Diversity on the Trails is a Gift & Here’s Why

(As published on HUFFINGTON POST and NEWS CAME)

I have had the privilege to organize numerous hiking, backpacking and trekking trips in the Washington, DC area, the U.S. and worldwide for the past 10 years.  In that capacity, I have learned tremendously from the experience about group dynamics in the outdoors.  In any scenario outdoors, it’s important to learn to respect and understand one another and even more so when you have a diverse group of individuals who come from all walks of life.  As the organizer, the diversity I have encountered in my groups has afforded me some of the most enlightening experiences on the trails.

Roraima, Venezuela
Roraima Trek, Venezuela.

Nature is a place for comfort and peace for anyone, regardless of race,  gender, sexual orientation and whatever else.  It is there for us when the current state of our lives lacks the ability to provide us a safe and joyful space.

Today, and on any other day for that matter, as mountain enthusiasts, let’s celebrate the reasons why diversity is such a beautiful addition on the trails.

Diversity is never boring.  

Our varied viewpoints on any subject under the sky will range from a simple one to a complex dissertation of the meaning of life.  It can never get boring when at times people’s opinions clash and we strive to understand the experience that propels the other to think the way he or she does.  It’s just never boring when you have a variety of people from every corner of the world, of different races, and of any ages.  Differences add spice.  Enjoy the process of finding the commonalities amidst the disagreements.  Don’t be surprised if in the end you become friends.

Death Valley
Death Valley National Park, USA.

Diversity is the entry point to learning about ourselves.  

Do you hold prejudices about a certain group? That’s okay.  We can talk about it.  Or, do you feel uncomfortable talking about racism or sexism?  Let’s discuss not just one or the other, but both.  Are you comfortable with your faith or do you have endless questions about religion?  That’s a good topic.  Let’s dive in.  As you sit around a campfire, the scenario can evolve into a place of challenging our own views on various topics in life.  Take this as an opportunity to learn your stance on things as you also gain courage to discuss such controversial topics in the process.  Even better, take this as a way to learn how to treat others who hold views that are different from yours with kindness.  From there, we can go back to our daily lives with a much deeper understanding of the world around us and the people who have a different set of experiences.

Ausangate
Ausangate trail in Peru.

Here’s the amazing tangible benefit of diversity: Sharing and enjoying a diverse array of cuisine!

I have had camping trips where food from far away countries like Iran or Burma have made their way to the camping tables.  Not only that, but the food itself often becomes a great starting point for people to converse.  “Oh, what is this dish?” “It’s the national dish from the Philippines – adobo.”  “Oh, wow.  It’s great. I never had it…so, you’re Filipina?”  “Yes.”  “Are there mountains to hike in the Philippines?”“In fact, there are lots of mountain trails, yes….”  You get the idea.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon rim to rim, USA.

Diversity on the trails teaches us a thing or two about being worldly.

If you expose yourself enough to hiking with people from various backgrounds, you’ll then realize at some point how much knowledge you’ve gained about world events and different cultures among all other things that our world holds that we know nothing much about.  The experience renders us to become more knowledgeable.  Imagine impressing your co-workers with your knowledge on eagle hunters in Mongolia or the sky funeral in the Sichuan Province of China.  And, you didn’t even have to spend money, not even a penny, to be this world-savvy of a person at the office.  You’re cool, alright, plus you educate others with what you learned.

IMG_20160511_202330
Yes, eagle hunters. They exist in the western part of Mongolia, near the Altai mountains.
Iceland
Glacier trek, Iceland.

Diversity on the trails teaches us cultural sensitivity.

You will learn to inquire of others about their backgrounds without being offensive.  You will be a better communicator overall, which most of us need to begin with.  You will learn that we can strive for respect and understanding versus mere tolerance as we co-exist with others who don’t look like us or approach life the way we do.  You become open-minded and appreciative of the exponential growth we gain collectively as a group from seeing the value that diversity brings in our lives.

Mt. Whitney
Mt. Whitney, USA.

Diversity on the trails can lead to meaningful friendships or even romantic partnerships.  

Don’t underestimate the power of love.  In my work as an organizer, I have had several partnerships that blossomed over time, not to mention the unique friendships that developed along the way.  Both scenarios depict how humans can overcome differences in a major fashion.  Either way, you’re one lucky hiker because you’ll forever have an invite to dinners and enjoy that special dish from Turkey that most of us only dream of.

As you can tell, diversity is an extra bonus that nature gives us as mountains attract people from various walks of life.  Personally, no matter how time consuming organizing can get, the above noted list of benefits of having a diverse group is what keeps me going as an organizer because frankly, without diversity, life can be a little bit of a snooze.   Now, every trek or hike I go on affords me to discover new things and ideas within the safe space we call “nature,” which leads me to this:

Diversity is a gift.  Don’t fear it.  Embrace it.

Shenandoah
Shenandoah National Park, USA.

Is there anything you would add to the list? Share your ideas below.

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10 thoughts on “Diversity on the Trails is a Gift & Here’s Why”

  1. I have this dream to open a B&B or a small hostel exactly because I love the idea of having always the chance to speak with people coming from all over the world, share experiences and learn something new every different person I met.
    I totally agree with you about diversity being a gift: that’s what makes our world so rich and worth to discover.

  2. It’s great you’ve had lots of opportunities to speak with people from other cultures to learn friom them. Different views arewhat make conversations interesting. As much as people like agreeing with each other sometimes a good debate can be really fun.

  3. Great post! I think because most people I run into are Caucasian, I don’t blink an eye. It’s interesting to try and put the shoe on the other foot and view myself, a Filipina, as others would see me. Do they see me or see an island girl and wonder what the heck she’s doing up here in the mountains? 😉

  4. This is a powerful blog post. I love the idea of finding and celebrating diversity on the trails. I’ve had plenty of really amazing conversations while camping around the Pacific Northwest with people from all over the world (I love hiking and camping along the PCT and catching people close to finishing or just starting the trail). I always leave knowing a bit more about the world and myself!

  5. I love the overall message behind this post. Such a powerful sentiment that we can’t promote enough in today’s world. Thanks for thinking about this and for encouraging others to think about it as well!

  6. I really like the points you made about diversity, especially about it being a gift. It is so true, and it saddens me that people don’t see it that way.

    What is one of your most favorite hikes that you have organized?

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