5 Analogies for Life From Trekking
Insightful lessons from the forest
First a bit about trekking
Trekking is one the most nuanced, inclusive, and immersive activities you can partake in in the outdoors. Few other vocations impart you with essential life skills the way trekking does. After years spent trekking the jungles of South India and coming face to face with adversity deep inside the forest, I’ve learnt to navigate the slopes of city life with its accompanying mayhem and drama, using the teachings of the forest. Without patience, resilience and tolerance to hardship, you wouldn’t make it very far in the forest in the first place(talk about bushwhacking through thick dense foliage all day, and then having to cross frigid pools holding your bag over your head in the dead of the night on just 4 hours of sleep). So it goes without saying that wanderers and explorers are hard-boiled brutes who cannot be worn down easily, no matter what life throws at them.
I’ve gained so many lessons from trekking that it’s going to be difficult to list them all in a single article. So I’ve compiled a list with a few I could think of off the top of my head, and hope to put out the rest in multiple versions of this article.
Here are 5 such analogies from trekking that could be applied to real life:
Your team is only as strong as its weakest member — or fast as the slowest one.
A prominent lesson I’ve picked up from the countless treks I’ve embarked on, is that a team is only as strong as its weakest member. It doesn’t matter whether you’re unafraid of scaling steep slopes, hopping across wet boulders on a stream bed, or descending rapidly through thick shrubbery confident of placing your feet on solid ground every single time. Your team members might not be up for the same challenges that you are. They might lack the willpower or experience that you possess to brazenly run down a hill without fretting about where your feet might land. They’re afraid they might slide on the smooth grass, stumble on a wobbly boulder, or slip on mossy rocks.
Navigating these challenges requires exhaustive experience with the outdoors, along with a seasoning of courage and determination. It doesn’t instantly occur to everyone who starts trekking. It takes a lot experience for your body and mind to learn to navigate the wild untamed outdoors. If misfortune befalls someone who’s way behind in the group, it’s your job as an experienced trek leader to get back there and assist them. This is the reason you’re only as fast as your slowest member. Or as strong as the weakest one.
This could also apply to: Business, managing a team, at university, or at keeping a family together.
Mishaps can happen even on short hikes — Yes, even on day hikes with plenty of people around.
After years of trekking, lapping up all the experience navigating deep jungles, we trekkers tend to take the smaller day hikes for granted.
Big mistake! People can go missing or come face to face with wildlife even on the shortest hikes. And this happens more often than you’d think. Ironically, there’s a higher chance of coming in contact with wildlife on short treks on the tiny hillocks abutting the city, as opposed to the treks conducted deep inside reserved forests.
Leopards, elephants, and sloth bears are more common in the semi-rural areas that surround Indian cities. Their ever-shrinking habitat forces them to venture out of the forest in search of food or mates, and this is the principal reason for all human-animal conflict. Because of this, it’s imperative to maintain the same kind of cautiousness and discipline that you would on longer treks in big wildlife reserves. I’ve lost people on even the smallest hills, assuming they would follow the trail I’ve taken, only to see them disappear after walking a few steps ahead. A foreboding sense of helplessness and despair takes over one’s psyche once they realize they’re lost, hindering their ability to think straight. And it’s for this reason they must be located as quickly as possible.
This could also apply to: Business, at work, and relationships.
Don’t just assume everyone is like minded just because they trek with you. — You might share a mutual obsession for the wilderness, but may differ on 99 other things.
One of the biggest faux pas’ I’ve made while trekking is assuming I’ve found like minded friends or the right group to trek with. Only to see them change colour and show their ugly (or different) side once out in the city. Never assume someone is on the same page as you are just because you both have a craze for the outdoors. They might not even be trekking for the same reasons you are to begin with. This is why it’s important to socialize with them a lot after the trek, so that you can get to know them better, before allowing them into your in-group set of friends.
This could also apply to: relationships, friendships, corporate life.
Always plan your descent before going up — the most important lesson in trekking
This is undeniably the most important lesson trekking has imparted to me. Often, we would be raring to get to the campsite for the day, or visit a waterfall on the way with reckless abandon. In my hurry to do so, I’ve climbed up dangerously steep sections without as much as sparing a thought on how to get down. Then later while returning, I’d be faced with the daunting task of finding an alternate route or having to exercise extreme caution while getting down the same route, unnecessarily taking on extra risk where none was required at all.
The takeaway from this is that one should be very contemplative in their decisions instead of hastily rushing towards them. Now every time I encounter a steep section that looks like it can be easily ascended, I look back and think a hundred times about the strategies I could use to descend it. This makes me feel confident in my abilities as a trekker, and let’s me enjoy my time at the waterfall or peak, instead of constantly thinking about how to get down.
This could also apply to: Business, family, relationships, friendships, work.
You’re only a pro as long as you work at it — This is an insight which I’ve derived from my most recent trek.
In fact, I returned from it just this morning. So it’s pretty fresh in my mind. I’m trekking after a long time because of all the intermittent lockdowns that were instituted one after another. And due to this, I’ve forgotten how to place my feet on the boulders in the streams and jungle trails. The lesson that can be extracted from this is that no matter how experienced you are, if you don’t maintain your fitness levels, you’ll ultimately lose touch with nature. The very same uneven, rocky and slippery surfaces which I used to once used to just hop, skip, and jump across got me very anxious and terrified to even walk upon. And I was slowly ambling along like a total newbie. I was extra cautious even on the smallest of boulders, and thought they might wobble or I might slip. It wasn’t even about my shoes. They were brand new, and this was my second trek in them.
I was thrusted right back to the beginner level, even after completing a zillion treks right in that very same forest. Think about how discomforting that can be. A definite ego check for the most hard minded of trekkers!
This could also apply to: everything; relationships, work, college, family.
Do you go hiking? Have you managed to pick up any lessons on the way? Have you faced any situation in the forest which has forced you to think on your toes and be resourceful? If you’ve learned something on a trek and have successfully exapted it to a life situation, I’d love to hear about it. Do let us know in the comments.