Headspace and hikes with a view: reclaim time to daydream this year
Ever had a great idea when you’re not even trying – in the shower, say, or mid-way through a run? It’s no coincidence. Science shows that, when we’re in a relaxed state of mind, we release the “happy hormone” dopamine – in a process that’s thought to increase activity in certain parts of the brain.
This alchemy means that we tend to be more creative when our minds are at rest. Stress and overwork, on the other hand, can have a “dulling” effect which makes it harder to think clearly and with flair.
The problem is, today’s hustle culture makes it remarkably difficult to access that slower, more meandering mindset. But nature can help to re-balance the scales. A huge body of research highlights how being outdoors can enhance creative ways of thinking, particularly when it comes to recharging attention and developing room to daydream.
Below, we’ve rounded up five adventure hikes that will help you break loose and reclaim headspace to percolate fresh ideas. Grab that backpack and get set to free your mind.
A sunrise hike up Mount Batur, Bali
This beautiful route may involve an early start (anyone for a 2am wake-up?) but the summit views are well worth the effort. It takes around three hours to reach the top of Mount Batur, looming at 1700 meters, and the pre-dawn hike offers plenty of scope for thinking time.
With clear mountain air, the rustle of the jungle and a starlit sky on clear nights, the stage is set for a magical meander. As you head upwards, the route gets progressively steeper until you emerge onto the summit and watch the sky alight in a cacophony of orange, pink and lavender streaks.
After experiencing a spectacular Balinese sunrise, you can peer in the steaming crater of this active volcano; and you may also spot resident macaques nearby. All in all, a glorious sojourn from the bustle of daily life.
A day-long trek to Mount Fitz Roy, Argentina
Nab a front-row seat to the Patagonian wilderness with this wild and extraordinary nine-hour trek to the foot of Mount Fitz Roy. The route offers a fascinating window onto Argentina’s rugged natural beauty, taking in dazzling white glaciers, mirror-still lakes and lush green valleys.
Few landscapes are as open and inspiring as this, and you can’t help but get drawn into the magnitude of it all. Wide open skies are your invitation to dial down in the great outdoors, helped along the way by awesome views at Laguna de los Tres. Come evening, a traditional lamb BBQ supper, cooked outdoors in true Argentinian style, awaits to reward your efforts.
A secret desert route into Petra, Jordan
Why follow the beaten track when you can take a path less ordinary? Those in the know can hike a secret “back door” trail to Petra, which sees the ancient Nabatean kingdom emerge in the opposite direction to most other visitors.
The secret 15-kilometer route across the desert seems to have been forgotten by the rest of the world; yet it offers a fabulous introduction to one of the 7 New Wonders of the World. Bask in the feeling of being the only group in sight as you follow a steep stairway over the dusky-pink cliffs, to enter the archaeological playground of Petra.
This is true Indiana Jones territory with a sense of history so palpable, you can practically catch the scent of incense traders who once wandered the narrow stone gorges. A fantastic setting, in other words, to let your imagination run free.
A sunset summit at Pidurangala, Sri Lanka
Pidurangala, an ancient and mighty rock formation, is less well-known than its famous neighbor, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. But it’s also less touristy and comes with breath-taking views.
A sunset scramble to its summit is therefore a must on any adventure to Sri Lanka, for an experience that veers away from the crowds. The climb to the top is challenging in parts; it may involve a bit of teamwork as you make your way across the craggy terrain.
The views, however, are your prize. Watch the sun go down over the lowland jungles and open plains, with Sigiriya cast in a golden glow. The perfect moment for a summit cup of tea, along with all the thinking space you could possibly require.
A glacial hike across Sólheimajökull Glacier, Iceland
Fancy layering your creative thinking with an ice-fresh edge? Look no further than this rousing hike on Sólheimajökull Glacier, one of Iceland’s most formidable natural wonders. An experienced guide will lead you across this vast, blue-hued expanse, weaving between an impressive maze of crevasses, ridges and natural ice formations.
You’ll feel a million miles from the demands of daily life here, in a backdrop that will speak directly to your inner Game of Thrones warrior. It’s raw and spectacular, with nothing but you, your group and the wide open skies to muse upon. Daydreaming, here we come…