It’s all about the Journey; or is it?

Hiking practice

There’s a well known saying many people would be familiar with and that’s ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination’. This saying highlights it’s not where you are going that’s important but rather the experience of getting there, learning from the journey itself, taking in the experiences as you go, building memories – the destination is just one aspect of this.

Over the past few years I have been given cause on more than one occasion to consider whether this is actually true or not. Is it the journey that is important, is it the destination, or does the answer lay somewhere in between?  We discussed this and came up with very different answers on what’s important.

He said

I enjoy two main types of hiking. The first is when I hike with Gill and the second is when I solo hike. Two very different styles of hiking and with it, two very different types of experiences.

Hiking with Gill, regardless of whether its a short day hike or multi day/multi week hike, is about spending time together. When we are hiking together I look for things I think will interest her and that I can show her. It becomes about sharing the experience at the time it occurs as well as months, or years down the track, reminiscing about the past which we still do in relation to trips from many years ago. On the longer hikes in particular you get to connect in a deeper way with your partner that modern life doesn’t allow with all its distractions.

The other big plus hiking with someone else, even if it is not your significant other, is when you are having a bad day, your partner can provide a lift that may be the difference between you staying on the trail or getting off.

In regard to hiking as a couple/pair, it is definitely about the journey, at least for us.

Tim and Gill at Hospital Hill lookout (ACT) on our way to walking the Yerabi Track and yes there is snow in the background and the hike we did on this day, was definitely a good one to share

Looking for the little stuff

Then there’s the solo hiking experience. When I solo hike my experience changes dramatically and while I’m not religious, my experience becomes almost spiritual at times. I go into autopilot mode. Whether this is a day hike or a multi week thru-hike what it means for me is that while I remain aware of my surroundings keeping an eye out on the trail from both a navigation and safety perspective, but my focus shifts to full on introspection.

On longer hikes in particular I find myself thinking. Thinking about my day, thinking about where I am going, thinking about the problems of the world. In fact an typical individual has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts on an average day – when you have time to consider your thoughts it’s amazing how much thinking you actually do.

When I go into this autopilot mode my speed also increases as I let my body get into a rhythm and my surroundings become ‘wallpaper’; something that’s there providing a background, but not my main focus.

There are two examples here that strongly support this. Firstly my favourite walk in the Canberra region, the Mount Gingera Walk; if I’m honest if there was some way I could be magically transported to the summit of Mount Gingera that would suit me just nicely. What I love about this walk is not the trip in, but the summit itself.  The remoteness and the views from the Mount Gingera summit are just so special; to me at least. I could spend hours sitting and looking which is a real rarity for me. The walk itself doesn’t actually do a lot for me.

At the other end of the scale is my 2018 Bibbulmun Track solo hike; 1005 km over five weeks. Thinking back on that walk while I thoroughly enjoyed it and can still remember the highlights, of the track, but what really sticks with me is the achievement as my first 1000 km walk. On that walk I spent most of my time walking in full-on introspection, a real rarity in today’s technology filled world. I look forward to the times when I can just do a deep dive into my own psyche.

So in relation to solo hiking, in most cases it’s very much about the destination.

Tim finishing a three day solo hike on the Canberra Centenary Trail. This was aways going to be a solo hike and one that Gill had no interested in

She said

For me hiking is about everything! It is about exploring and discovering, asking the curious questions, looking into the distance, looking at the tiny things and wondering … just wondering!

So hiking is about the journey … mostly. And when I say mostly it depends on my mood. When I am feeling good, when things are going to plan, when everyone in the group (usually consisting of just Tim and I) is doing well, getting on, also happy… it is about the journey.

But when any of this changes, it becomes about the destination. Perhaps not the final destination but definitely the next break, the next camp or the next milestone.

I also tend to front load my journey with a mix of perspectives alternating between valuing the journey and valuing the destination. I have thought long and hard about this and I have concluded I am a mid-point person! By that I mean I have all sorts of mixed perspectives and emotions – some great and others not so – until I reach mid-point. Once ‘hump day’ arrives, I am off, I can take on the world and it becomes almost exclusively about the journey.

This happened when we were hiking the Larapinta Trail – we had planned 15 days and completed all the sections in 14 days. By the end of the seventh day I was the most accommodating hiking buddy you would ever want. Up to that point it was a roller coaster. Tim knew that when I gave him the ‘look’, he needed to steer clear. The reason? It was such hard work that there were times I just needed to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve mentioned previously my love/hate relationship with my pack – the great thing is I am carrying everything I need. The bad thing is I am carrying everything I need! The impact on how I feel is very much influenced by my pack!

I hadn’t thought about it in this way before but it seems I get all my complaining done in the first half of a hike. In the second half I am much more focused on exploring and discovering, supporting others and enjoying the vistas.

The summit at Mount Gingera. I find this place to be really special place where I can spend hours just taking in the views. It is the summit that is important rather than the trip there which I can take or leave and will typically choose the short route in

Last words

Our conclusion? The short answer is ‘it depends’.  It depends on where you are, who you’re with, the opportunity to zone in, or out, what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling and even what your hiking buddies need from you, and you from them.

So next time you’re out exploring, get in touch with how you like to experience the outdoors. And of course, surround yourself with like minded people. At the very least, create a hiking partnership where you and they appreciate and accommodate the differences. We’ve had lots of time to practice this!

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