We all intuitively know that nature has far more to offer us than food, raw materials and even pretty pictures to download onto our desktop computers. But, as we sometimes struggle to keep all the balls of our complicated lives in the air, boxed within four walls, it’s way too easy to feel removed from the natural world. Yet, reconnecting with nature may just be the thing we’re needing if we’ve begun to feel disconnected and restless in our lives.
Nature is there for us – particularly when life deals us a particularly rotten hand and we end up feeling broken and lost or worse. Numerous people have dealt with their grief and troubles by heading to the great outdoors for a very long walk, coming back transformed.
What we seek on the trail
What makes someone want to walk on their own for days, weeks or even months on end on dirt tracks and forest paths? While many people hit the trail simply because of their love for the outdoors or because they fancy a challenge, many others seek the solace of the desert or the mountains because they’re dealing with something difficult in their lives and they’re in search of guidance.
For Cheryl Strayed – who at 22 was grieving her mother’s death and the end of her marriage – hiking over 1,000 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail was a transformational experience that became a turning point in her life (her memoir Wild was later made into a film, starring Reese Witherspoon, by the same name). Robyn Davidson, whose 1,700 trek across the Australian Outback in the company of four camels and a dog was also described as a memoir and later made into the film Tracks, explained that at age 25, she felt directionless and was desperate to do something that would give her life meaning. For others, it’s because of their struggles with self love or accepting their body, addictions or just a nagging feeling that something in their life is not quite right – that gets them hitting that trail. Sometimes people don’t even know why they feel the pull to go before they get there.
But rest assured, whatever people seek out there, they often end up finding inside themselves.
What I found on my own walk
By Nita, writer for AEOS
As a writer for AEOS, I was asked to share my own healing journey that took me to the Scottish Highlands in July 2017, alone, for a week. I felt vulnerable and broken-hearted at the time and had a strong urge to do something to regain my faith in myself. I also wanted to ‘get away from it all’ and a week of solo hiking and wild camping fitted the bill nicely (while making me nervous too).
In the end, I found that the most magical thing about walking in nature for me was that on some fundamental level it always made sense, even when it felt that nothing else in my life did. During the hike, I’d wake up in the morning, lace up my boots and walk. That’s it. One step after another. While physically demanding, the simplicity of life on the trail seemed to create this wide open space in which to process my feelings and untangle my thoughts. What I brought back with me was a renewed sense of strength and clarity.
Choose your own journey
Long hikes have changed many lives for the better and come highly recommended (as long as they are thoroughly planned and prepared for). But what if you could do with a dose of ‘walking therapy’ but don’t really fancy trekking in the wilderness for months or even days? Thankfully, healing isn’t a competitive sport, and walks in nature can be undertaken on any scale that suits us. In the end, after even a few hours spent in solitude (or good company) out in the woods, on the beach or on the hills you’re sure to come back more energised and breathing a little freer at the very least.
As John Muir (a Scottish-American naturalist, author and a staunch believer in the healing powers of nature and wilderness) put it:
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.