Hiking – A Drug of Choice

I’ve had some people ask me to post my toastmasters speeches online. Here is speech #3 performed last Tuesday at my club meeting.

Hiking – A Drug of Choice

I’m sure every one of you has a hobby or sport your particularly fond of; one that always seems to flirt with your day dreams. No matter the time constraints, weather or cost, you always seem to find an excuse to indulge in the activity. For me, hiking is my drug of choice. No matter how many trips I go on, my mind, body and soul continues to crave more. Why hiking, you may ask? What makes trekking through mud, being bitten by bugs and running way from bears so addictive? For me, I get such deep rewards from partaking in the activity of hiking; specifically the sport provides an appreciation for my body, an opportunity to be alone with my own thoughts and a chance to witness some spectator views.

Hiking is a physically demanding sport. Every trip is filled with its own, unique aches and pains. While hiking, getting blisters seems to be inevitable. Carrying a heavy pack for five days up and down and up and down hills and valleys usually results in some sort of shoulder or back pain. After hiking for six hours and ascending hundreds of feet, my body inevitably becomes tired. I often think to myself during a hike, why did I sign up for this? How is this rewarding? Enduring the physical demands of hiking is a reminder to appreciate the body I have. Everyone has body image issues to some extent, but the truth is our bodies have a purpose other than to look a certain way; they are meant to be used and appreciated. Without the annoyance of a blister, shoulder and back pain and fatigue, I would forget to acknowledge how strong I am and how important my mobility is.

Distractions; they are everywhere. From the moment we wake up to just before we fall asleep, we are bombarded with information overload. Newspapers, emails, twitter, facebook, Instagram… snap chat??? In this day and age, ask your selves….when are you ever away from the opinions of the world? For me, hiking provides this escape. When I’m out in the lush wilderness of the Rockies or climbing down boulders in the Catskills, I find I’m allowed the opportunity to formulate my own opinions about the world I live in. I’ve gotten the chance to meet people in local villages and see how much joy a human being can get from such a simple life. I’ve witnessed how food crops such as rice and millet are grown; they are no longer just a packaged product I see in the super market. Hiking allows me to work through mental barriers I’m currently facing, whether they have to do with relationships, career or finances. In addition, I get a chance to reflect on past mistakes and accomplishments and see them as learning opportunities for the future.

Now I had to save the best for last. I’m sure you’re all thinking, pain and self-evaluation, sounds like more fun than a trip to Disney Land, where can I sign up! But seriously, although both are beneficial and I find enjoyment from them, the most rewarding part of hiking is the spectacular views I have been privileged to witness. Two views seem to stand out most in my mind. First, in Scotland, on a crisp cool July morning, I took an hour bus ride from the bustling city of Edinburgh to the humble Highlands were I started to climb Mount Saint A’an. Trampling through mud and scrambling up large rocks, I came to the top of the hike were a gorgeous pristine view of Loch Katrine wait. The lake was crystal clear with not a single wave to tarnish her finishing and the smell of fresh Scottish air was enlightening. The second view I will remember forever was of the Annapurna mountain range of the Himalayas. In October I embarked on a five day hike along this mountain range.During the five days, I witnessed these mountains dressed in colours of orange, red and purple, mimicking the light of a sun rise. In the evening, standing in front of a dark night sky painted with stars, the mountains stood strong showing their silhouette in the moon light. Every hike I’ve been on had provided completely different views, all of which could not be witnessed by plane, train or automobile quite the same way as from a hikers point of view. When we put in physical and emotional effort, something magical happens to our perception of the world surrounding us.

I want you all to close your eyes. Imagine your outdoors on humid moist morning, with a deep layer of fog floating through your legs. You’re in a small village with homes made of clay. Your surrounding landscape is made up of rice patties and millet crops, tall grasses and a dirt road. In the distance you see a silhouette of sharp pointy mountains that have been dusted with snow. Sure you may have a few bug bits and your muscles are aching but guess what, you’re ready to enjoy a day of hiking in Nepal.

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