Hikers and backpackers are often adventurers in many ways. A scroll through almost any Instagram feed will show you gorgeous images of exciting and beautiful places worldwide, most of which you yourself could visit. There is something ingrained in us as people that urges us to explore and treasure nature, whether that means mountaineering or soaking in the soothing life of mountains from inside a lodge window.
Recently, I moved overseas and was able to go snowboarding in a different country. Though I could not read most of the signs or communicate well with most of the people around me, I saw people enjoying the beautiful surroundings. I participated in something that is loved across borders and cultures.
In the past, hiking and being outdoors with people of other backgrounds, cultures, languages, and countries has been an incredible experience. It is not all relative to how much nature is valued in that context, or to how exciting the activity is. It is not solely about the pictures taken and ways that our own pride can be lifted by showing off the tall mountain we climbed or the exotic animals we saw. While I enjoy these things as much as anyone, they do not alone account for the extraordinary connection and leveling effect of nature on all people.
The outdoors are a place where equality is found. None of us can stop cold rain from falling, and we all feel basically the same way about it when backpacking. Where our daily lives in civilization are padded from all things out of our control, the outdoors are a place where we find ourselves experiencing things in the same way, at the same time, and with little or no ability to change them. Suddenly, we have feelings and desires in common. We are the same, working for the same things.
At least in the Western world, the term “polarization” is being thrown around quite a bit, and for understandable reasons. In politics, food, education, and so many minute things- people seem to be struggling more and more to find common ground. If you align with this thing, then you cannot even listen to someone who aligns differently. In some cultures, the chasms of social status and perceived roles keep people from finding common ground. There are too many divisions to count, but in the end, when it rains, none of us get to choose who it rains on.
The outdoors are where our true state is revealed, and where divisions and borders dissolve.
Wherever you are in the world, and wherever your adventures take you- embrace the ability to be natural and connect with others. Appreciate the life and beauty around you- after all, we are all nature too.