A Slow Revolution: Finding Connectedness on the Trail
When you’re preparing for a long-distance hike where you’ll be walking at two to three miles per hour, you begin a slow revolution in your life and the lives of people surrounding you. Hiking distances is addictive. Once you’ve started, there is no turning back. You become a walker and you will forever look for opportunities to do more of it.
Speed and Convenience
Our society seeks convenience and ease. Getting somewhere fast and accomplishing things with the click of a button is the standard of living. When your pace is three miles an hour, you’ll discover the price you’ve been paying for a lifestyle of speed and convenience.
When you hike or walk, you’ll experience the world through your five senses. Not only will you see trees, rocks, sand, or water, but you’ll smell them in a whiff of dewy grass, crusty leaves, sweet humus decomposing on the ground. The air and its temperature may brush your skin, warm you or chill you. Your hand or leg can feel the smoothness or jaggedness when you sit on a rock, reach for a branch, pick up a stone. Your ear will hear the sounds of the forest, a groan of a tree limb, the gurgling of a running brook, the wind echoing around the rocks. When you connect with nature in this way, your body signals your brain about living, about breathing, telling you to fill your lungs and your heart and expand your awareness.
In a society of convenience and ease, buildings, clothing, and vehicles delineate your experience of your environment. When you live on the trail, the dividing line between you and the world around you will blur. After hiking for days, you will smell like the living things you’ve touched, smelled, and walked through. Your animal instincts will be awake as you notice and keep track of your environs for your protection and survival. You become part of the whole living, breathing, blowing, and, yes, crumbling natural world.
The Price of Speed
The price we pay for a life style of ease is connectedness, the ability to be in tune with and part of Nature. A lifestyle of ease creates a feeling of existential loneliness. Family and friends can’t resolve this, they can only cover it up in moments of connection through word or touch, through support when needed. The looming threat of loss of this connection is an accident, an illness, an argument away. The natural world will always be there unless we as a species, destroy it. You don’t need an appointment to connect with Nature. Just step out and meet it.
Solo but not Alone
When you go on a solo hike that is long enough to let you meld, you will breathe, move, rest and eat with the cycles of day and night. You will connect with the cosmic forces that run this planet. Many people dread hiking solo, afraid of loneliness. Often separating from loved ones when you go off on a long hike is painful, but once you give yourself over to the trail, this loneliness transforms into expansiveness and a sense of connection.
Joining the Slow Revolution
Moving at 2 or 3 miles an hour gives you back your place in the natural order of things. As a result you’ll exude a confidence and joy in living that touches others, makes ’em wonder and want it for themselves. This slow revolution of taking back your place in the order of things happens step by step, one person igniting another. When you walk in nature, you’ll know how small you are in the vastness of things, you’ll know in your bones that your life is short compared to the life of the stars above you.
As the environment is burning up with the exhaust of our speedy lives, we can turn things around by slowing down and returning to a more natural life-sustaining way of living. Join the revolution, get on the trail and walk: slowly, slowly.
For more on the slow revolution: In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore, Harper Collins 2005
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