This Is How Hiking Heals
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Cataloged in Travel / Exercise

This Is How Hiking Heals

The cure to loneliness is learning to be content with one’s own company.

At least – that’s what I’ve learned after nearly two years of living on my own, hours away from my closest friends and family. When I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas in October 2014, I honestly didn’t have any intention on staying here for an extended amount of time. I longed to be in Denver, Colorado with my boyfriend, ready to start a life together.

I didn’t go out of my way to make friends because I honestly didn’t feel the need to. In my mind I had already planned my escape out of Arkansas. I had found companionship with my coworkers and with those I played volleyball with and that was enough for me. I was satisfied.

It’s funny how as humans we try to plan our lives in advance, as if we know exactly how our lives will pan out. Well trust me – we don’t. The day after my 25th birthday, I removed myself from my long distance relationship that had already been deteriorating for years. It was long overdue, but unfortunately that didn’t make the heartbreak any easier.

You see, that was my first legitimate relationship. My first love, and then, my first real heartbreak.

So you can now see why after 25 years of not experiencing any sort of heartbreak – I was sort of a mess. In those dark moments, I sought comfort in professional help. In all honesty, I saw the woman once. She was a great listener and she suggested a really captivating book for me read (which reminds me – I should probably finish it now).

And then, I met a fantastic guy. He challenged my thinking on every level (especially science). He was incredibly thoughtful (and easy on the eyes). He was well-cultured, loved to travel, enjoyed talking about politics, and loved to workout. He was literally everything I dreamed of. And best of all, he made me feel worthy of being in a relationship with.

But….it was bad timing. I was still dealing with too much drama with my ex and I was honestly beyond exhausted. I couldn’t be the person I wanted and needed to be for him at the time, so we parted ways. That in itself was heartbreaking because I had finally found the comfort of a companion here in Arkansas – something that I didn’t realize I had sought.

For the first time (and because I was completely alone), I finally saw what Arkansas had to offer me (they don’t call it the Natural State for nothing). I found solace in hiking the worn out trails in the Ozark Mountains, feeling the warmth of the sun shine down my face. It was like a battery full of charge, the sun propelling me forward and giving me energy and life as I walked miles away into the wilderness.

There is truly nothing more therapeutic then walking along the trails of freshly fallen amber leaves, inhaling and exhaling the clean cool air, and clearing the demons that inhabit your mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” And just like Fitz said, it felt like my life had started over.

Throughout the last eight months, it has been nature that has kept me sane.

My weekends have often led me to the most beautiful secluded destinations, hardly touched by civilization. I’ve climbed over 2000ft to reach a 200 ft waterfall, walked along a 350 foot bluff with stunning views of the Buffalo River, and practiced yoga on overlooks surrounded by the greenest trees. I have learned how to be wildly and incandescently happy in my own company because I am in sync with nature.

I have learned that with every step amongst the pines, I can also let go of any detrimental thoughts that linger within me. The negativity that once crippled me now streams steadily away, like water flowing freely down the Buffalo River.

And that is what nature does – it allows you to move freely without the constraints of the real world that are constantly tugging at you from behind.

If you respect it, it will respect you back and give you 10x more than what you ever expected. I hike alone because it is a safe haven for me to escape. I can be in complete control of my actions and not have to worry about anything other than myself. Call me selfish, but after my last three years of emotional torment, I deserve it. My life isn’t always full of dandelions and butterflies – but for now, I’ll take refuge being amongst them. TC mark

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