Joy and delight. There’s a deep and fulfilling sense of joy and delight to be had when spending an unhurried time by the seas and in the mountains. It’s not the kind of pleasure you get after that last bite of food you’ve been craving for days, nor is it the warm and fuzzy feeling that wells up in your stomach when you sit next to someone you love. It’s the satisfying delight that leaves you calm, sober, and invigorated. And you wouldn’t have a taste of it until you get yourself out there, muddied, tired, and soaked in sweat.
Days and months in my calendar are stretched out before me filled with a scheduled trek, or a full day at the beach together with my outdoor-loving friends. There’s always a trip to anticipate in the future. Besides filling your soul with joy, trips outdoors add thrill and color to your days. It’s the antidote to the drabness of a predictable routine. And not even the coronavirus pandemic could dampen my desire to be one with nature.
When the pandemic broke and travel restrictions were enforced, I thought it was the universe’s way of telling me to slow down. That there’s also pleasure to be gained in stillness -- in reading a book, listening to music, and sipping coffee. But the more time I spent holed up at home, the stronger my desire to be elsewhere grew. I felt whole and safer among the trees, with the earth and grass beneath my feet, with the coolness of the mountain breeze caressing my skin, and with the warm sun baking the back of my neck.
So on November 30, 2020, I packed my bags and laced up my hiking shoes to climb Mt. Kiamo in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. It was my first major climb and the first one I had since the pandemic. It was altogether a challenging hike replete with steep and rocky slopes. The whole time I was inconvenienced by my lack of physical preparation which made the climb more arduous than it already was. But in the end, I gratefully bid Mt. Kiamo adieu for another memorable adventure. I remember whispering to myself, “I’d do this all over again” as I rode the bus back to the city.
The fact that this health crisis has raised a population of trail runners, hikers, and bikers is an affirmation that I’m not alone. At a time of uncertainty, people have found comfort in moving their bodies and exploring what the outdoors have to offer. Science even backs up the positive effects of being outdoors to our wellbeing. Studies suggest that spending time outside helps relieve anxiety and stress. You don’t even have to devote a day or two to reap this benefit. A short 20 minutes spent in nature can lower your stress levels, boost your self-esteem, and elevate your mood.
So if you’re looking for an activity that benefits your mind, body, and soul this pandemic, I encourage you to head outdoors. Start small by going on a leisurely walk in your local park or jogging around your neighborhood. Sweat it out and get some sun. Your wellbeing will thank you for it.
Once this pandemic eases, unleash your inner adventurer by going on your first hike. If you’re from Cagayan de Oro City or nearby areas, the trails of Panimahawa Ridge in Impasug-ong and Mt. Anggas in Gitagum offer just the right mix of challenge for beginner hikers.
And don’t forget to wear a mask and maintain a 6-feet distance from others. The joy and delight I’m talking about are better seized with some safety layers on. (Dominic Yasay)