Hiking diplomacy

A hike — and brief rest stop atop John Rock — was on the agenda of an Oboz clinic in the Pisgah National Forest four years ago.

In attempting to explain his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump told ABC News last year, “I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t meet him, I haven’t had dinner with him. I didn’t go hiking with him.”

Of the latter, we wonder: If not, why not?

Hiking, whether in the Appalachians or Urals, could be the key to achieving detente, to getting past some of the pesky issues that divide us. Do you really need to get the old gang of 15 back together, Vlad? Pop the question after crossing Round, Jane and Grassy bands on the AT and the answer could well be a resounding nyet!

Think for a moment. Most high-level discussions traditionally involve a dinner, a state dinner fraught with angst: Who will I sit next to? What will we talk about? Are these the people who get offended shaking hands across a threshold? (In the case of Russia, yes). Chicken? Again? Your tummy is aroil, your thoughts distracted by small talk, the process of digestion consuming vital energy: How on earth can you be expected to negotiate a trade pact?

Swap that dinner for a hike, and you’re halfway to world peace.

A growing body of evidence suggests the brain is happier and more productive as a result of a walk in the woods. We brood less, we release negative thoughts, we think more clearly. You needn’t be Einstein — a devout walker himself — to know that walking stirs your creative juices, makes you more lucid.

So why, when important decisions are on the line, do we continue to sit down to a five-course meal rather than lace up the Merrills and hit the trail? It may be as much a matter of routine, of doing the same-old same-old as anything. It may also be a matter of delving into the scary unknown: Will Mr. Dithers think I’m daft if I suggest we take a hike to discuss the Smitherman account?

Not if you go about it the right way, Bumstead. Some tips from the Harvard Business Review on how to initiate a successful walking meeting, from a 2015 article, “How to do a Walking Meeting Right.”

  • Consider including an “extracurricular” destination on your route. The notion may make more sense if there’s the promise of something to see along the way.
  • Avoid making the destination a source of unneeded calories. Something to see, not eat.
  • No surprise walk-n-meets. No one likes being surprised, no one likes sweating through a dry-clean-only suit, no one wants to walk a mile in the wrong pair of shoes.
  • Stick to small groups. HBR suggests no more than three people for a walking meeting.
  • Enjoy. As HBR notes, this likely will happen anyway. Keep in mind that the goal is to lighten the mood and stir creative thought.
  • Check out the entire article, “How to do a Walking Meeting Right,” here.

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