September is Self Improvement Month, and we at Hike Like A Woman love a chance to reflect, grow and improve ourselves. So each Friday, we bring you an article to celebrate Self Improvement Month. To kick off this series, Ambassador Kimberly writes about wide open spaces.

Almost twelve million people in a country the size of the state of Hawaii. Hawaii has less than 1.5 million. Rwanda, the third most densely populated country in Africa and my home from 2009 – 2017, has almost 12 million people. I was one of the 1,152 people per square mile. It was physically and mentally exhausting.

In 2017 I moved back to America and to the least densely populated state in the union, Wyoming. I started hiking. I needed physical and mental space and walking and hiking from my home in Savery every morning became my solace. It was my decompression chamber from the onslaught of people, foreign cultures and a lack of understanding and respect for personal space.

I am a cyclist, more former rather than current. I used to get on my bike and ride for hours to escape. It was my therapist on wheels. It produces the same euphoria walking on the back roads, trails, and paths in my vast open space new home. I started walking and hiking for my African sighthound dog who had also been traumatized by the constant press of people in his home country. He was just so happy being outside a 3-acre compound, unleashed, unburdened by the onslaught of society – just like his owner.

Nature is the ultimate self-improvement vehicle.

As my Type A anxiety-ridden overachieving personality begins to hike alone through the woods with my dog the breathing becomes more measured, the release of tension pours from my body and the mind relaxes in the peace of the space. The fear of being alone in the woods with the bears, elk, and mountain lions all looming more substantial in the irrational fear zone than the actual fear zone, replaces the fears of seeking a new career, building a new business and providing for my future. Hiking puts everything into perspective and also makes one stop and be in the space.

Sometimes I hike while listening to an inspirational or informative podcast. Other times I need to be quiet and listen to the sounds of birds, the river, or the oft-imagined sounds of rummaging bears in the brush. Hiking is a constant exercise in mitigating fear which in turn makes me stronger, more resilient and ironically less anxious.

The daily walks and hikes, even in the dead of a Wyoming winter, have brought me solace and has allowed me to rethink and process the last eight years living abroad. Reentry is fraught with challenges, and everyone needs their outlet. Hiking or even merely walking through the woods, a park in a space alone or preferably with a happy dog improves my physical, but more importantly, my emotional life.

So find a path, rescue a dog (doesn’t have to be an African dog) and start walking.

2 comments on “Wide Open Spaces

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *