28 September 2014

Hiking Sucks

Recently I was telling a friend about trekking in Thailand. Or more appropriately, I managed to work ‘trekking’ into a conversation. As I did so I thought of two things. Firstly, it sounded really impressive. I came across as someone brave and outdoorsy, and willing to forsake comfort for adventure. (As if)

Caution: Not fun
Secondly, I don’t know if I’m that person anymore. There was a time where I was so low-maintenance that I didn’t bother packing shampoo, or think about how long I’d be away.  Then my extended adventures became something that would fit between visits to a hair salon, to something I can do in a week.

Now I’d have serious concerns about hiking through villages and setting up camp. For instance, how long could I go without peeing my pants? (Answer, about half an hour)  I remember a picture of myself standing on a mountain with a sunburn and greasy hair – and that chick was a camel! And that chick could go all day without thinking about her bladder. Now it’s foremost on my mind.

That girl in standing on that mountain in Thailand was smiling from ear to ear. She was happy in the sunshine, surrounded by other trekkers, who, like me, were young and strong and seemingly carefree. And it made total sense that these people didn’t have to worry. They didn’t carry a days-of-the-week pill container, and they didn’t worry about wearing summer scarves to protect their necks, or grey roots, or a fleshy compression sleeve.

Back in my trekking days I could rides elephants without having to worry about finding a washroom. Now things are different. Beside the lack of bladder control (hello adult diaper!), there is sun that I can’t sit under because of radiation, and the stress I can’t put on my arm lest the lymphedema swells up like a fleshy pork sausage, and the heat, and risk of infection. I take all the necessary precautions yet there is a constant concern that something could go awry. To me these feel like ‘old people’ problems, yet I am not old and the problems are mine.

The whole thought that my carefree days are behind me is depressing. Especially since all the trekkers in the picture were so young. I thought about all the older people at home with their inhalers, and walkers, and oxygen tanks, who didn’t have the chance to get blistering sunburns, or sleep on hard cold floors in a village hut surrounded by potbelly pigs.

Then it hit me. Older people don’t stay home from adventures because of their pill containers and swollen fingers – they just don’t want to waste any more time have crummy sleeps. They aren’t staying home because hiking is too gruelling – they are staying home because they want to!

I think of another picture of me on the mountain. This time I’m with my friend Katie and we’re lagging behind the rest of the group. That was the day we’d both reached the decision that the trek was too long. Also, we’d both slept badly in the hut and were tired of carrying stuff on our sweaty backs. Even back in those days I was probably dreaming about a Best Western and crisp clean sheets.

So, in fact, I am still the girl in the picture! The only thing different was how much I’d romanticised about those long steep walks through the hill. I was hot and tired then, and I’m hot and tired today. Different decade, different problems. Still smiling, but still slightly uncomfortable.