Trekking is a lot of effort – physical and mental. If you look at it, trekking also seems pointless. You climb up a mountain, or cross a pass, or walk on a trail, and then come back through one route or the other. You need good shoes, sometimes a large backpack, other material depending on the weather. It isn’t the easiest sport to get into. A lot of trekking also involves starting your day early, and early can also mean midnight on long climbs. Then why even bother with trekking at all? What is it that draws me and others to trek, and that too on a regular basis?
The first answer I always give to any city dweller on why I enjoy trekking is this. Most mountains have either patchy or no mobile network. Whenever I am out trekking, my phone is whipped out only to take photos, or to track the route using GPS. The time spent without access to social media and messages is spent on enjoying the company of people, and of the surroundings. So many of us are used to checking our phones before even getting out of bed. To top it all, the lines between personal and professional time are more blurred than ever. Trekking reinforces this habit of not using the phone as a filler in our day to day life. I know many people who have transformed after even a single trek, and make sure to get time out for themselves, time that is not spent online. So, if you are looking for a way to “switch off”, then trekking is a great idea!
There are many ways to stay fit. A simple walk in the park, a quick jog, time spent at the gym, or doing some yoga, there are plenty of ways to get in some physical activity. If you are a person who gets bored of monotony, introducing trekking as a way to stay fit might be a welcome decision.
Trekking involves walking on inclined and uneven trails. It is an excellent cardiovascular workout, and also improves the strength of the calf muscles tremendously. Moreover, you can introduce a lot of variations in your treks. Starting from gradual inclines, moving on the steeper terrain, rock climbing on vertical patches, trekking with heavy loads on your back, all of this targets different parts of the body, and is also a lot of fun. For me, trekking doesn’t even feel like exercise. Walking in places with great views makes you forget that you are walking at all!
Imbibing team spirit
Mountaineering and trekking has a bad reputation of being associated with personal glory and triumph. Well, any sport, team or solo has names that stand out more than others. Trekking with a group of people builds a team spirit without you even realizing it. You become attuned to what each person in the group is good at, and similarly, what they are not so good with. For example, a friend I frequently trek with is great at making sure all of us are well-fed at the right time, while another friend knows routes like the back of his hand. Some will click great photos, some will be patient enough to motivate the slow ones to keep up!
There have been so many times when the people I trek with have helped me, and also times I have helped them. Be it administering first aid, lending a hand while taking a big step, offering to share the load of your backpack, holding your tent while you try to set it up, or showing you the way when you forget to pack your flashlight. There are many ways in which even one trek can make you a team player.
Being close to nature
You would notice that a lot of people who love nature also end up trekking, and a lot of people who trek end up falling in love with nature! It is quite inevitable that you are exposed to the wilderness when you trek. Nature offers many, many, many facets that you only appreciate once you spend time in the wild. Which bird makes what sound? What was the name of the butterfly that flew right under your nose? Is that snake you spot venomous? Can you spot constellations like Orion and Scorpius in the night sky?
A friend of mine who started trekking frequently developed a keen love for butterflies – taking photos, knowing their species, and waiting patiently to spot a rare one! I now love spotting stars, lying under the sky at night. All of this becomes possible when you start trekking. Another small, but very important part is mountain dogs. You will often meet these faithful canine friends on treks. Dogs provide company, show you the trail, and I have even had a dog chase away monkeys who were troubling us on a trek!
Lessons in humility and patience
The mountains are great teachers. Faced with the sheer magnitude of the mountains puts a lot of things into perspectives. It makes you understand the tiny place you and your problems occupy in the larger scheme of things. Ever since I started trekking, I have become more patient – be it dealing with people different from you, or situations where things are not going your way. I can vividly recount times when I was in a difficult place in my life, and going on a trek helped me immensely. You also learn to accept failure more positively. There have been times when I have not been able to complete a trek. While it frustrated me before, I now understand that the mountains wait for everyone. They welcome everyone whether they are visiting for the first time, or repeatedly. Trekking gives you time and somehow, also makes you look at life objectively. It is difficult to explain in words, but easily experienced!
Above everything else, there are few things that match the meditative quality of trekking. A trek through a forest, in a canopy of tall trees, or a trek on soft snow, completely burying your foot in it, pretty much everything helps you find an internal rhythm. Moreover, reaching the summit brings a quiet sense of achievement. Feeling the wind in your hair, watching the sky change colours, every experience feels special!
If you have reached the end of this article, what are you waiting for? Take some time off and go on a trek soon!