Happy Trails

Many people, when they travel for a while, find that they miss certain things from home. The food. The sounds. The smells. The comfortable beds or the hot showers.

Personally, I miss the trails. Man, do I miss the trails. The way they smell, the fact that they’re quiet, the way the light filters through the trees, the vistas. I miss that feeling I get when I hop out of the car at the trailhead, put on my backpack, and step onto the trail. There is nothing I’ve found like it in the world, and I’ve been dreaming about getting back on the trails as soon as I return “back home.”

Buuuuuuttttt, then I found Phnom Penh Hike! It’s a group on Facebook (well, really one guy) that organizes guided group hikes around Phnom Penh on some Sundays. So, I signed up to go to the hike up to Oudong Mountain.

The group meets near Wat Langka (where I meditate), and on this particular morning, it was lightning, thundering and POURING rain. I decided to show up anyway for the bus ride out of town.

While I knew I wouldn’t get the full experience I wanted since it was a group hike, I was excited to get “out there” again! Wellllll, we all know that expectations reduce joy (or at least we all know that I say it), right? Yeah. This turned out to be less of a hike than a tour of multiple temples, but I actually did a great job of dumping my expectations and really enjoying the day, especially since the rain dried up and the sun came out.

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But I’ve realized there are so many other things wrapped into my hikes that I’m really missing.

I miss the physical activity of hiking and trail running. I miss the adrenaline and the sense of accomplishment when I’ve really pushed through a few miles or have covered a significant distance. I can get those things other ways (I’m still running streets a bit even though I’ve quit training for anything, and I do some other exercise), but it’s not the same.

I miss being so close to wilderness. I was so lucky to live in a place where, in a matter of minutes, I could be on a trail or a beach where I felt so far removed from “the city” (I put this in quotes because I lived in a darn small city, but still). I could find silence and a connection to nature so easily.

I miss my ability to get out of the city at will, in the moment that I want to in the direction that I want to for the duration that I want to. I used to be able to decide where I wanted to go, pack up the car, and go. I was also be able to, in the middle of those plans, change my mind and go anywhere that sounded good in the moment. Now, when I get in a tuk tuk or get on a bus, it’s extraordinarily difficult to change direction. Not impossible, but not usually worth the effort. (I mean, have you ever tried to change plans mid-tuk tuk ride? Yeah.) I didn’t realize this was something I was missing until I thought about it last week. And I think that’s why, when I got on my new bike and started pedalling, I felt a freedom of movement through space of my own volition that made me giggle like a schoolgirl while I rode down the street, my hair (and my skirt – thank goodness for pantaloons of sorts!) whipping behind me.

I miss being alone. While I have a room with a door here, too, I only very rarely feel like I truly have my own space. I’m living with people with whom I work (at times my boss, at times other instructors for the course I’m coordinating/teaching). If you either (1) are an introvert or have introvert/ambivert tendencies or (2) know or have lived with an introvert, you know that sometimes having to just look at other people can make a person crazy. Or feel draining. I know it’s stupid, but sometimes I sit in my room with the door closed, debating whether or not going out to get another cup of coffee in the kitchen is worth the possible price of having to have a conversation. Don’t get me wrong — the people I have been sharing space with are all delightful humans, and I’ve enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with them. Sometimes, though, it just takes something out of me that I might not have to give in the moment.

The combination of all those things above makes hiking (and getting to the trailheads) so appealing to me. I didn’t take my ability to go for hikes for granted, but I don’t think I realized how many needs those moments helped me meet. While I thought I couldn’t possibly be more fond of The Trail I frequented most, absence has truly made my heart grow even fonder.

Until we meet again, Trail…

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