Last week I went back to Vancouver, Canada – where I lived before Santa Monica – for a good friend’s wedding. Having some flexibility with my job I was able to tag on an extra 2 days either side of the wedding to spend longer in a place known for it’s outdoor beauty.

When I wasn’t involved in wedding activities, I arranged to catch up with friends in a way that also cultivated fitness and nature. I organized two hikes over the weekend in lush valleys and parks surrounded by water and mountains. The first day was a 3-hour hike (partly in the rain) in Lynn Valley – a beautiful valley full of evergreen trees, orange and red leaves, waterfalls, a suspension bridge and numerous hiking trails.

Fall is a beautiful time in Vancouver, although a little chilly (53degF/12degC) the large cedar, fir and hemlock trees showcase an array of orange and red leaves. The forests are green and crisp from the rain and mountain air and the ski mountains provide plenty of nature rich hiking opportunities. As I live in a big city with permanent summer, I was excited to visit a city with fresh air, green trees, and parks with big piles of orange leaves on the ground. A genuine Fall/Autumn experience, I otherwise wouldn’t get staying local.

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The second day, I visited Stanley Park and went on a remote walk into a crisp mossy green forest that looked like it was out of a period movie. In fact they film ‘Once Upon a Time’ there and we saw a movie set with a stone building and cemetery. All 6 of us in the group did our own mediation practices connecting with nature and our breath in the quiet remote location away from noise and people. It was truly a relaxing and recharging experience while connecting with friends.

Here are 5 ways an outdoor adventure, tagged on to my friends wedding, brought more meaning to my life:

1. Getting Fit

So the obvious benefit of hiking is that it increases your cardiovascular fitness. When participating in outdoor activities while traveling I usually go longer than I normally would. Having more time on your hand and wanting to discover somewhere new or different to what you’re used to provides a more compelling reason to keep walking, hiking or biking. This in turn results in getting fit while also having fun and embarking on an adventure. During the hike although fitness was part of the original intention, it became secondary once I was absorbed in the other beneficial experiences I was having.

2. Being Present

The quietness, peacefulness and remoteness of nature has an instant way of bringing you back to the present moment. Whether is the lack of noise, stimuli, pollution or added beauty of where you are, it seems to be a consistent effect. While walking around Stanley Park by the seawall with views of water and mountains, I realized how fresh the air was and how at peace I felt. Everything seemed so calm, quiet and slowed down. Running around a busy city with so much to do in my usual life usually included brief glimpses of beauty and peacefulness when I saw the water or hiked. During the hike in Vancouver these positive feelings and realizations lasted a long time. I was aware of more details and sensations such as different types of trees, wildlife, plants, the lack of sound, green moss on trees, the fresh air on my skin etc.

3. Connecting with Nature

Being out in nature allows you to not only appreciate the beauty you can also feel the peace trees and chirping of the birds bring. Nature has a way of grounding us and providing clarity. I know so many times when I’ve gone out to the forest, beach or mountains it’s been easy to reflect on life and determine what is working, what I have to be grateful for and what changes I need to make to work towards my goals and life purpose. Nature is a free environment to revitalize and recharge your batteries so you can go out into the world and achieve amazing things!

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4. Forming Connections with Friends

Involving friends with your outdoor adventurous activities is a good way to get to know eachother. Hiking provides hours of opportunity to engage in deep conversations with old and new friends while being in a more relaxed mindset. The added grounding and peacefulness of nature often allows us to speak more deeply, from the heart in a less guarded way. I’ve had many deep and interesting conversations with friends and people I’ve just met on hikes about all the topics that interest me in life. In Vancouver I was able to connect more with a friend I’ve known for a few years once I found out we both had a keen interest in philosophy and science.

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5. Learning and Discovering new things

Being present in nature allows you to see and discover things that were often right in front of your face – such as tree species and local wildlife. Walking slower and more mindfully in nature gives you a new perspective of things and the chance to learn more through discussions with your fellow travelers. Hiking also builds outdoor technical skills that you otherwise don’t get to practice such as climbing over high objects, walking down hilly paths and choosing the right path to walk on.

 

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