How has hiking alone made me a better person

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I was struck by inspiration mid-morning. Why don’t I hike? It was a sweltering day. It would be poetic– I naively reasoned– since I would be using nature to counter nature itself. There forth begins my journey to Laem Thian, and my first solo hike anywhere.

A quick Google search brought me to two conclusions. One, I would practically have the whole beach to myself. Two, it would be a just challenging enough hike. I left my phone to charge at the guesthouse— it’s only going to be a greater adventure.

The jungle did provide great shelter from the heat. It was cool and quiet. The crunch of leaves on the ground and the birds chirping in the background blended together to form a medley that was uniquely ‘forest’. Serenity engulfed me. I believe I’ve never found a better reason to smile like an idiot.

Butterflies gathered near, always a little out of reach. They darted from flower to flower, a blur of yellow, teal and black. Sunlight pilfered through the cracks of the canopy, illuminating the path. As I broke through their ranks, butterflies scattered, possibly in fear and shock and perhaps amusement. I giggled and laughed at my childlike fascination towards butterflies. It was a perfectly magical moment.

Halfway through, the exhilaration faded and fear seeped in. Am I lost? The receptionist at the guesthouse told me half an hour. It shouldn’t take so long. I increased my pace on the unmarked path. My steps grew clumsy. In my haste, I almost slipped to my death. After all, nature has no bias towards man. If you’re careless, you die.  

I have about 300ml of liquid left. Of course this had to happen. I curse my inability to plan ahead. I was tired, and scared. My thighs burn with the incline, and my knees knocked when I sprinted downhill. I never crossed paths with other travellers. With no phone, I am left to my own devices. No way to ask for help, no one to heed my cries of help if I fell and crippled myself. This truly terrified me.

Somewhere along the route, I felt oddly nonchalant. I have, somehow, lost the ability to feel sorry for myself. Shit is going to happen and shit doesn’t care how well-prepared or ill-prepared you are. It doesn’t matter why or how; all it matters is how you react to it and make the best of it. If I die, I die. I’m sure it sounds dramatic now, but I have mentally drafted a will to distribute my assets. Baby sister, you’re getting my camera.   

With that in mind, I soldiered on. On hindsight, there are only a handful of situations in which I was so determined. I started this journey and goddamnit, I’m going to finish it. And I did.

The elation I felt when I finally got to the beach was exceptional. At this point, it’s not about the beach anymore. It’s about achieving a goal, accomplishing something. It’s about conquering my fears. It’s about learning to trust myself, learning to say I can do anything I set my mind to.

And that’s how I came out of the forest just a tad bit wiser than before.      
April 24, 2016
December 9, 2016

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