“Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”(Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986).
Recognize the quote? It’s one of my favorites. Life does move pretty fast. In fact, it seems to move faster as we get older. Not only does it move faster, but technology is playing a role in how we develop.
In a recent TED Talk, Anthropologist Amber Case talks about how technology is evolving us. She shares her concern about the psychological effects of the ambivalent relationship we have with our digital devices. “What I’m really worried about is that people aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore.” Says Case.
So true. I witness many of my friends and colleagues rush through life and lose perspective of what’s important to them. It’s easy to lose sight of what matters most to us. Moreover, our needs, goals and desires change over time. That’s exactly why I urge you to unplug and “take a hike!”
We have many milestones in our lives: careers, schooling, marriage, children, divorce, death of a loved one, starting a business. Before moving on to the next thing in life, take the time to plan a good hike.
By “good” hike, I mean a full day or weekend BY YOURSELF. Leave ALL your distractions behind. Turn off your smartphone and leave it in the bottom of your pack. I know this is hard to do. It takes a lot of self-discipline. It is important. Afterall it is your soul at stake.
Time alone on the trail allows you to self-reflect and provides an inner perspective that only long periods of solitude can elicit. I didn’t realize that I had been unconsciously doing this periodically throughout my life. I’ll share a couple of times I did this.
Once, when I moved from Connecticut to Texas after college. I wanted to say goodbye to the land I grew up in. Goodbye to the mossy rock walls that outlined roads, paths and centuries-old homesteads. Goodbye to familiar bird songs that would slowly wake me as I lay in my warm sleeping bag. Goodbye to the bubbling brooks and tall trees of the woods I spent much of my youth exploring.
It was a typical postcard fall in New England - a sunny, crisp cool morning with hues of yellow and red littering the forest floor. I found a neighborhood trail that would keep me occupied for the day, packed a lunch and headed out. I took a few photos and soaked up the scenery. After the first few hours I finally was alone with my thoughts.
I mentally prepared myself for the long road trip half way across the country, the challenges ahead and envisioned where I wanted to be 5, 10 years from that moment. Who would I meet along the way? What did I want to do for a career? Would I miss my family and friends?
Another time I can remember vividly was when I took a couple of days off before a sales meeting in Tucson. Packing the extra gear for a hike in addition to a weeklong meeting was a challenge. Regardless, I was determined to hike to the top of the Rincon Mountains in Saguaro National Park.
It took me 8 hours to reach the top through an amazing, arid and almost outer-worldly landscape of giant cacti. As the sun fell and the temperature plummeted, I set up camp in a pine forest that seemed impossible in the middle of the desert. Exhausted, I cared little for the warnings of black bear and mountain lion on the sign posts I passed. As I bedded down, my mind played rewind with images of my entire life leading up to then and I drifted off to sleep.
On the trail, I thought deeply about the next stage of my life – marriage. Would I want children? How many? Where would we live? The depth and clarity of thought I have on the trail is unlike anything I can experience back in society.
I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world. I could afford a day or two to myself. You can too. The time of reflection on the trail is invaluable. Personally, I gain inner-wisdom, strength and confidence to take life head-on. So the next time you plan your next trip and the opportunity presents itself to discover your path…take a hike!