Look around you. On the streets, in public transport. At the counters, at the breakfast table. In restaurants and parks. At school desks. And even in the most intimate places, such as the bathroom or bed. What do you see? That’s right: the screen of your Android, tablet, or laptop. Now turn off the screen, find your own image in this empty screen and try to go back to your childhood, when you were making friends in parks and schools.
Remember the indescribable sadness when voices of mothers would call us to go home, as soon as the first street lamps would light up? Those nights seemed so long. Who could wait for the next day, when we were to gather again in the green yard, or the basement of the building? Indians, Cowboys, ropes, competition, conversations. Friendships and friendly “arguments”. We were kids, we didn’t have “smart” phones and Facebook profiles, and we were happy.
In the years to come, the vortex of the modern age vacuumed out everything that was previously a standard for normal and desirable in the society; it knocked the slingshot, the rope and the ball out of children’s hands, put there instead the androids and convinced us that this will be an even better “play”. Games turned into digital violence and reckless behavior. Children are often selfish, spoiled and they choose friends based on clothes and models of phones. Friendships have lost their original value and meaning. Among hundreds of thousands of “friends” online, we’ve never been more alone.
But, for our children it’s not yet too late. We need to show them the nature and the mountains.
In the mountains, we are all equal
There’s no room there for status symbols. After spending time outdoors, friendships will no longer be measured by who has which phone or whether their shoes are worn or new. Instead, they will be based on who offered a hand when someone needed to get past the rocks, and how big a smile and sense of joy was shared over a view from the top.
Social relationships will become unbreakable
Remember the feeling of affection when for the first time a friend came and offered half of his school lunch? Now double that feeling in children, who on their way through the mountain share food, water, go through the same effort and come together to the finish line — the top of the mountain. Instead of football matches in the city, that sometimes can lead to fights, they “won” by playing in the same team.
Children will learn to face obstacles in life
When with a rucksack on the back, in the cold, the snow, ice and rain, they break their mental barriers to successfully go over physical barriers; the same “pattern” will apply tomorrow in life! Over time, as they are growing up and, in proportion, hiking challenges are getting bigger and heavier, they will dare to deal with challenges in life. The equation is simple: if they managed to reach the top in extreme conditions, they will not fail in their goals, at the bottom of that same mountain.
They will become more responsible
Hiking requires discipline, of the body and mind. Instead of sleeping till noon during the weekend, then moving to a sitting position at the computer or console, they will learn to get up early, hold a hiking backpack and come strictly on time. They will respect other people’s time by common agreement.
They will be healthier
Hiking is by far the healthiest physical activity, and the fact that it takes place in nature, in the most beautiful places that we can imagine, gives it even more importance. Check out the kids today. It’s a sad statistic: in Serbia 13.2% of children are moderately overweight and 7.5% of children overweight. These kids are potential patients in cardiology and endocrinology, because of the great risks of diabetes and other chronic diseases. Institute of public health “Batut” conducted a survey, which showed that the number of overweight children fit into a worldwide trend–an epidemic of obesity. Hiking will make sure your child increases calories burnout from 350 to 800 kCal per hour, depending on the weight and pace of moving. The average hiking tour lasts a minimum of 4 hours. You do the math.
It will reduce violence in schools
Maybe a “bold” statement, but I believe that it is correct. Hiking is an activity that to some extent eliminates the need to be more powerful than others. If in general we try to define the goal of hiking – it’s not necessarily to reach the top of the mountain, but enjoy the landscapes that surround us. So we overcome natural obstacles but also our own weaknesses. When children work together to overcome own weaknesses, they will also strengthen their companionship.
They will learn to make the right decisions at the right time
Let’s go back to the assumption that hiking is not always about making it to the top of the mountain. The mountain has the final say, and its laws must be respected. Once the bad weather discourages a small team of climbers in their attempt to get to the top, they will learn that it is not a defeat, but on the contrary – the ability to make the right decisions which will not endanger their health, and when they get older, this learning will apply also to some “serious” climbs in life.
They will become more systematic and persistent at home and about school responsibilities
Isn’t that right? Along with their experienced guides, in time they will become experts about organizing their activities and learn to prepare themselves. Since going to the mountain requires investigating the area which we intend to visit, planning an alternative route, a hydration method if there is no source of drinking water, packing equipment (which sometimes can represent true art) and many other things; when the time comes to do homework or clean up the toys, they’re going to do it with discipline, which they gained thanks to hiking.
They will become more entrepreneurial
Learning to make a fire, purify water from sources of questionable quality, learning to orientate in nature. Do I even need to speak about the awareness of how to preserve the mountains and the entire environment, which will be raised to a higher level? They’re going to learn about nature and from nature.
And most importantly…
They will become better people
When we find ourselves in nature, in this case – on a mountain that has the last say, that’s when we realize how small we are. When man comes back to nature, he is shaking hands with the self. The feeling of spiritual joy that transcends the need for material will radically change your children. Downhill, in the city, I’ve seen “important” people in chairs, whose ego is bigger than a mountain. However, it seems that the ego does not survive at altitudes over 500 meters above sea level. A director in a big chair or a kiosk worker – the mountains are the same for everyone and the joy of the reunion at these places is mutual and sincere.
And finally, one of my favorite quotes from Nietzsche, from “Thus spoke Zarathustra”:
“O heaven above me, thou pure, thou deep heaven! Thou abyss of light! Gazing on thee, I tremble with divine desires. Up to thy height to toss myself—that is MY depth! In thy purity to hide myself—that is MINE innocence! And wandered I alone, for WHAT did my soul hunger by night and in labyrinthine paths? And climbed I mountains, WHOM did I ever seek, if not thee, upon mountains? And all my wandering and mountain-climbing: a necessity was it merely, and a makeshift of the unhandy one:—to FLY only, wanteth mine entire will, to fly into THEE!”