Rule #7. Hike your own hike.
Hiking isn’t a competitive sport. Sure, it can be; some people like to push themselves or compete against others. For them, hiking can and will be a race. I’m not here to judge them, but at its most basic level, hiking isn’t about getting there first. It’s about the experience of getting there. When taken literally, “hike your own hike,” (or HYOH for short) means do not exceed your ability, do not feel the need to hike someone else’s pace, and take the trail you want to walk to get where you’re going. The hike is literally yours, to enjoy as you see fit, though “HYOH” is not a call to condone behavior that would be damaging to the environment, harmful or distracting from other hikers/campers, or dangerous to oneself or others. I’m not here to tow the letter of the law, but HYOH isn’t meant as a justification for breaking rules or laws, nor will it exempt you from consequences if you do (for more insight into this, come back in a few months for Rule #19). At its heart though, the idea of HYOH is a call to take the hike in the manner that is most enjoyable, meaningful, and safe for you. You are participating in an adventure, and you owe it to yourself to make it your own.
But this advice isn’t limited to the trail. After all, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Our lives are trails that we’re perpetually hiking, and just like travelers on the Appalachian Trail, we all must hike our own hike. What do I mean by this? If you remember last week’s rule, you’ll know I advocate doing the new and the weird. Well, you have to do what’s new and what’s weird for you. There will be people along the way who criticize, judge, and mock. Don’t let them stop you from pursuing an adventurous life. They want you to play by society’s rules, not create your own. They want you to work your 40+ hours a week, putting in extra time on the weekend, seldom taking the vacation days you’ve earned. They want you to use your money to buy things you don’t need or even really want, as opposed to using it on gear that you’ll use for years having experiences you’ll remember forever. They want you to hike the same hike everyone else is, because they think that’s what we’re supposed to do. And if that’s what you really want, I’m not here to judge you. But being like everyone else and doing whatever they’re doing, well it just doesn’t sound that adventurous to me.
So stop playing by their rules. Those rules create limits that take away the things that are great about life, like adventure. So don’t let anyone pressure you into hiking their hike. Go your own way. Be the captain of your own destiny. Maybe you can’t quit your job and backpack through Europe this year, but you can ignore the phone call from work at 6pm on Saturday. You can spend the weekend not working. You can take your vacation days. And you don’t have to apologize for any of that. Because you are the captain of your own destiny. You are hiking your own hike. You are not limiting yourself by adhering to society’s rules.
Now, I should add that I’m not urging you to break the law here, or even violate the social contract that we we have saying we won’t be jerks to one another. I’m saying that you don’t have to live a certain way just because society, your employer, or even your friends and family tell you that you should. Even if someone can tell you what to do for 40 hours a week, you get to decide what you’re going to do during the other 128. So don’t waste that time doing things just because people tell you that you are “supposed to.”
Do what you want to do. Pursue your passions. Enjoy your own adventurous life. Hike your own hike. Be intrepid.
“Rules for Intrepid Living” is an ongoing weekly article that gives potential guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an intrepid life.