GAINING CONFIDENCE THROUGH HIKING
Gain Confidence through Hiking
By Ashley Whitaker
How I gained Confidence through Hiking!
As women, I think it is safe to say we often experience insecurities. We never like our hair, if it’s straight, we wish it curly, if it’s blonde, we wish it brown. Our jeans are never small enough, our skin never tan enough, our stomach’s never toned enough, boobs never big enough, etc. etc. Thanks to technology (a gift and a curse), we are constantly connected to the world, including how skinny that girl we went to highschool with is or what diet trends everyone is trying out and that person’s amazing results. Many of us also live very sedentary lifestyles. We sit during the morning commute, we sit at a desk all day, and then we come home and we sit on our couches, scrolling Facebook and watching the latest Netflix series. None of the things mentioned above improve self-esteem or self-worth.
Also, thanks to technology though, there seems to be a revival in getting outside. We see people hiking mountain ranges, backpacking the Appalachian Trail, experiencing water through rafting and paddle boarding, and we too want to do these things. People have been doing this for centuries, but without technology, we were not as readily exposed to the many wonders of our world. So while it seems like an oxymoron, society being more sedentary, but also more adventurous, it is what we see happening.
I’ve always enjoyed the great outdoors, but there was a definite shift in the type
of outdoor enthusiast I became--I too was hypnotized by social media’s take on
nature, but also really enjoy binge watching the latest seasons of Shameless. It wasn’t until visiting Lake Tahoe for the first time that I not only became obsessed with mountains and
nature, but also sought out more strenuous hiking excursions. Let me just say, if you haven’t ever done any difficult hiking, it is THE BEST feeling and a HUGE confidence builder. To not only be surrounded by the natural beauty of our world, but to also exert yourself in a way that running on a treadmill will never compare to, exuberates a confidence unlike any other. It becomes like a drug, you just can’t get enough. And once you challenge yourself once, you continue to look for the next challenge.
The most strenuous hike I've ever done...
To this day (and this could change, as I’m headed to Utah in May), but to this day, the most difficult and exhilarating hike I’ve ever done, was hiking the highest point in Vermont, Mount Mansfield. Considering the fact that Vermont is known as the Green Mountain State, you can imagine the highest point is fairly high, 4,395 ft. above sea level to be exact. We set up camp at Underhill State Park, which has direct access to the trailhead. And by camp, I mean in a tent, on the ground. We made coffee and pancakes over the fire at 5:00 a.m., and once properly fueled, began what resulted in a 5 hour trek up and back. (camping and hiking are also great budget activities!!)
Outside vs. Inside
Now if you were to increase the incline on your treadmill to walk a comparable
steepness, you would not only be holding onto the railings for dear life, but you’d also become quickly bored and probably flatten it out immediately, feeling frustrated and defeated. Being surrounded though by large boulder rocks, moss, and greenery, really makes this physical exertion go partially unnoticed. Hiking Mount Mansfield takes you high above the tree line, and if you do it early enough, the fog can be so heavy you can’t see what’s ahead, nor behind. It almost feels like you're in the clouds.
This hike is probably best done with people, as the top half is really just straight up mountain, and there were several times we had to give each other a boost up to the next boulder. (Teamwork makes the dream work!)
Coming down was also a feat in its own, without much to hold on to at the very top, just smooth mountain surface, we did slip, some fall.. (I smacked my head off the mountain, I was fine (luckily!), but probably my own fault for not wearing proper hiking shoes--so wear proper hiking shoes!)
Standing at the top of this and looking out over the treetops with 2 of my favorite gal pals (who got engaged at the top!), and my husband, was a feeling of utmost accomplishment. Together, we helped each other achieve the climb. We challenged our endurance and our strength in a number of ways. Once we made it back down (which is sometimes harder than coming up), we felt invincible. Physically, we felt exhausted, but the high from what we just
accomplished masked the fatigue. Mentally and emotionally, we were on cloud 9.
Hiking really does improve confidence and happiness. Between the fresh air (good for the soul and your health), the physical activity, and the natural beauty, it is an instant mood booster and really gets the endorphins going, increasing that dopamine. It also usually forces you to disconnect, as cell reception is generally minimal, if not non-existent entirely. Going to the gym is grand, and obviously necessary, but when you can not only get a work out in but also experience something new (and bonus if it’s with the ones you love!), it proves to be much more valuable to your overall happiness.
Hiking with other ladies, in particular, it is a bonding experience you can’t get from a dinner date. There are times you literally lift each other up, encourage each other to keep going, support each other, and bask in the intimate moments of nature together. You forget about your insecurities and what is going on in the media-instead, you feed off each other’s power and energy. So if you’re looking for an uplifting girl’s weekend and you’ve been trying to be more active, I recommend putting the phone down and opting outside! What you can accomplish and see together, is better than anything you’ll find on your Facebook newsfeed or in a Netflix series. So when are you going to strap on your Hiking Boots? ;)
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We are a team of four feminist travelers coming together from different parts of the world to share with you what we have learned from traveling, living, loving, and exploring all over the world. Join us and tell your story about female solo travel, relationships, mental health, city guides, or whatever else comes to your mind.