A few months ago, while winter was in full force in the prairies, my boyfriend and I stayed indoors and binge watched the Worlds Toughest Race on Amazon Prime. It follows an Eco-Challenge in Fiji where teams of 4 must race a 671 kilometer over multiple days and many different practices such as trekking, biking, swimming, paddle boarding, and more. We were blown away at the speed and dedication of the teams, and their ability to put the challenge above their own personal comfort. It was incredible to see people putting themselves through such extremes, and all with a smile on their face.
While I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like physically and mentally to take part in something like the Eco-Challenge. The show made me think of times out adventuring or hiking when things didn’t necessarily go our way, or maybe just feeling uncomfortable out of our element, and we needed a little encouragement to continue on.
I have found that it’s easy to get in a negative head space on multi-day trips, and very difficult to get out of it. My mood usually takes the biggest turn when I can’t keep up with proper foot care. I know that I have sensitive feet, so I try to tape them and prevent injury, but sometimes it just can not be avoided. I remember trudging through streams with soaking wet boots after days in the rain, just knowing that with every step my feet were getting more damaged in the boots I couldn’t dry off. I wanted so badly to enjoy where I was, but I kept getting caught up in frustration with my boots and the weather. In that case, I was so lucky to having overwhelmingly positive hiking buddies to keep my spirits up and have some laughs with.
I really like REI’s Fun Scale and the idea of ‘Type 2 Fun’ as a descriptor for adventures. Even though some thing might be difficult in the moment, I always find myself planning the next trip.
There are a few things that I try to keep in mind or plan ahead in order to end more hikes with positive experiences.
Identify the things that may be negatively impacting your mindset and brainstorm solutions.
What is that thing that has an immediate impact on your mood? I have already mentioned that my attitude usually takes a turn when my foot care isn’t at its best, but factors such as poor weather, not enough food, or not keeping on schedule, can all impact people differently on the trail. If you identify what bothers you, you may be able to mitigate it in the future.
It may even help to prepare yourself mentally for ‘worst case’ conditions, and by building those expectations beforehand you are better able to manage those obstacles. If I expect to be trudging through mud all day and then find that the terrain isn’t quite as squishy as I predicted, it is a happy bonus to my adventure.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Sometimes the people you surround yourself with can make or break your experience. It’s a great idea to chat with your hiking companions beforehand so you understand their limitations and expectations. You can go through a trip plan together, and talk about the different pieces of gear you are carrying.
My sister is an extremely positive hiking companion, and an overall delight to be around. Her group mood booster is asking, ‘what was the best part of your day?’ I love this question because it makes you step out of your clouded headspace and reflect on the amazing things around you.
Lindsay, my go to adventure buddy, is the best at being prepared. Her mantra is that there is no such thing as bad weather, and sometimes I need to grit my teeth when I say it, but she isn’t wrong. We will stick to our plan so long as it is safe to do so and we are dressed accordingly. I have found myself really enjoying hikes in rain and snow.
While everyone has their moments, it is wonderful to be a part of a team and to work through trying situations together.
Hike your own hike.
If you take a look at any hiking page or group, you are likely to see plenty of hiking ‘rules’. Some people prefer to hike ultralight, some without technology, some alone, and others with groups. While there is plenty of good advice and support to be found, don’t get caught up in worrying about things that are purely someone’s individual preference.
Don’t stress about hiking ultralight if you know that you like to carry a few more luxury/comfort items, or if you prefer to hike at a more relaxed pace, or if you like to stop and take plenty of photos. At the end of the day it is your own experience and you should enjoy it, safely of course.
How do you keep going when you are feeling drained out on the trail? What words do you keep in your mind to continue on and finish the adventure?