Finding meaning in the mountains

Most of us long for wild adventures. Not just a run through the neighborhood park but adventures in the untamed wilderness. The kind that makes your lungs burn and your spirit soar. Forget the Netflix marathons and Instagram scrolls – I’m talking about adventures that leave you with mud under your fingernails, sweat dripping down your brow, adrenaline in your veins, and a soul full of stories whispering of self-discovery.

Some might call these escapades selfish – a retreat from the “real world” into a playground for overgrown kids. But hear me out: these adventures are the crucible where meaning is forged, where purpose takes shape, and where the best versions of ourselves are carved from the granite of challenge. These adventures can become a rite of passage toward self-transcendence and allow us to show up to life as the best versions of ourselves ready to inspire and lead others along the same path. Mindfully spending time in nature combined with challenging ourselves leads to countless positive outcomes.

Science agrees. Here’s a partial list of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles that support outdoor adventures:

Meaning and Purpose:

purpose

Self-Transcendence:

night sky

Mental Health:

mental health

Sleep

sleeping outside

Relationships

Physical Health

skiing

I could add scores more to these lists. Reach out if you want more and I’ll send you some links.

The bottom line is that the science backs up completely that spending time adventuring in nature is good for us in so many ways. If you feel you need to justify your time outside, I hope this gives you ample justification.

Finding Meaning

Okay, that’s enough science for now – back to nature.

We all know we feel better when we’re out on the trail without deadlines, crowds, and traffic, but outdoor adventure is about more than just relaxing and “getting away from it all”. The mountains, rivers, and open skies become our silent mentors. They push us to the edge, test our mettle, and teach us resilience in ways a boardroom presentation never could. Remember that summit you thought would remain forever out of reach? The whitewater rapids that threatened to swallow you whole? Those struggles, those moments of sweat and doubt, are where Maslow’s (1970) self-transcendence happens. You emerge stronger, more confident, with a deeper understanding of your own potential. You may even realize that what really matters in life isn’t chasing stuff, but experiencing the beauty of everyday moments with those you love.

Strengthened Relationships

And then there’s the human element, the camaraderie forged in shared blisters and campfire stories. Wilson (1984) reminds us that adventure builds bridges between souls, strengthens existing bonds, and creates a sense of belonging that transcends the digital walls of our social worlds. You’re not just conquering peaks, you’re building an unshakeable bond, one shared sunrise at a time. My closest bonds are with people I’ve been in the stickiest situations with. Oftentimes literally putting your life in someone else’s hands and trusting them with yours leads to bonds thicker than blood and allows us to be more vulnerable and trusting in other relationships we engage in.

Transformation

Finally, consider the ripple effect. When you return from your adventures, you’re not the same person who left. You carry with you a spark, a newfound awareness of the interconnectedness of life. Kellert (2012) calls it a spiritual awakening, a reconnection to something larger than ourselves. This newfound perspective spills over into your relationships, your work, your community – you become a catalyst for positive change, a ripple in the pond of existence, radiating outward with the stories etched onto your soul by the wind and the waves.

So, my friends, I urge you: embrace the adventure. Hike that mountain, kayak that river, chase that horizon. It’s not selfish, it’s an investment in yourself, in your connections, in the world around you. It’s about finding meaning in the struggle, the beauty, the serendipity that awaits beyond the asphalt jungle. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself, one muddy footprint, one starlit memory at a time.

Just remember that the purpose of all our adventures isn’t just for the sake of adventuring, but of becoming the best version of ourselves we can become and doing it with others we love and care about.

So until next time, find adventure, find purpose.

– Chris

FINDING MEANING IN THE MOUNTAINS

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