When I hike by myself I’m often lost in my own thoughts — projects I’m working on at home, an upcoming trip, my family or the topic of my next blog. Sometimes it’s refreshing to be alone for a while. But homo-sapiens are social creatures by nature, and, for the most part, like to be with other people. We live with each other, work together, play together, create more of us together, and yes, even hike together.
There are mental health benefits to outdoor recreation
, especially when out with others.
When you’re hiking with friends or people you have something in common with, you probably have plenty to talk about — family, hobbies, gossip about other friends, politics and religion (if you dare). People who hike with me will attest to my chattiness on the trail, I love talking to people! When I’m hiking with friends, almost anything is up for discussion.
In a informal poll I took on social media, I asked people what they talk about when hiking with others. Answers ranged from “Don’t talk…Save your energy" — and how yours-truly sometimes under estimates the difficulty of a trail — to “girl- and guy-talk" and just about anything else that's a part of every day life. One observer noted that if you don’t like one conversation, you can either fall back or speed up to another group on the hike and engage in an entirely different conversation.
But, what about when you’re part of a group of new friends? You may not know each other well enough to talk about your personal lives or work.
Don't worry, though, here are some ideas to keep the conversations going:
Your hiking or travel “Bucket” or wish list. What trail or place do you really want to visit?
Ask others about new trails they’ve done. Where have they been recently?
What are the groups favorite hikes?
What new gear has anyone bought? What new gear have you heard about, or want to buy?
What is your favorite gear? Who makes your favorite boots (always a hot topic), or clothing, or snowshoes or whatever.
What is your favorite place to buy outdoor stuff? Do you favor one place for boots, another for clothing and someplace else for equipment? Why?
Is there a book or movie about the outdoors that you like or don’t like? Was “Wild” an inspiring movie for you? Was Robert Redford believable in “A Walk in the Woods”?
What hiking apps do you have on your cell phone? Is there one you like better than others? What about photography apps?
Speaking of photography…is there a trail or overlook that is your favorite for photos?
There are many, many more ways to break the ice when you’re with a group of new people. If you’re leading a hike, this is a great way to make your hike a great social experience.
Go forth and be social.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 24 years. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.