Lessons from my first hike

By Younas Chaudhary

Would you believe if I told you that I went on my first hike last week? For over 40 years, I have lived in the West; but most often an immigrant’s motivation to enjoy life and smell the roses comes late.

As a young man, I immigrated to Canada in the seventies, and initially my goal was to make money, send it back to my parents, and when I had made enough, return home. But life takes on different twists, and often you find that once you have a Volkswagen, you then aim for a Lexus, and soon you then aim for a Mercedes. You start your life in a dingy apartment, move on to a condo, and then buy a home.

As immigrants, in our search for money and efforts to assimilate, we forget to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. We make hard sacrifices to get rich, because the pursuit of “happiness” (i.e., wealth) is enshrined in the constitution of this capitalistic society.

Thus, in my early days I was so intensely focused on making money that I never found time for myself or my family. I missed spending time with my first two children, as I was always traveling, seeking deals, making oilfield visits, and trying to expand my oil and gas portfolio.

On one end, I was making money, but on the other, I was not spending quality time with my first two kids.  This was unlike with my last two kids, who were born later. In fact, I virtually raised the younger two, because by that time I was largely settled in life and had plenty of time to spend with them.

So last week, when I went on a hike with friends in the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, I literally smelled the open air for the first time.  My first hike, my first stay in a recreational vehicle (RV), and one of my longest road journeys – seven hours despite having arrived here four decades ago!  The sights were incredible, and I enjoyed every minute of it. There was so much wildlife around us, including free range buffalo, Texas longhorn cattle, bison, prairie dogs, elk, deer, turkey, and pheasants.

As I watched the beauty of my surroundings, with lakes and mountains, I asked myself when was the last time that I had truly noticed nature in all its beauty? The closest encounter, honestly, was around 25 years ago, during a trip to an oilfield in Wyoming—and during that trip, I was so intensely focused on buying that oilfield that I totally forgot to look at what was around me! The property was so beautiful, and there was so much wildlife roaming around me, but my eyes were fixated on the oilfield.

In our pursuit of monetary happiness, we often forget small, beautiful things in life such as the soothing effects and pleasure of nature. Nature is a great healer—as I was preparing for this trip, my blood pressure was elevated at home, but it came back to normal and stayed fine as soon as I got on the RV!

I encourage everyone to take time off and be with nature, enjoy a hike, take a road trip, or go fishing to enjoy the pleasures of nature! Over the last 40 years, I have had an abundance of resources including time and money, but I did my first hike only now when nearing 70! Luckily, I am in good health and can do more! Earlier, I had traveled to so many beautiful places here in our own country and around the world, but the truth is, I never enjoyed any of them because I never paid attention to what was around me. So, my advice to you is, do not aim for an incomplete life. Do not miss out on enjoying the natural pleasures of life while you are active and healthy.  

You do not need to go too far to see the beauty around you either; you only need to pay attention to it!

Here is an interesting recollection from the famous travel writer, Pico Iyer, who had just traveled to Tibet and returned to his mother’s home in Santa Barbara:

“I was missing Tibet a lot and wanted still to be there. I was so antsy, I decided to just get in my car and drive. A few minutes later, I looked out to one side of me and there was the great blue expanse of the Pacific. Then I looked to the other side of me and saw this ridge of untouched valley with an emerald lake in the center and not a single trace of human habitation. And I suddenly realized that 10 minutes from my mother’s house was a landscape probably more beautiful than anything I’d seen in Tibet.”

So, find a place close to you and let me remind you that the pursuit of money is not bad. All I am saying is that gauging people based on their wealth is a waste of time. Instead, live a rich life, an abundant life.

Let me end with the lessons from my first hike:

1. Learn to savor the good parts of life.

2. Slow down…the rat race is for rats!

3. Look for the pause button. It is there, everywhere from our old VHS players to our latest gadgets. Before you hit fast forward, pause, and think.

4. You do not need to go to Alaska…look at what is around you. If you have not seen the beauty in your own world, you are simply wasting time.

5. Smell the roses when you have time, resources, and good health on your side. Like roses that wilt, our lives are short…so enjoy the pleasures of life with every moment.

Here are ways to connect with me

You can read more by purchasing my best-selling memoir “From Dirt Roads to Black Gold.” Note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this book will help people in need through my foundation, the YBC Foundation.


The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.