The Man in the Arena.

Finding the man inside who you may of never met before.

It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena. Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again. Because their is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deed. Who knows the great enthusiasum, the great devotion. Who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Solo hiking over longer distances involves being self sufficient. It involves being confident that you can handle any circumstance that may happen to you or fellow hikers that you may meet. Solo hiking is completely different, there’s nobody to ask “What do you think, what direction do you think we should go now?”  You ask yourself the question and you need to take the time to contemplate the answers. There is definitely a need for careful planning, which means there’s a better chance of success. But the best plans can unravel very quickly on the trail, when you are reliant  on your mental and physical health to achieve your goals. I met the man inside me whom I had never met before on my latest hike and he was more confident than I thought.

The Credit belongs to the man in the arena.

Credit always belongs to the person who tries their hardest in any situation. I try my hardest, but I am not obsessed with outcomes anymore, my mental ability plays a greater role as a grey hiker. As a younger hiker, it was only a question of turning up on the trail, with hardly a thought that anything could possibly go wrong. It’s not that I can’t achieve exactly the same outcomes now, but it generally takes more time, effort and preparation. I’m a purist on the trail, in the sense that I like to carry everything I need on my back. Which makes for a heavier pack and an obsession with the weight of every piece of equipment.

Nearly every effort I made in the beginning contained error and shortcomings. It begs the question, how do you become proficient at hiking long distances, or anything else for that matter. The simple answer is, to hike as much as you can, in as many diverse environments and weather conditions that you can find. That doesn’t mean to say you have to like every type of weather or environment. You could be a warm weather person, or a cold weather person, but it never hurts to experience both, as you can experience sub-zero temperatures in the desert too. I have experienced the disappointment of not finishing a hike that I hoped to complete. But I gave it my all and failed while daring greatly and even though it was disappointing, my mental fortitude remained intact.

Don’t be a cold and timid sole.

Be open and honest in every situation you find yourself in. There is so much to learn from every hiker you encounter, because the most insignificant insight can be the one that saves the day. Don’t be timid, it’s often the things you fear the most that turn out fine and vice versa. On my first solo hike I was very apprehensive that I might be lonely and it filled most of my thoughts. But it turned out I was very comfortable with my own company. I thought very little about the hiking components, traversing steep and slippery gradients  and the more difficult part in descending them. In a group situation, it never entered my consciousness, but alone it was more significant. Going down a steep gradient with a heavy pack on, one slip and the momentum of the weight on my back could cause me to land very awkwardly.

I was aware of this situation all the time, but my hiking poles and intense concentration prevented any mishaps. As I said, this situation never entered my thoughts, but it certainly should have instead, loneliness was my primary concern before I started to hike solo. I don’t think you can ever know, when you first start hiking what part will be the most problematical. So it’s best to strive valiantly and take everything as it comes. Don’t worry about everything, worry about nothing until it actually happens. The brown snake that was at the water tank, when I needed water. My guard was down, dressed in shorts and open sandals at the end of the day, it passed quickly between my feet before I had time to react. I learned a valuable lesson, luckily I have the chance to implement it in the future.

the man in the arena
Don’t be a cold or timid sole