Life lessons I learned while hiking on misty mountain

Hiking for the first time, the only thing that kept going through my head the entire time was whether I’d still be alive in the next five minutes–every five minutes! It was five years ago on a cold mossy forest mountain in Cameron Highlands (kind of like the Baguio city of Malaysia). The ground was highly acidic that it required a special type of hiking shoes or else it would melt away the soles of your shoes. Visibility was compromised every few minutes due to passing fog.

In other words, it was unforgettable. As with many things, you never forget your first time. So, fast forward to last December (2018) when my husband and I got another chance to hike I decided I’d focus more on the trail and less on my anxiety.

When the day finally came, my husband and I went hiking to the summit of Mount Prau (Indonesia) along with our hiking group.

At every sign post we savored the brief intermissions with every breath of fresh air untainted by city life ruckus. In between the stops and hiking, there were even more mini breaks to rest our weary legs. And in those moments, I grasped my husband close to me to whisper “philosophical” ramblings from my head. Perhaps my absurd exaggerated feelings of exhaustion took my mind to deeper spirituality enabling me to have an existential crises on a mountain–I’m kidding.

With that clarity, a pattern of interweaving life principles parallel to our hike began emerging from the slippery muddy slopes of the mountain.

Just like there are seven layers of heaven, here are the seven things that I learned from hiking: (hehe)

1 LEARN TO SILENCE YOUR INNER CRITIC

I’ve been in two hikes and twice I’ve witnessed young children reach the top quicker, while some adults, including me, struggled on their way to the top. It wasn’t because the children were braver or stronger than the adults; I believe children have not been alive long enough to be exposed to a lot of superficial noise that we as adults are constantly surrounding ourselves with, therefore, children have more belief in themselves and clarity to begin with.

Every sign post we passed, was another silent victory over a fearful thought or self-doubt vanquished from my mind.

Eventually, learning how to silence your inner critic is the difference between you reaching your goals or you giving up on them entirely.

2 … IF YOU WANT TO GO FAR, GO TOGETHER

The first part says, “If you want to go fast, go alone…” Yes, it’s a well known saying, and I know you’re going, “Well, duh.” The reason I point this out is because hiking perfectly captures the essence of the saying.

In reality, people don’t generally operate in groups outside of work or group school projects, in part due to increasing individualism in our societies. But it won’t necessarily get you far operating that way. You need your own “hiking group.” By merely surrounding yourself with family and friends, who are like-minded and motivated, you are quietly harnessing that energy towards pushing yourself to go further than you’ve ever been before.

Back when I was hiking, the first thirty minutes were excruciating as my body went into shock over the sudden strenuous activity. Seeing others continue hiking ahead of me gave me the motivation to continue, if they could do it so can I. At the end of the day, I dragged myself all the way to the top, but I was not alone in my struggle, instead, in the company of good people who contributed in my journey.

3 THINK IN LONGER TERMS AND AVOID SHORTCUTS

When you look up to see the path ahead of you, your brain will automatically scan the area to trace several invisible path lines branching from where you are standing to the place you need to get to. And if you have to pick between a shorter but tricky path and a longer one that allows more stable footing, choose the latter.

Shortcuts may momentarily give you an edge, but eventually you will slip and fall, worse even, you might get injured too. This will only set you back in your journey. Instead, you want to keep your pace steady and ensure a sturdy foundation beneath your feet before you take more leaps to the top. Otherwise, you would crash and burn. Such is also the case in reality!

4 YOUR STRUGGLES BUILD UP YOUR RESILIENCE

This is evident in the physical ease of which our guides and local villagers ascended the mountain quickly. You see, below Mount Prau there are rice fields, terraces, including along the sides of the mountain. While hiking, we learned that farmers hiked more than half of our hiking trail on a daily basis in order to tend their crops!

Eyes wide, jaws dropped; and to think that not even halfway through our trail already our city slick bodies were cursing us for subjecting it through pain. Little did we know that some people were doing this every day!

Experiencing ups and downs in life is like every hiking trip on a mountain, the more you go through it the stronger and more capable you become at facing future and possibly bigger mountains. (Cue, Miley Cyrus song, It’s the climb!)

5 WHAT COMES UP MUST COME DOWN

It seems cynical to highlight this instead of going for the positive quote from an animated movie, Sing!, “The great thing about hitting rock bottom is there’s only one way to go and that’s up!”–my favorite quote, by the way.

Just as we should remain positive in the face of adversity (the downs in life), we must also learn to have a healthy relationship with our former successes and happy memories (the ups in life). A lot of us can get stuck in dreaming of the good ol’ days or yearning for more borrowed time with our happy moments.

Indeed, just like hiking, when you’ve reached the top of the mountain, camped overnight–which we did in freezing cold–and taken all your photos, you’ll eventually have to go back home. And where is home? Unless you live on top of a mountain, home is at the bottom of any mountain.

Our happiest and proudest moments will not matter as much if we didn’t have to go back down only to start over again and climb up another mountain.

6 LATER ON YOU’LL WONDER WHAT THE FUSS WAS ALL ABOUT

Looking up ahead is always intimidating, but once you look down to see how far you’ve come, the path you took can appear less daunting. Then you wonder did you really just come from there? Why were you hesitating so much earlier?

Which brings us to our last point…

7 IT’S EASY TO SLIP, SO REMEMBER WHERE YOU COME FROM

The reason why you hesitated earlier.

Just because God had mercy on you and made you forget the fraction of a second you felt like you were in hell struggling to climb up a mountain, don’t forget that it’s just as easy to fall back down with just one slip. So, always remember the journey and the process, that’s where you learn the most in life anyway, that struggle on the way to the top.

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So, now that I’ve shared the things I learned from hiking, it’s up to you if you want to take this to heart or with a pinch of salt, I mean, why listen to an exhausted and delirious woman on a hike needing water and energy bars every ten minutes?

That’s all and always bring water with you during a hike! #

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Photo credits to Mas Ibenyi who hosted the hike along with his team from Sebumi, an eco tour agency to help you explore Indonesia’s nature beauty, biodiversity and conservation. Check them out here.

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