Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Sweaty Betty all views are my own.
Missed part one of this series? You can find it here.
I’d spent a few days in between my first hike and second learning more about map reading, looking for signs to be able to find my way back and even leading a couple of my hikes with Matt. I was feeling a lot more confident about this than my first hike, and I was ready to put myself out of my comfort zone some more.
I’d plotted in a hike I wanted to do in an area I’d never been to. I was both excited and a little nervous. As I got to the dirt road that I need to go down to get to the trail head, a big ‘closed’ sign put a fairly prompt end to my plans. Finding out from a local that the road and the trail had been completely washed out due to a recent flash flood, my designs on that trail were no more.There were times in the past that I would have used this as a great excuse not to try and do anything else. I remember times where I’ve needed to push myself that when something like this has happened, it has felt like a god send; a welcome distraction. Today felt different, and as my confidence and flexibility with my life has grown, I’ve come to not feel disappointed at certain outcomes, because there is usually something better out there waiting for you. A few minutes exploring a trail map of the area, and I’d found somewhere a few miles up the road that would take me into relatively the same area as I’d planned to hike in the first place. I didn’t really have the ability to plan out a new route, so I just decided that I’d take things as they rolled and explore. This certainly felt like an improvement on my need to control everything so rigidly in the past.
When I realised that I’d just be able to explore I felt excited. Excited to explore without any rhyme, reason or purpose to fulfil. No mountain to summit or trail to complete. Some of my favourite moments recently have been where plans have gone out the window for one reason or another and I’ve been able to spend days just playing in nature, feeling connected. I find setting goals very masculine and this kind of approach usually creates resistance for me so I love any chance to explore on my own terms. I also realised that as much as I was looking forward to this, I needed to keep my navigational nose in check.
I thought I’d feel pressured, but as soon as I stepped out on that trail to just explore, I slowed down. I really took in what was around me. It was peaceful, I felt calm. I actually felt like there was a part of me I was beginning to discover, who lives away from all the self imposed weights I put on myself. I was going at my own pace. A pace that allowed me to think.I was exploring, I wasn’t competing. I didn’t feel I had to prove myself. I didn’t have anyone to prove myself to. Because I was feeling relaxed and drinking in the calm all around me, I had more confidence in myself. I was taking in and observing, without too much pressure, the details, rocks, landmarks and subtleties that would help me find my way back.
Even though I was putting myself out of my comfort zone, it felt different. I felt like I was enjoying this. Usually putting myself out of my comfort zone feels like hard work and then the sweet stuff arrives at the end, but here, I was getting the sweet stuff now. Maybe I wasn’t putting myself out of my comfort zone as much as I thought, or maybe I was just allowing myself to feel in flow as opposed to resisting my every move.
I realised I was in no rush. I had no reason to push myself through. Instead I just enjoyed this moment, this wonderment. It felt delicious. In the breeze I smelt the wildflowers that had recently bloomed and it was perfection. I felt like I was in a dream. A wash of gratitude came over me for where I was and the life I’ve built for myself. I was actually enjoying it, right here and now rather than trying to get to the next thing. Why had I been denying myself this kind of freedom for so many years?
My curiosity became the thing that drove me along. Because I had no fixed itinerary, I kept following my ‘what’s round there, what’s up there’ thoughts, and they took me to some great conclusions. I noticed just how much more confidence I now had in myself after my first hike, and just how much kinder I was being to myself. It made all the difference. I believe it was taking that pressure off. Because it didn’t matter what I did and didn’t do, it mattered that I was present. It made me realise just how much I connect my achievements to my worth as a person. We spend so much time trying to achieve and not a whole lot of time living. Right now, I felt like I was actually living my life the way I felt destined to, on a deeper, more soulfully connected level.
In the moments where I did feel any anxious thoughts try to pull me back down, I was able to stay present, kind and push into the discomfort. This relationship between anxious and happy had flipped quite beautifully since my last hike. I found myself not wanting this to end, what a far cry from hike one.
I took moments to just stop, take in, breathe and smile. I loved it. I felt confident and I felt nourished. There was no pressure. I wondered if most of that pressure in the past had come from me instead of anyone else.
I noticed that when I passed by another hiker, I tried to speed up. Then I asked myself why I was doing this. Why did I feel the need to look faster/a certain way? Why did I want to do and be something that was not me at that time? Then I slowed down and worked with my authenticity again.
When I decided it was time to return, I noticed that I had absolutely no worries about finding my way back. Sure, I had baseline maps for the area and a good idea of how to read them properly, but it wasn’t just that. Perhaps it was that I’d proven to myself based on hike one that I actually wasn’t as good at getting lost as I thought. Perhaps I had more confidence? Or was it because I was out of my head and any anxious thoughts that I just allowed it to be easy? I witnessed the talk in my head tell me that I could easily find my way. This felt new and refreshing.
I realised on this hike that I truly enjoyed my own company. I truly enjoyed being in my own thoughts at my own pace and I made a pact with myself right there and then that I’d do this more often as an act of self care. It’s so easy to be surrounded by people constantly and I am certainly someone who longs for human affection, but how are we supposed to learn who we are as people when we never spend any time in our own company?
Spend some time exploring by yourself and get comfortable in your own company. If you want to build up your confidence in the outdoors, spend more time in it, not putting crazy amounts of pressure on yourself to achieve anything in particular.
Get comfortable with a more open approach to what you’re doing. Enjoy the moment and don’t focus too much on a goal. This will allow you to truly see why it is you want to do this.
Try not to be too rigid or put off if your original plan doesn’t work out quite as you wanted. Being rigid has a tendancy to sabotage your adventures, as this article explores in more detail.
Start practising your nose for navigation locally. Can you do a walk close by taking some different turns to usual by not looking at a map? What can you pick out? What can you see that can help you back? The more you give yourself evidence that you’ll be able to find your way, the more you’ll prove yourself right.