In a place without walls, why does hiking open so many doors?

As you read this blog (or if we are being honest, as you scan this blog), the earthikes.com website is becoming a tangible entity; developers are starting to develop and designers beginning to design. Others are wondering what the difference is between a Joomla and a Drupal and how does Ruby on Rails feel about it all? See our ‘About Us’ page if you want to know a bit more about earthikes.

It has been a long road to get to this stage (and herewith early warning of numerous road / trail / path related puns and analogies in this ongoing blog), with many rejigs, revamps, revisits and some major revelations. But park the apocalypse, because earthikes is nearly here.

With the exciting prospect of a living, breathing, hungry website being here soon (to nurture on a diet of delectable downloads and wholegrain data – but mostly processed food at this stage), it got me to thinking about how this all came about. Casting my mind back to 2011, I tried to recall what it was that started the cascading of ideas from my noggin? Why did the creative juices not just flow but surge through my conceptual sluice-gate? I note that they certainly seem to take more persuasion at 9:00am on a dreary Monday morning.

The answer to all this was of course – walking. The big idea had come about during a 12-day trek through the Markha Valley in Ladakh. Okay, so that stunning region of the Indian Himalaya, one of the most photogenic places I have ever visited, should be inspiration enough. But surely there is something at a physiological level that is spurring creative thought; in a place without walls, why does hiking open so many doors?

I have noted as you surely will have too, that all of my best thinking has been done whilst lugging a 20 kilo rucksack across a windy ridge, heart pounding and head throbbing. Others will have you believe that the porcelain thinking throne is the place to head, but I beg to differ, and I am endorsed by an illustrious set of great thinkers from Aristotle to Plato via Socrates and more recently from Messrs Dickens to Darwin. Oh – and did I mention Steve Jobs?

Stanford University has completed research that indicates a number of benefits of walking when it comes to optimising the mechanics of the grey matter. They have found that when we walk:

  • The heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs, including the brain.
  • It promotes new connections between brain cells which elevates the levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.
  • It creates an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of our bodies and our mental state that we cannot experience as easily with normal exercise; the pace of our feet naturally vacillates with our moods and the cadence of our inner speech.
  • We do not use conscious effort in the act of walking and so our attention is free to wander and overlay the world before us with a parade of images from our creative mind. In this mental state we are more inclined towards having innovative ideas and strokes of insight.

So, I conclude; that must have been it! It’s clear that walking / hiking / trekking / tramping / rambling / bushwalking / backpacking (call it what you will) is your best bet for a big idea and that certain spark of inspiration.

However, we have learned that the conceptual thinking does not stop there; through developing the earthikes concept we have found that every big idea will inevitably change over time. Ripping things up and starting again is all part of the creative process. You need to have faith that change happens for a reason and trust your gut feeling. Oh, and if things don’t seem to be working, pack up your rucksack and get out on the trail; it is only being in a place without walls, that we can open so many doors.

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