“When architects want to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it. For thereby the parts are joined more firmly together.”
Viktor Frankel (Man’s Search For Meaning)
The Hiking “Drug”
If alcohol is a social lubricant, then hiking is a social binder. To go on a hike with a group of people, facilitates the forming of connections in a unique manner.
You’re out there in nature, committed to a mutual endeavor.
When we remove ourselves from our regular “habitat” (the city), and spend a period of time in nature, we respond immediately. Our body reacts to the change of environment as if we were on withdrawal from the city.
It’s very common to feel a sense of unease, in the first hours of a walk. That initial shift challenges our system, and makes us adapt our mindset to the new context.
To go through that transition with a group of people, has impacted me greatly during this year. I had the chance to go on hikes in Spain, Switzerland, Chile and Colombia.
Each time, with different groups or individuals in different contexts. These experiences have educated me on the “magic” of hiking.
We go in as strangers, and we leave as friends, or sometimes even brothers.
Social hiking in Granada
When I was in Granada (Spain), I had a chance to explore the amazing “Sierra Nevada”. A group of mountains that surrounds the city of Granada in the south of Spain. Nearby there is also the famous hiking track “Bosques del Sur”, at the Sierras de Cazorla natural park.
I had the great fortune of staying at a unique hostel, where one of the staff members was a hiking fanatic and we bonded instantly.
We had an idea to go on a hike, and offered 3 other people from the hostel to join us on a day hike around the area.
- Quick Note: 5 people is the magic number in my opinion. More than 5, and it gets divided into groups very quickly.
We started the hike, and after an hour or so I decided it was time to activate the group a bit and joke around. I asked everybody to share something about themselves (not taking it seriously), and we started the game.
Once we got to Tyler (our “tour guide”), he decided to share something meaningful, instead of just joking around. That moment set the tone for the entire the day. We spent the next 8 hours sharing stories and elements from our lives.
We were performing on ourselves a “moving therapy session” of sorts. Everybody was in on it, and were moved by the day. During the hike, we all realized something valuable about hiking: it’s a powerful tool that can be used for different purposes.
From walking a bit and taking selfies… up to reconnecting with yourself, nature, and others. It’s how you use this potent tool that makes your experience.
Hiking can facilitate a very powerful investigation. There is something about the mixture of talking while your moving, that activates something emotional in us.
We all felt it during that day, walking in nature and sharing our life stories with each others, impacted everyone.
I left that hike knowing that I had experienced something very special. That day is my “hiking recipe” for forming connections with others. The key is to have a small group, that wants to make the day about the day, and not about the freaking selfies from the day.
I left that hike with that “random” group of people, and was certain I will meet them again.
Since then I met 3 out of the 6 (there was one more on a different hike), in Chile, Canada and Israel. Solidifying the fact, that the group we had during that week in Granada’s mountains was something special(:
The experience of that week taught me that having a unique context, can drive people together. Hiking is one of the best mediums we have, for achieving true connections.
Going deep with someone on a short meeting in a cafe, is a challenge.
The Social Hiking “Recipe”
Let’s sum up the social hiking recipe for forming connections:
- Having a small group (up to 5).
- Turning off attention destroying phones.
- Initiate the conversation with questions.
The nature of the questions is key! It cannot be: “what did you do this week crap…” It needs to be broad, personal and telling about the person’s story.
- What brought you to travel?
- Can you share something about your life / family situation?
- Which challenges have you faced recently?
Questions of investigatory nature, and not of informative / descriptive one.
I learned more about each member of the group during that day, than I had about my friends from home for a long time.
There is a great power in sharing with “strangers” your life story. It calls the attention of everyone, and creates a unique shared space. It’s a synergy of a few minds for a day. It exercises the sensitivity of the group, and gets you on the path of exchanging life experiences rather than information.
A day spent by 5 people: an Israeli, an American, a Canadian and 2 Australians. That mix gave us an extra edge to the shared stories, it was captivating to see and feel where we all intersect.
Let’s finish with a picture from that magical day: there was an old lady that helped us navigate our way out from the village we crossed(:
From San Sebastian (Spain), Santiago (Chile) and up to San Carlos (Colombia), hiking with people became a ritual for me:
Hiking is an effective method to shake the body and mind, and restart the system a new. It’s addictive, and if you have the itch for it, you’re a candidate for being a repeat offender (:
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If you didn’t like this post: take a hike, and think about life for a bit…(: