forgotten. How you respond to strangers, for example, or what kind of personalities you connect with; how much physical challenge you can withstand; how much positive impact all these have on your emotional self. Trekking can bring all that out and help us realise our potential while discovering a new confidence to accept our shortcomings.
This is self-evolution; according to Charles Darwin:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
Through the Amazing Trekkers Club, I have made it my mission to encourage as many people as I can to get out of the house and go hiking. It is okay to walk in the heat, you will survive the rain and the altitude is bearable so long as you have the right attitude. Be immensely proud. Let the peak be your stage. So take your rightful place on it and allow yourself to celebrate being amazing.
And if you’re not sure what’s the difference between hiking, trekking, mountaineering and rock climbing, here’s a brief explainer:
By Hazleen Panayiotou
This article originally appeared on Zafigo, a travel guide for women travellers in Asia and the Middle East, and is republished with permission.