Hergest Ridge, a rising hill with a path to the top under a blue summer sky

Benefits Of Hiking – Filling Up On The Outside

The benefits of hiking might not be what you think…

Have you ever had one of those moments where an image pops up in your head that you can’t get rid of, like a song that you can’t stop humming?

Funnel Vision

Yes? Thought so. Me too. In my latest one, I’m just randomly standing there with a red funnel sticking out the top of my head. Like it’s nothing unusual and it’s been a permanent fixture since the dawn of time.

I have Zoe Langley-Wathen to thank for this particular vision. We recorded an episode for her brilliant HeadRightOut Podcast (links to the episode) recently and the subject of, well the benefits of hiking came up. I don’t remember specifically what was said because right about then a funnel entered the conversation. I was grappling with words to describe how different I feel when I’m stuck inside four walls to when I’m hiking. The analogy I came up with was to liken my body to a vessel that gets filled up from the top (hence the funnel). Not very original I grant you.

When Life Spills Over (And When It Doesn’t)

When I’m at home though I feel substantially smaller than when I’m outside. In fact, this vessel of mine feels so small at home there’s barely any room inside at all, but the world carries on shoving in crap, like rice into a heavy doorstop. I put my hands over the funnel to stop it, but it just keeps on coming, spilling all over the place. It’s not pretty. And it takes way too much time to clear up. (And I hate housework.)

The converse is of course being outside. Because what do you get out there? Air. Lots of it. Light and ephemeral, it flows in and out through the pores and there’s always room for more. It’s expansive and exhilarating and I feel like I’m floating along even under the weight of a three-stone rucksack. Well, mostly.

I’d be lying if I said walking always makes me feel like this. But I reckon backpacking does.

Treading The Same Ground V Hiking

Sometimes I think walking over the same ground, again and again from my front door, isn’t much different from being inside those four walls. I look at my feet, I ruminate and I dread going back home because I know all the hard stuff will still be there. The only regular routes I take where this is different is on the coast. On the cliffs to be precise, where it’s raw and elemental. It can be brutal and put me in my place in an instant or it can be the balm I need more than anything.

The benefits of hiking include a scene like this: looking down at a small beach and crashing waves over the edge of a cliff lined with pink thrift.

Watching the ever-turning tides from the cliffs above.

The coast is unpredictable, things change quickly and there’s always an element of risk as well as breathtaking beauty. I know I’ve said it often but seeing the grey-blue horizon fills me with the expansiveness I crave. It’s knowing the tide will keep moving backwards and forwards, the light will always change, the waves will keep on breaking… There’s a kind of acceptance in that and it reminds me not to sweat the small stuff – however overwhelming it is. Even if it occasionally takes a battering by 50mph hour winds to sink in.

The Benefits Of Hiking? Acknowledging What Life Really Is

So, yes. Where was I? Backpacking, hiking, whichever you prefer to call it, that’s what does it for me.

Hiking is emphatically not about escaping everyday life though. It’s about acknowledging what life really is: challenge, risk, self-reliance, and learning. And the breathtaking beauty, of course, let’s not forget that.

But the views, the natural world, they’re like a reward for the hard work – because you can never be sure you’re going to find them. Even if you know they’re there, there’s always the chance of fog. When it clears though, it’s just magical, isn’t it?

Even if you do come out with a red funnel on your head.

Thanks for reading.

Happy hiking

Stephie x

Where Next?

If you’ve enjoyed this article you might also enjoy Do Something That Scares You (I Did And It Was Profound) – I share something so personal here that I’ve never revealed anywhere else, something that felt incredibly risky I felt sick. Then there’s Is Going For A Walk Good For Depression? I talk about walking from a personal perspective and how it doesn’t actually help with my depression, which probably isn’t what you expected! I also reveal why I published my bucket list too. Isn’t it curious how these things come about?

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