Call me a hippie, but I always feel closest to God when I’m surrounded by nature. It’s easier to be at peace, to walk out my problems until I have nothing else to think, and then…listen. Although I grew up in Florida’s concrete suburbs, I nonetheless had a lot of exposure to forests. We lived on the edge of a protected wetlands–which we could only explore in the winter when the swamp had dried up and the snakes were hibernating–and we frequently camped in Colorado and the northeast. I was excited to go to Germany, where hiking trails were easier to access and where nature walks were a national past-time. But my hikes in Germany became more than exploration and exercise; they became the most concentrated times with God I’d had in my life up to that point. And “The Art of Wandern” will focus on the growth I experienced during these walks.
For those of you who are less spiritually inclined, I encourage you to stick around. I’ll still be doing posts on food, beer, and cool locales without much introspection. And I hope that in some way these posts might be helpful for your own self-reflection.
To understand my development on those long walks through winding Black Forest paths, you will need to understand the German concept of wandern. The translation for “wandern” is “to hike” (you may recognize the word from “Wanderlust”), but wandern has a much more spiritual meaning than the recreational activity of hiking. Wandern is a way to reconnect with nature and your local roots. Escaping into nature is a common (as well as a historically and culturally important) practice in Germany. From my experience, I saw Germans both exercising on the nature trails and communing with nature at a more sedate pace. Although I arrived a little too late to see it (sad face), a museum in Berlin even offered an exhibit on Germany’s special relationship with forests.
And so, my series “The Art of Wandern” will focus not merely on my experience of hiking in unfamiliar territory, but also on my experience of wandering the German way.