"I cried from exhaustion and bewilderment most days, but it was absolutely life changing. Now I had a new perspective on the world, a strengthened respect and love for nature, and a growing appreciation for what the body can do, step by step."
But there’s one form of exercise that someway, somehow, makes me feel all those benefits doctors tell you should feel when you work out - and that’s hiking.
I discovered this by accident, as a result of a spontaneous teenage decision (thankfully supported by a pair of very anxious parents). At age 15, I decided to take part in an initiative called Youth to Everest, which takes a group of Kiwi high school kids to the Himalayas every year to trek, experience the landscape and culture, and give back. We flew to Nepal and scrambled up endless mountainsides, past never-ending chains of yaks and over countless precarious swing bridges until we caught sight of the world’s tallest mountain itself. To this day, it’s still one of the hardest things I’ve done. Trekking at high altitude with a bunch of strangers as a teenager in a wildly foreign land is somewhat of a baptism of fire into hiking - and growing up. I cried from exhaustion and bewilderment most days, but it was absolutely life changing. Now I had a new perspective on the world, a strengthened respect and love for nature, and a growing appreciation for what the body can do, step by step.
Almost a decade later I found myself in North America feeling suffocated by big city life, so I scarpered into the wilderness. Sure, I get the appeal of buzzing cities that never sleep, but my soul’s more interested in lakes, mountains and oceans.
So I fell back onto what I knew deep down gave me strength and brought me joy. I hiked past giant boulders at Yosemite, wandered coastal trails along the Big Sur, skipped with glee through clearings at Whistler and climbed some of Jasper’s wind-whipped peaks. I saw elk, bears and coyotes. I carried bear spray with me, as ready to use it against any bad people as I was against charging wildlife. Thankfully, I never encountered either.
When I’m out there looking at vast chains of jagged peaks, my problems feel small. What matters is put into perspective. I’m where I’m supposed to be. I feel a sense of achievement, purpose, and a drive to be better.
A hike means something different to everyone. It might be a short walk near your hometown, a few nights camping on a trail or an epic cross-country traverse. But all you need to do to start is put one foot in front of the other.
With that in mind, here are three treks on the top of my bucket list:
- Three Capes Track, Tasmania
Tasmania has some seriously beautiful hikes, and this one looks like an absolute stunner, winding its way alongside jaw-dropping sea cliffs. Yes please.
- Chilkoot Trail, Alaska
I caught glimpses of this when I visited Alaska in 2014. This trail follows part of the route men, women and children followed during the Gold Rush in the late 1800s, often in treacherous wintry conditions. The scenery is absolutely otherworldly.
- Torres del Paine W Trek, Patagonia
Years ago I saw a documentary on Patagonia and have wanted to go ever since. Towering peaks, glaciers, forests...just a few of my favourite things.
Author - Samantha Caughey
Samantha is a professional writer and marketer whose dream destinations include the Serengeti and the Sahara. She loves adventures just as much as a good nap. You can find her at https://samanthacaughey.com/about/