Hiking. It’s kind of a weird pastime.
Traditionally throughout time, walking was used to get from one place to another. We undertook short and long journeys through the natural world as a means of reaching a destination. Along the way, we may have encountered small treasures: like wildflowers, sunsets, flowing rivers, and gazelle tracks.
There were longer journeys too. Sometimes, these lengthy treks took us to new and unusual places. Along these roads, we discovered mountains and secret caves, hidden oases and new kinds of plants and animals.
But throughout time, these expeditions were the same in one way: they were all about the destination. Without a destination to reach, humans didn’t stray far from home. The concept of “hiking” was certainly not a common one. People left home to go somewhere.
Not so today, when we set out into the wild world simply to experience it and learn from it. Maybe this is strange. But perhaps modern-day hiking serves as a useful metaphor for something that is truly universal: Life.
Our lives are long and full of twists and turns. We are here in this world only temporarily, travelers looking for the perfect mix of comfort and adventure. We crave novelty and excitement, but we also love our beds, our yards, our families, and our communities. None of us is truly certain of the world’s ultimate goal. Despite deep beliefs and strong convictions, we can’t claim to fathom the true purpose of it all, the end point, the destination. It is beyond our understanding.
We go to sleep and wake up, another day along an epic thru-hike, dreaming ourselves into the rhythm of life. It feels permanent. But it’s not.
Our kitchens and cookware are just the same as our gas-lit camping stove and spork. The homes we’ve built and treasure are a glamped up version of the tents, caves, and carpets of oak leaves we use as a resting spot when we hike. During our lives, we rest. We exert ourselves. We encounter challenging ascents, rocky ravines, and narrow passageways. And we overcome them. Perhaps most importantly, we learn a lot along the way.
Life is a very long journey. The more we challenge ourselves and the more we attempt to understand, the better it will be. We build relationships and develop our own character traits. We serve others and try to change things for the better. We strive for deeper understanding. These pursuits are some of the only ones that have a lasting impact on our souls, our permanent selves. Our physical comforts are truly temporary, along with everything else that feels so permanent.
As the old saying goes: It’s about the journey, not the destination. In life, we may not be able to know or even comprehend the destination. Our highest achievement would be to acknowledge this fact, then use this understanding to make the most of our long, long voyage.