A lot of the time, when I read mental health articles or listen to podcasts, people write and speak often about living in the present. I never really understood this much until I went travelling, and realised having loose plans subject to change is really the best way to have a great trip.
Upon my return to the UK, COVID drastically altered life and the present seemed like a scary reality, I found and continue to find it hard to live in the present. Everything seems harder in the present – it’s almost easier to panic and try to enforce control than it is to let things go, right?
One day, I was feeling particularly anxious. I decided I needed to just take a small trip by myself; a little UK trip where I could go hiking. Wholesome trips in the outdoors usually make me feel much better, so off to the Peak District, I went.
I embarked on a fun, challenging hike by myself in lovely sunny weather. One took me around three hours, and I accidentally climbed a second mountain before realising I had gone the wrong way – remind me to buy a compass, readers. I had a slight panic that I would be stuck and have to spend the night with the cows before I eventually found a way down, and whooped at the end at my achievement.
I had asked the hotel receptionist to give me a short hour’s hike, as my legs were aching. She gave me some directions, and off I went, unknowingly going completely the wrong way. After three hours of hiking, I realised that in fact, I had made a mistake.
I had hoped if I had continued there might be a shortcut, but alas, I was trekking up a mountain, it was getting grey, cold and I had no idea if I should continue, or head back another three hours. Ahead of me were rocks that various people were scrambling down. I ventured on to ask them where they’d come from.
‘We’ve come from the other side of the mountain! You’ve got to scramble up these rocks, good luck!’
I looked up at these rocks and started to feel extremely nervous. I was of course by myself. I had not scrambled rocks before. I didn’t know how long the hike would be on the other side, and it would be getting dark in a couple of hours for sure.
The ‘you’ve got this Em’ chant that had been repeating the entire time I’d realised I’d taken the wrong route, had come to an abrupt stop. Would I turn back and hike back three hours in the soon-to-be dark? I didn’t even have a headtorch. What an amateur, I thought.
I turned towards the route I’d just come. It would have to be a fast trek back, there was no way I’d be scrambling rocks alone. Defeat, I thought. I had so wanted to complete the hike I’d accidentally started.
As I started the long walk back, there was a family situated right behind me, also looking at the route I’d just contemplated. I decided to ask them if they were going to do it – I’d come this far after all.
‘Yes! We’ve got a map here, we’re going to try it out!’ they responded.
‘Can I join you?’, I replied. ‘I was fixed on finishing this trek, but I didn’t want to complete the rest alone’.
We exchanged names. They were a British father, a German mother and their daughter, Christina, a few years younger than me. We started to climb the rocks together, helping each other with a route upwards.
It took forever, the higher we climbed, the colder the winds. When we thought we’d reached the top, there were yet more rocks to climb. Eventually, we made it, still in daylight, admiring the views over the valley. It was phenomenal.
On our long walk down, Christina and I continued our chat. We’d been speaking for hours and had just clicked. When we all reached the bottom of the mountain, I invited them for dinner at my hotel.
We spoke about everything, my previous travels, health issues, the parents’ wedding and the differences in British and German culture. When they said goodbye, we promised to keep in touch. And so we did. I came back from staying at their house in the New Forest a few weeks ago, and Christina and I are travelling to Germany for Christmas.
That one hour hike, which turned into a million-hour hike gave me a fantastic adventure and some really great friends. Despite panicking at the start, focusing on what I could do in the present made all the difference. Obviously, it can’t always work this well, but forcing yourself to stay present-minded really can lead to some special experiences.