I often wonder, "How did people hike before the internet?" as I’m scrolling through Instagram, taking screenshots of hikes to add to my bucket list.
I follow mostly outdoorsy people on Instagram, and I’ve noticed that the popularity of trails comes in waves. One day I’ll see someone post a gorgeous picture of a trail I’ve never heard of before (which, I of course, screenshot and add to my list) and then in the coming weeks it seems like everyone I follow has hiked that trail. I start to get serious FOMO and knock the trail to the top few spots on my list. I feel like I have to go.
More often than not, when I do go, the trail is crowded and well-worn. When I get to the destination, I get asked by at least one group to take their photo and they in turn take mine. I know when I get home and check the geo-tag on Instagram that I’ll find the strangers’ photo I took along with hundreds of other copies of the exact same photo. The faces change, sometimes the saturation or exposure changes, but the pictures are all exactly the same. I post mine, even though it’s just the same, and feel a slight sense of accomplishment. Until it starts all over again.
I can’t say for certain, because I am a millennial raised by the internet, but I think hiking looked a little different before our age of over-sharing.
My feed is full of people counting miles and checking items off a list with a photo captioned “crushed it”. It makes me a little sad because I think there’s more to hiking than knocking an item off a list or burning calories or getting italicize: (the) shot.
I am definitely guilty of getting caught up in the Instagram FOMO, but my dog is the one that gives me a reality check.
She could care less about our final destination. She isn’t tracking miles, or checking hikes off a list. She doesn’t care about summit selfies or documenting the day on Instagram Stories. She loves hiking because she loves to be outside. She loves having dirt under her paws and blue sky above her ears and the smell of pine trees in her nose. She loves splashing in creeks and listening to squirrels and sniffing the cool mountain breeze.
Sometimes, she just likes to lay on the side of the trail and chew on a stick. She’s an older dog and sometimes, our destination is too ambitious, so we turn around before the alpine lake or the waterfall. She’s just as happy hiking in our local open space, where I guarantee nobody has every geo-tagged, as she is on Instagram’s most popular trails.
So, I try to take a note from her and remember the real reasons I love hiking.
Some of my most memorable hikes have been ones where we’ve randomly chosen a trail, or explored a new area with no real destination in mind. Hiking, just like life, is about the journey not the destination.
I want to challenge you to get a little lost. Ditch your list this weekend, close Instagram, stash your phone in your bag and truly go explore. Let yourself enjoy the trail, the experience, the day without any goals or pressure to look good for anyone else. Remind yourself why you started hiking in the first place.
Narrator: This blog was thoughtfully written by Mikaela Ruland. You can find her on Instagram @airundermyheels.
Love/Hate Relationship with the Internet
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