A year ago, I started dating a hiker. Our first date was normal enough – we walked around Prague’s Old Town and the castle grounds and had ice cream and pilsner like a cute new couple. But our second date was a bit outside my comfort zone. With just a small backpack each, we rode a train and a bus to Cesky Svycarsko and spent the next two days hiking, and hiking, and hiking some more.
Since then, I’ve been to many more hikes with him, and these are what I’ve learned.
Learn to pack very, very light.
On that first hike, I had in my bag: two shirts, two scarves, two pairs of pants, extra shoes, two towels, a week’s worth of toiletries, two cameras, a tripod, an iPad, chargers and connectors, and lots of food. All he had in his bag was a jacket (which I ended up using), a bottle of water (which I ended up drinking), and a bottle of wine (which we emptied that night).
Though he was the perfect gentleman and carried both our bags the whole 20-KM hike that first time, I have since learned to need less, make do, and appreciate more.
Learn to trust and yield control.
As a self-confessed Type A control freak, this was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn. I always had itineraries and lists and always knew where I was going and what I was going to see and do. Take me to a strange city and I can make my way around. I can even drive hundreds of kilometers in a strange country. Just give me a few days and Google maps to figure it out.
But going into the forests and the mountains is a different thing all together. Sometimes, you just have to follow the path — and the boy who seems to know what he’s doing — and see where it leads you.
Be prepared to have tired legs and burning lungs.
Before I met my hiker boyfriend, holidays meant lying on the beach reading a good book in between sips of daiquiri. So it’s no surprise that, being as unfit as I was and having way shorter legs than him, it took me great efforts to fall in step with him. This is still an ongoing process, but every new hike, I get better and better at it.
Just sweat it out.
The good thing about hikers is that they’re not easily grossed out. No need to be self-conscious waking up or sweating next to them. Chances are, they’ve seen much worse.
Redefine your limits.
I never thought I could hike 30 KM until I did. I never thought I could go through a forest at night until I did. I never thought I could dip into a freezing lake until I trekked until my legs were burning and it was just crazy not to. Every peak is reached through a journey of self-discovery.
Don’t be sensitive if they want to be alone.
This was another hard pill to swallow: Hiking isn’t a team sport and hikers can be very independent. This was difficult for me to get used to, being as clingy as a golden retriever.
One day, while vacationing in the mountain, I woke up all alone in our bed. I panicked and then formulated a search plan. Just as I was about to leave and look for him, he entered the room, all sweaty and flushed, oblivious to the alarm he caused. “Where were you?!?,” I asked. To which he calmly and matter-of-factly replied: “I went hiking. I didn’t want to wake you up.”
Sometimes, you just have to let them run along on their own.
Get used to him looking at something more beautiful than you.
The world is a big, wide, beautiful place and hikers know that best. Chances are, he’ll be chasing one magnificent sunrise after another, and he will always be looking beyond at something bigger than you and your relationship. But that’s okay; he will probably be squeezing your hand as he gazes at the clouds before you.
Get ready to fall in love again and again.
I took up Psychology in college so I know a thing or two: physiological arousal mirrors the thrill of romantic attraction. Sweaty hands (sweaty EVERYTHING), racing pulse, shortness of breath — whether it’s the fifty-kilometer hike, the hundred-meter cliff drop, the sun rising above a sea of clouds, or just the way the strands of hair fall over your eye, he wouldn’t know the difference. Couples who sweat together, stay together.
Live and love in the moment.
Life is beautiful and much more so when you’re at the top of the world with the man you love. So just revel in the adrenaline rush and the world’s beauty, and just fall in love.
How about you? What’s your love story? How has your partner changed you for the better? Share your story in the comments below with all the hopeless romantics out there – including me!