The cascading mountains of the Na Pali Coast of Kauai is formidable and yet gentle in its beauty. There’s a certain rhythm instilled in the atmosphere – a kind of a rhythm that would reset any person’s biological cells back to its natural state. The flow of being consumed by nature is hard to push against. This is something that Alex and I have discovered upon trekking the twenty-four mile coastline for four days, without any contact with the outside world other than the sparse number of hikers that surrounded us.
And so it had us pondering over the concept of materialism yet again. I have to say that personally, I did not expect to be craving civilization and all the conveniences it carries just as much as I embraced the wild. And as an outdoorsy person, I really was not expecting the “embracing the wild” part to be such an enervating effort.
At one point along the trail, Alex and I ran into a local Hawaiian who was spending his fifteenth time hiking the treacherous trail. And the words that he spoke aloud remained lodged in our memory throughout the entire rest of the trip: you’ll see that the trail’s going to test you. It’ll test your mind, your body . . . I couldn’t hear the rest. Or perhaps he didn’t finish his sentence. But I presumed he was thinking to conclude his dire phrase with “your heart.” And by the time we finished the first day on the trail, we understood exactly what he meant.
I’ve always heard the phrase, “take the risks that lie outside of your comfort zone” – but it never quite sat with me. It’s after I actually did something so far out of my comfort zone that the meaning actually clicked into place. After spending the last two nights on the beach at the end of the trail, Alex and I had journey back to the entrance – and it had to be in one day. It was a twelve-mile trek back from the beach and we knew what it meant for our spoiled, city-goer mind and body. Stripped of everything that feels good – warmth, tasty food, a bath, constant soap usage, a clean toilet, a dry environment (it was raining almost the entire time) mobile devices, available water and most especially, cleanliness – we were forced to blend with the wild. That took me way further out of my comfort zone than I initially predicted.
As we marched back to the entrance, our energy died further and further after each step, our brains weary from exhaustion, the cuts and bruises on our legs taking a greater toll than I’d expect. I really didn’t realize how much we depend on modern living until my mind resorted to counting down the minutes until we reached the beginning of the trailhead. Each time I’d look up from my pace, I’d find myself longing for all those essential items we take for granted so often in day-to-day life. And each time I’d look up only to see how much further we were, I’d dishearteningly curse under my breath.
Being reintroduced back to civilization was a taste of comfort. Security. Indulgence. But my perspective had expanded. The taste of freedom – in a matter of fashion – was gone. The wild side of my being, which was stripped bare for me to witness during the four day hike, was being masked by an image in everyday life. Perhaps a false image, the kind that people put up to display themselves a certain way for society to see.
And although being back in the arms of all things busy and familiar, I realized I gained something from the crude wilderness. I felt free. My personality felt free, my authenticity was unleashed, my spirit seemed to float far beyond the limits of social order. Being immersed in nature will do this to you. And most especially, if you let yourself drown in its presence – to feel every atom in the atmosphere and every emotion that runs through you – you’ll feel the effects even more strongly.