The Benefits of Choosing the Outdoors Over City Life and What’s It Like Hiking With a Fear of Heights

Being a Jersey girl, I was always blessed to see a diversity of scenery. I lived in suburban neighborhoods almost my whole life. I was used to seeing houses lined up after another and open spaces. I really felt safe and that I was part of a community. I loved looking back at my childhood and being able to make memories with my neighbors who turned into friends. It was completely different but I felt like I was happier then instead of right now where I’m living in a city now.

The city I live in is not the biggest, not like New York City, but it has its downsides, for sure. I always considered in my childhood biking around, hanging out at the park, doing winter activities like sledding or doing snow angels were outdoorsy things that somehow always bought me a good rush of adrenaline. This nostalgia has made me crave for it more than ever. And this same feeling again always brings me back to loving nature more than anything.

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Taken in New York City circa 2015

The Benefits of the Outdoors Life Over the City Life

Don’t get me wrong. I love the city, maybe not particularly this city I live in, but New York City, being only an hour away from me, has always felt more lively and there’s so much things you can find to do here from night life shenanigans to seeing museums to going into mom-and-pop stores. But with all those things, you’ll have to pass by hundreds of people walking past you. You have to walk fast. It’s a congested feeling. It’s also loud, as you know already, and you’re left with little privacy. It doesn’t always smell great there either. I like tall skyscrapers though but it’s a feeling that only excites you only temporarily.

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Vernon, New Jersey

Architectures made by humans fascinates me but natural wonders and things coming from our Earth makes me enjoy it more. I always wonder how things came from the ground and how they grow. I wonder how mountains get so tall and look over everyone. I love nature and being able to take advantage of it with all the outdoor activities you can be doing. In Dr. Eva M. Selhub’s and Dr. Alan C. Logan’s book “Your Brain on Nature”, they found that studies show that spending time in nature brings a great amount of psychological and physical health benefits. They used MRI studies that revealed since we are in a man-made environment, parts of our brain are only stimulated only those connected to stress.  (fact from LeaveTown.com) Crazy, right?

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Canoeing among canals

Being outdoors means it can help you to exercise easier, in which in turn, it can help you lose a couple pounds. You’ll be motivated to get going when you are captivated by the colors of green and views of plants and you won’t be distracted like what computers and TV can do to fatigue you. It increases brain function; according to a research published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology, they found that walking can increase creative production. (Fact from HuffingtonPost) I think this explains why I always want to blog or capture photography when I’m outside? Hmm. You will be exposed to getting Vitamin D, as I mentioned in my old blog post Reasons why summer makes you happier, Vitamin D is a nutritious component that our body needs to help us with bone and cell growth, inflammation, fight certain conditions like depression, and to help with our immune systems. With the sun shining down on those outdoor days and with the natural light, your Vitamin D levels will rise. Nature can also make you sleep better and it can help the effects of dementia come on. That way you’ll age better and healthier.

The outdoors will make you even change your perspective on things. You’ll suddenly realize you’re in a big place and some of your problems are only so little to what is going on all over these vast places of our Earth. I’ve suffered from depression for so long when I was in my teenage years (another post may be coming about this) and nothing, in all honesty, nothing has healed me much more than being able to feel revitalized and whole again when I came face-to-face with being out of my town and not being surrounded by the same people I knew. Catching a break from the pressures that came in and after high school was what I needed. It’s crazy to think traveling cured my depression time after time.

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Hike on Appalachian Trail in NJ

What It’s Like Hiking With A Fear of Heights

Speaking on the topic of the outdoors, one of my all time favorite things that I discovered I love doing is hiking. Hiking is challenging most of the time but I love doing it for the views and the soreness I feel afterwards from going up. When I first went hiking when I was 12 during a camping trip my school arranged for the 6th graders, I felt like it was the hardest thing ever but it bought on a new feeling. I felt accomplished but damn, do I love that feeling. I was sweating like crazy in the heat and I felt my legs hurting so much but I remember being on top of that mountain and overlooking the camp grounds.

But taking on that hike was crazy scary especially for someone who has always dreaded the heights. I didn’t think I was ever going to enjoy this kind of activity again but as I grew older, my perspective alternated. I still feel like roller coasters are scarier when it comes to heights than being on mountains.

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My friend and I with our feet hanging off the cliffs of the Lanikai Pillbox Hike in Hawaii

When you meet me and discover that I love hiking, you’ll never guess me as being someone afraid of heights but truthfully, I am deathly afraid of it. But over time, I felt more confident to face it. I guess I was inspired by seeing random people in pictures being able to be high up and thinking “If they can do it, then I can too, right?” I started making plans with my friends with hiking trips and I felt like that this can be a start to getting into this.

We started off short by walking from the ground (and me carrying a long stick I picked up from the ground somewhere) and slowly going up elevations. I watched my friends go ahead of me and they encouraged me in most of the steps of the way. In the next hiking trips, I felt more determined and I ditched the hiking stick. I didn’t need it to help my balance or help me get up — I used my body strength and my mindset, just hardcore concentrating on the end goal. I am now particularly concerned on the route I’m going and the warnings to look out for (snakes, bears, poisonous plants, and even bugs). I can be in panic when I’m up high and might feel shaky inside and feel the effects of vertigo, but I try to take a deep breath in and out every now and then. Also, I don’t look back or down. It’s always better to keep your eyes focused on the trail ahead of you. Once you’re up there in the final view, you can easily brush it off and be able to relax from the breeze of the air.

Now, I like to play a bit on the hikes. I like to hang my feet off the cliffs, balance on single boulder rocks, and sit on slanted rocks (okay, that isn’t always safe so be cautious!!!). I can’t say I’m not afraid of heights anymore because I still feel like part of the fear is still with me but overcoming this fear with a hike each time makes me feel more invincible and it reminds me that we shouldn’t live life with fear. I am ready to take on bigger hikes in the future for sure (Utah, I’m coming for you!!).

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