It’s just a series of putting one foot in front of the other.
That’s what my granny told me when I asked her about the meaning of life. She was at the end of hers at that time, and it was our last conversation before she passed away.
That was a decade ago now, but I think of it often when I start to wonder what it’s all for.
I wonder what she’d think of how I’d been spending my time in January. Between you and me, it wasn’t good.
Over the past year I’ve had to admit to myself, I am actually addicted to my phone and if given the choice between scrolling on TikTok for hours or facing cold, hard reality, I tend to scroll.
But maybe you know what I mean when I say that it seems like my only window to other people right now.
And despite all this yearning for connection, I’m feeling more disconnected than ever. I go through so many emotions in a day, feeling manic but not sure how to expend this energy.
Then I thought about what she said.
And I knew I had to move.
Throughout my life nature has been my soothing place. She’s always been there, going on and on every day, playing the long game.
Maybe I could learn something from her by committing to spend meaningful time in nature every day.
Maybe the consistency would heal me. Maybe it would teach me how to live more fully.
A tall order, yes, but one I was happy to take a gamble on.
My plan was to hike every day for 30 days and see what changed.
I’m surrounded by mountains where I live in Reno, so I scanned AllTrails and made a list of the hikes in the area that looked good to me.
Now, I’ve done a lot of backpacking trips, and I’ve got the creaky knees to show for it. So I knew I had to mix more challenging trails and shorter, easier trails. The point was not to punish myself, but rather to see if I could somehow fix this weird funk I’m in.
What actually happened, I couldn’t have predicted. (Split screens showing me changing)
I set out on day one to a familiar place. It was a 6-mile hike to a partially frozen waterfall near me.
Although I hiked it alone, it didn’t feel that way. Friendly people passed by, I breathed in the pine, I savored an hour at the waterfall alone, and on my hike back out, I remember being amazed by the colors.
The palette of gold, red, green and the blue sky glowed in the afternoon light and I knew that yes, this had been the right call.
Until of course day two, when I decided I would casually hike 12 miles through the snow to one of the tallest peaks in the area.
Though I’ve hiked in the snow before, and I’ve summited this very mountain before, never had I combined the two. With the light snow year I hadn’t expected thigh deep snow, and I definitely didn’t expect all of the different trails and foot prints meandering in every which direction.
I got spectacularly lost, despite, yes, using a GPS.
Moreover, I was terrified of driving back down the mountain. As a child of Southern California, I never learned to drive in the snow.
I didn’t expect such an obstacle so early in my commitment. Was I just a winter novice thinking I could do this? The worst thoughts ran through my head, namely that it was the first hike I had ever quit, and I felt like a failure.
But when I finally did find my way back to the trail, a beautiful sunset unfolded in front of me, and I knew that it was just a learning experience. So on I went, putting one foot in front of the other.
When I’m out there it feels like it could be any point in time.
I can slow down and listen. Or I can challenge myself and go higher, faster. I can pause and look back at what I’ve done and feel accomplished. I can rest at the viewpoint in awe.
And while not every day was a strict hike.
I’ve seen beautiful things daily, I’ve gotten to know where I live a little bit better, to appreciate it more. I’ve exercised more regularly, and felt less pent up energy.
And these things I did expect, but they weren’t all I got.
One healthy decision begets another, and since I was already on this auto pilot to improve in my life, I started eating a lot healthier too. It was made easier by the increase I was feeling in self-love, self-efficacy, and a desire to feed my body nutritious things.
I started to really enjoy cooking again. I like making myself breakfast, feeling my body for that day’s hike. I wake up in the morning excited for the day, because I know there’s going to be an adventure, even if it’s just a short, little one.
I’ve gotten back into pole fitness, too, and it’s made easier by balancing out the hiking with body movement, stretching, and just feeling good.
My body has really changed over these 30 days. And I’ve become more confident and stronger too.
And best of all, that screen time has dropped a bit too. Still not perfect, but all I strive for is progress.
And now that I’ve come to the end of those 30 days I’m asking myself, what’s next? We’re only in the middle of a long winter, which has quickly become one of my favorite times of year.
For the first time in a month, I don’t have a specific plan. But I do know this:
This change is available to anyone. It’s not a special thing that only I get to do. Spending time in nature is available to all of us and it only worked for me by taking it one day at a time..
By doing what my granny told me so assuredly was the meaning of life – by putting one foot in front of the other.