Back to the Roots


Credits: Public Domain

The 4×4 bumped its tires against the dry dirt road raised large clouds of dust behind us as we made our way through the Brazilian sertão. Pulling up at a dead-end, we had finally reached the destination of our endless car journey. We were scheduled to meet up with two local guides, Isaac and João, who were going to lead us through the Fumacinha trail. It was seven in the morning on a hot January summer day in Bahia. Out of the car, I grabbed my backpack with my essential items—water bottle, insect repellent, sunscreen, and flashlight—for the exciting trip that would soon follow.

During the next day, some family members, friends, and I would set out to make our way through the wild in hopes of reaching the Fumacinha waterfall, one of the most awe-inspiring  spots of the Chapada Diamantina National Park. I can easily say it was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had. Sleeping on a bed of rocks looking up to a starry night sky, swimming in vast rivers, and diving off of the summit of skyscraper cliffs into crystalline waters are just a few of the breathtaking things we did on that hike.

That was when I fell in love with hiking. Being in this sort of direct contact with nature for an extended period of time has many impacts on a person’s life and mind. Over the course of our long trip, the group got into all sorts of contemplations and conversations where we talked about politics, current events, existentialism, and so much more. Going through the difficulties and splendors we found along the way created a deep connection among us as we lived through those moments together.

Trips like these have the incredible ability to connect people as we spend time with each other in an environment filled with challenges in the midst of breathtaking sceneries which ultimately form unshakable memories.

I still remember the last morning where some friends and I watched the sunrise as the sky became a collection of veils of more colors than I could possibly name, unraveling for us over the mountains. Moments like these are what make it all worthwhile. Never before in my life had I felt more peaceful and connected with myself, my roots, and everything around me.

Hiking has the power to bring an inexplicable sense of well-being and connection with the world around us more than most leisure activities. Those engaged in frequent hikes not only enjoy greater longevity, but also lower levels of stress.

— Maria Caltabiano

According to National Geographic, hiking has the power to bring an inexplicable sense of well-being and connection with the world around us more than most leisure activities. Those engaged in frequent hikes not only enjoy greater longevity, but also lower levels of stress. Nature writer David Gessner often points out how nowadays we seem to be so invested into technology that most of our lives are passing by like the blurred image of a bullet train as we remain glued to our screens. The writer also believes in the direct correlation between long indoor electronic entertainment and many large-scale public health problems of the modern world such as obesity, diabetes, and depression.

In a recent study in the U.K., after analyzing mental health data from 10,000 subjects using a high-resolution mapping, Dr. Ian Alcock and his team from the University of Exeter Medical School discovered that people living near green areas suffered from less stress than those in more urban locations. But what is it that makes people feel so much better? Is it the fresh air? Do certain colors or fractal shapes trigger neurochemicals in our brains that make us calmer? Or is it just that people in greener neighborhoods structure more peaceful, less busy schedules for themselves? That’s what Richard Mitchell, an epidemiologist, at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, thought at first. “I was skeptical,” he says, until he performed a large study that found less death and disease in people who lived near parks or other green spaces—even if they didn’t use them. “Our own studies plus others show these restorative effects whether you’ve gone for walks or not,” Mitchell states. What Mitchell and other researchers in the area suspect is that nature works primarily by lowering stress at a subconscious level.

Club Partner Country Walkers offers hiking tours all over the world from trails in Nordic countries to safaris on the African savanna. Once a member, you can choose from guided to self-guided tours to your chosen destination. Their top three recommendations are Chapman’s Peak Hike in Cape Town, South Africa, which offers secluded hiking trails that cut through rugged hills and meanders beside deep blue Atlantic Ocean waters. The Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls in Hana, Hawaii display lush bamboo forests that come together to create tunnels of green with openings to views of crystalline waterfalls. Finally, Italy’s Cinque Terre Sentiero Azzurro Walk leads hikers through a walk along sheer cliffs shaded by a myriad of olive trees over the dazzling view of the Mediterranean Sea.  

So, if you are looking for a break from the fast-paced mode of modern life, hiking could be the answer to your problems for through its practice you will have the time of your life and regain the lost connection between mind, body, and even soul.