Last week, Michelle, a friend from my American college, and I joined a group of South Africans on their weekly Sunday morning hike. We were invited to the group by a woman whom we had met on the trails of Table Mountain. The group hikes on a new trail every Sunday morning. When we showed up at the entrance to the Houte Bay Pipe Track, we were greeted by a group of middle-aged (and older) individuals. Our immediate reaction was one of disappointment. We had been told by the woman whom we had met that the group was filled with avid hikers and that the routes they typically traversed were more intense than those well-known to tourists. By the looks of the group, we suspected the hike was going to be a literal walk in the park.
After meeting the members of the group, we started up a trail that was nearly a paved road. The gentle incline and slow pace served as confirmation of our suspicions. However, after a kilometer or so, the leader of the group took a hard left turn off the path and up a trail that was nearly vertical. Michelle and I struggled to keep up with the group. The group of baby-boomers had seemingly shapeshifted into mountain goats. It turned out that the group was made up of tour guides, many of whom specialize in hiking tours. Two hours, two Clif bars, and two short breaks later, we reached the summit. Although we were able to maintain pace with the rest of the group, we were certainly struggling compared to them. A few clichés came to mind as we crawled our way through a cave at the top of the mountain: don’t judge a book by its cover, the beard does not make the philosopher, and so on. Not only did I realize that I need to be slower to judge people, but I also realized that I want to be exactly like those people when I get older. I do not mean simply good at hiking. Rather, I want to have a close group of friends with whom I can share my passions while also welcoming newcomers (and even foreigners) who share the same passions. Another thing I realized is that there is no textbook way to "become a local." This is due to the fact that there is no textbook local. If you want to become a local, the best way is to find those who share your interests. While the hiking group led us on some amazing hikes, they also showed us previously unknown coffee shops, restaurants, and even connected us with other people that had hobbies similar to ours.
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<p>Hi, my name is Jeremy and I am a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. Outside of studying engineering and Arabic, I spend most of my time training for ultra-races, hiking in any park nearby, and going out with friends. I love experiencing anything new: food, language, music, etc. Find me in any local market, square, or club trying to figure out how the locals live.</p>