When I share with a friend that I enjoy a solo hike in the woods, I’m often met with incredulous looks and questions like “Aren’t you scared?” And when I was married, the questions were more like “And your husband is okay with that?”
Uh… yeah? Is that weird?
Even to this day, as a thirty-eight year old woman, my dad gets so protective and worried if I head out on a solo hike when I’m staying at his house. And I guess I just don’t think it makes any sense. If one of my brothers headed out for a hike unarmed, no one would say a word. But me, with my ovaries and my estrogen… I have to hear the lecture and take my niece’s pink pepper spray keychain?
I rarely feel scared when I hike alone. In fact, it’s one of the few times in my life when I don’t hear people talking or cars whizzing by, and I can be at peace with my own thoughts. It reminds me of my childhood – playing outside in the back yard or walking through the quiet woods. It calms my nerves and gives me a chance to actually pay attention to the voice inside me. To God. To look at all of the beautiful and unique creations all around me, and how the scene changes from season to season, hour to hour.
Lately, I’ve been talking myself out of hiking, even though I know it’s exactly what I need. Sure, I’ve been on hikes and walks with friends, but it’s just not the same when someone else is there. It’s the peace of not needing to keep up a conversation or wonder what someone else is thinking. Or if they’re okay… (enneagram 9, anyone?) And to check in with myself. Am I okay? What am I thinking?
And so, albeit a bit nervous, I push through the fear of hiking alone. I proceed cautiously… but I refuse to be hindered by the fear and gender stereotypes others project. I refuse to carry a gun (though I’m not against bear spray…) and I know that if I let myself succumb to worry and fear, I will regret it. I will miss the beauty around me.
Living life means taking risks. Courageous living means stepping into the unknown. Being the woman God has made me to be means trusting that He is always with me – especially when I am afraid.
I need the crisp air in my lungs. I need the cushy soil beneath my feet. I need the blood pounding through my veins and the vibrant colors flooding my eyes. I need it like I’ve rarely needed anything else. I need it more than the guarantee of my physical safety. Because, to me, safety feels like a prison. And this girl needs to break free.