Hiking has been a game changer in the way I live my life. Somehow, just putting one foot in front of another for hours has taught me so much: how to be present, how to think more clearly, how to connect deeper with the people around me. By making time to get on the trail, I’ve noticed exponential changes too, like sleeping better, feeling my body get stronger, and seeing anxiety and stress levels decrease.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. We reached out to people across the MEC family to see how hiking has helped them become the people they are today. Check out their stories and snapshots to see how time on the trail has helped them grow, learn and uncover things about themselves they wouldn’t have realized – and how it could change you, too.
I recently moved to Invermere, BC, and my spark for hiking ignited when I arrived in this amazing Kootenay valley. I was a single mom on a mission to make friends and explore as much of the mountains as I could, so I started a local group called Women Who Wander.
Being on the trail and surrounded by nature was the cornerstone of my healing process from a very hard divorce and adapting to life as a single mom in a new town. Hiking is now a cherished hobby, a fierce passion and connected me to my recent career change with The Lady Alliance. Last summer, I coordinated over 15 hikes and had about 100 people join forces with me on the trail.
Hiking makes me feel grounded, balanced and present. It’s my happy place.
Being active is my number one thing for mental health. I have ADHD, and finding ways to move has done wonders for me. When I’m in the city, I stay super active with spin classes, but there’s something different about getting out into nature on a hike. You hold onto that smell, how the air feels on your face, the windburn. You hear the crunch under your feet. It’s quiet and still and you can hear yourself breathe. I don’t think we hear ourselves breathe enough in a city – I’m guilty of this too.
I always try to do so much in my mind all the time. It’s easy to get trapped in the hustle and bustle, and being outside is a way I find some calm and silence.
Hiking makes me feel liberated, light, powerful.
When I was a girl, I used to go with my grandfather to the mountains. He’d take just a loaf of bread and a tomato for the whole day. Those experiences were significant in my life – I’ve become someone who loves walking and exploring. To continue the tradition, I now go trekking or walking with my two sons. A hike you do in a few hours can be an experience that lasts for days, months or even years in yourself.
I’ve learned that if someone is sad, tense or anxious, walking on a trail is a kind of therapy that brings out the best in us. It’s also a nice way to visit new places. All that is why I decided I make trails a part of my life and part of my research.
Hiking makes me feel connected with myself.
Magdalena is a participant of Intercultural Outdoor Recreation, one of MEC’s community partners. She studies the world of parks and trails with her research on conservation and visitor experiences.
Charlie Easton, MEC Ambassador
The best conversations I have with my wild three-year-old daughter are when she’s in the backpack and we’re exploring a trail in the middle of nowhere. Hiking makes me closer to the people I’m with by sharing an adventure, and having time for more meaningful conversations.
It also gets me closer to my subject matter in my paintings – if you paint from a photograph, you only get the visual aspect of a scene. If you hike to a location to paint, you have a complete picture of the sounds, the smells, the changeability, the quality of the light – and this undoubtedly makes the finished painting so much more authentic.
Hiking makes me feel more alive. My wife always says I’m like a Labrador puppy, bouncing from rock to rock, wagging my tail.
See Charlie’s work @charlieeaston
Where do I even start? My journey into the outdoors started in my late thirties, and I can honestly say discovering the outdoors is when I truly discovered myself. It’s not about the highest peak or the hardest hike. It’s about being immersed in nature and seeing the value in the peacefulness of it all. Through hiking, you can learn to love your own strength and that you’ll persevere through anything.
Hiking makes me feel invigorated in the best way.
See more of Azzah’s story in Facing Sunrise, and follow along @lifeaziknowit_101
Taryn Eyton, MEC Ambassador
Spending time in nature to slow down and disconnect has become a fundamental part of my life. I like being disconnected from my phone, screens, push notifications and just focus on the absolute basic needs of being a human: walking and eating. In the city, we can rush through our days with blinders on, not paying attention, lost in our own world. I feel cranky when I haven’t had some outdoor time, even if that just means a walk around my neighbourhood park in the city.
Nature has so many lessons to teach us. Each time I go for a hike, I’m reminded of how small I am compared to this earth.
Hiking makes me feel happier… in fact, it’s the thing that makes me feel happiest.
Follow Taryn @happiestoutdoors for tips on hiking and Leave No Trace.
One thing I’ve realized is that I have a stronger connection with the friends I go hiking with. It feels like we talk about things you don’t always talk about in the city, or you don’t think about because you’re in such a headspace thinking about other things. On a hike, you can just let go and open up more. Being able to spend a full day on the trail with someone strengthens our relationship – I get to know them deeper.
Hiking makes me feel adventurous. In the city, I’m more serious and focussed on getting things done – when I’m in nature, I’m more into cracking jokes and having a good time.