Why I Started Hiking
People always ask me how I started hiking; how I started loving the outdoors. I’ve never truly shared the reason I started hiking but the love I had for the outdoors has always been there. As a little girl growing up in Oromiya, I was always outside and this is how every child is back home. Growing up my family didn’t own a television until I was 10 years old so I had no reason to be inside. The only time I was inside was for school, sleeping and eating meals. When I was done with those things I would run out of the house to play soccer with my cousins and jump rope with my sister. Because of my childhood, I’ve always loved the outdoors. But how I got into hiking when I moved to the United States was for a totally different reason.
In high school in the U.S., every time we had a winter break or spring break, my classmates would go on vacation to California, Egypt, Italy and Turkey. When we got back to school everyone would talk about the places they went and how amazing it was but I never had anything to share because my family of eight could not afford to go on vacation. It was simply too expensive for us. So I would just sit there and feel the distance between the life of my classmates and I. To give you an idea of what my high school was like it was about 90% White and 10% percent non-Black People of Color. I can literally count with on two hands the number of other students that looked like me and the majority of those did not wear hijab (headscarf). I was always the only one in my class that wore hijab. If I was lucky there would be one other Black student. The majority of my classmates were middle class and could afford to go on vacation to different countries or drove cars that their parents purchased for them. So I didn’t understand the term middle class because to me they were rich. You can see why I couldn’t relate to them: they didn’t look like me and we didn’t belong to the same social circles.
It was at this time that I started thinking about exploring the space I had access to which was the state of WA. I looked for things to do that didn’t cost a lot and trips that made me feel like I was somewhere far away from where I lived; something that had the same effect of going to a different country. For me hiking in the wilderness met all of this requirements. I started hiking with my sister every time we had breaks from school..
So to tell the truth I started hiking because it felt like a vacation for me and it was what I could afford at the time. I had such an amazing time and I was able to discover such a beautiful side of the Pacific Northwest and fall in love. So when we got back from school break I had something to share with my class mates and I felt less left out. As a 16 year old, that was important to me.