I have done a lot of things to avoid hordes of people, but the sacrifices I have made to be in nature without them have been extreme. Alarms set for 3 AM to arrive at the trailhead by sunrise all so I could avoid the sound of some person’s voice behind me on the trail for miles at a time. You can imagine my frustration as the parking lot filled and traffic built up at Acadia National Park despite my preparation.
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My disdain for overhearing the mundane isn’t the primary reason I don’t like being around all these people in nature. See, the first thing that goes down in quality with that many humans in one place are the restrooms. A pit toilet is bad enough without a wait. If you’re not familiar with forest toilets, this is one that looks like a toilet but is really just a hole in the ground with a toilet topper. Standing in line for this fancy poop bucket feels downright degrading. After the thirty minute wait to pee, your hiking pace is set by people who just stop in the middle of walking. When the trail was most crowded, it felt like walking in Times Square with more calming scenery.
Even the dogs were distraught. On one particularly popular bridge, two dogs started to growl while passing as if they were going to fight. Another ran into the street scared and we all turned around to stare as the owner screamed. As the dog returned safely to the side of the road, I shook my head and kept walking. “Not the hiking vibe,” I grumpily mumbled.
The next day in the pursuit of more zen, I decided to hike in a more remote area of the park where I met the most perfect hiker of all: a mini goldendoodle named Alice. As to not be the worst kind of person who approaches dogs without permission, I used my best puppy voice to say hello. The family caught on and brought the puppy over.
I knelt down and she hid. “She’s scared of your sunglasses,” they explained. As someone who raised a scared 75 pound lab, I knew the type. I patiently waited as Alice sniffed me out then let her puppy energy explode, pouncing on me as we all laughed. “Thanks for showing so much grace for Alice,” their owner said with a smile.
For all the grace I have for dogs, I find myself forgetting that people – whether huddled in masses on a trail or posting on Twitter – are probably just as scared as Alice every day. While I quietly curse them for stopping along the hike, I forget that they probably don’t live like I do. They aren’t taking on a new trail every weekend. They’re on annual family trips and once in a lifetime adventures. They want to stop. Capture this moment. Stay motivated for the monotony of life.
These people aren’t scared of sunglasses like Alice. They’re scared of what all of us who walk upright are: that we missed the most beautiful part. We’re worried that this vacation is the only freedom we’ll feel for awhile. That we didn’t do this living right.
This commonality is a condition that reminds me to give more grace to people, not just the dogs. To remember that we all find ourselves feeling a little lost at some point while looking for distractions or answers. To show grace for the people who stop to capture the most beautiful part. And grace for myself even when the fear seems small, just like I would give a scared puppy named Alice.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.