Read my latest travel essay on W Dish
Vacations are meant to be a break from your everyday hectic workweek and life in general, right? Right. But if you're like me and you end up over-listing things to do and see, your brain doesn't really get the rest it deserves. Having traveled around the globe multiple times over, I’ve taken away one very important tip: to take a hike. As someone who has almost zero athletic ability, I relish at walking everywhere and always try to fit in a hike wherever I go, to reflect and take in a break from my itinerary - I know, I know, you’re still “planning” by scheduling in a hike, but baby steps, people. So, plan a morning or afternoon where you can turn off your phone and your brain, and get a little workout in there while you’re at it (yes, walking is exercise too).
There’s a great active meditative quality that comes from taking a hike. As a meditation newbie, the first and biggest challenge for me was to sit still in silence and try to focus. I find walking it out a helpful way to ease into the stillness because, naturally, through the motion of your feet and body moving, you will organically enter a calm mind-space and it won’t feel at all forced. Your breath will enter a natural rhythm with your step and slowly any stress will melt away. The ensuing sense of reflection that comes through the quiet ends up heightening not only your awareness for the beauty of the nature that surrounds your hike (reality check: there’s a world beyond the one that’s in your head) but your flow of creativity as well. I recently lived in Los Angeles for a few months to kick-start a new career adventure, and although the city is notorious for being an intense driving city, my regular hikes at Griffith Park always proved to be quite inspirational. A recent study from Stanford University actually showed the positive effects of walking on creative thinking; so there you go, go on a hike, and you could unlock the next multi-million dollar bestseller. Or, maybe just a really brilliant bathroom hack.
My favorite hiking experience happened on a vacation to Capri a couple of years ago. While my friend went for a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea, I went for what I thought was a casual stroll around town to Villa Jovis (which turned out to be the second highest peak in Capri). This was one of those rare moments where I didn’t research where I was and the result was the most incredible unexpected hike.
From the sweeping views of the Gulf of Naples to the adorable mom and pop cafes tucked in around the bend, and of course, the inspiring ruins of Villa Jovis that houses a number of stunning ancient baths, I was in complete awe, capturing every eye-porn moment on my camera. Each turn on the hike seemed like I was uncovering another hidden architectural wonder. Because I didn’t intentionally plan on hiking up a high peak under the blistering Italian summer sun, I remember thinking, “Do I keep going or do I turn around,” but the statue of Madonna that sits at the absolute top of the Church of Santa Maria del Soccorso in Villa Jovis was always in sight at the distance as an end goal, and so I kept going… until the very top.
Whether it’s a 20 minute hike or a 2 hour one, it’s an immense sense of accomplishment to reach the proverbial finish line with your own two feet. I ended up getting back to my hotel in Capri before sundown, miraculously not dying of heat stroke, and gloating to my friend all the amazing sights he missed out while he was at the beach. I mean, I wasn’t gonna let a humblebrag opportunity like that slip away.
Tips to get the most out of your hike:
- Turn of your phone
- Take your headphones out and let your thoughts soundtrack the hike
- It’s not a race so keep going at your own pace
- Take moments to stop and observe the surrounding nature
- Be aware of your thoughts and let your mind go free
When you get home from vacay, take the practice of hiking back with you. Your mind and body will thank you for it.