5 ways to harness the benefits of escapism

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Escaping city life can be hard, but making the effort is worth it. Here, musician and long-time Londoner Nabihah Iqbal explains how to put yourself first and spend more mood-boosting time in nature…

When you’re used to the familiarity of your morning commute, it’s hard to do more than just daydream about changing things up.

But balancing your time in nature with your city hustle is possible. From small tweaks to your day to tying up your boots and heading out on a weekend hiking adventure in the woods, you can delve into the wonderful world of escapism.

Proud city girl and music artist Nabihah Iqbal offers five tips from her own life – including a recent hiking trip she took to South Africa’s Cederberg mountains – to show us how easy it is to adapt our daily habits and bring more balance into our lives.

1. Grab your bike for everyday outdoors

Bike against a wall for speeding around the city and helping the environment

Throughout the day, it’s easy to become dependent on buses, your Uber habit or even taking your car out for short drives, but one of the best ways to get some outside kudos in your daily hustle is by bike. 

The benefits are two-fold: you help the environment and you get to whizz around with the wind in your hair, feeling free as a bird.

“Each day I cycle to my studio, zipping between cars, taking in the sights and sounds,” says Nabihah. “Sirens, engines, rain, rubber on tarmac, feet on concrete, snippets of voices in conversation… Constant flux. It never fails to inspire me.”

2. Find green spaces where you can     

Londoner Nabihah Iqbal is in South Africa’s Cederberg mountains hiking in her Merrell boots

When you’re based in a city, it’s easy to forget that patches of green even exist. 

But in reality, there are city parks and green spaces dotted across England, from Jesmond Dene Wooded Valley in Newcastle to Richmond Park just outside of London.

“I’ve got my National Trust membership and I’m always up for a good walk in the English countryside,” says Nabihah. “There’s an innate desire, or a need, within all of us to get outdoors; we want to feel nature. It’s why houses have gardens and cities have parks. All of us, each living thing on this planet, has a special relationship with nature. The best way to remember that is to make time for it.”

3. Go hiking and don’t let the weather stop you

Nabihah Iqbal is hiking on the edge of the mountain wearing Merrell Siren 3 boots

Heading out for a hike always seems like a good idea until the grey skies get in the way.

The key to beating the weather? Ignore it.

Set an alarm and schedule in your hike, then commit to it no matter what your weather app reports.

“Last month, I got the chance to go on a hiking trip,” reveals Nabihah. “I had to set off before dawn because I needed to reach the mountain peak by sunrise. It was still dark, and the weather was wet and windy. All I could think about was the warm bed that I’d been in only half-an-hour earlier. But then the sky began to lighten, and the black mountains that were smudged into the horizon started to reveal themselves. In that moment, I realised I’d never been anywhere so remote or beautiful before.”

And as your mum’s saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing. So, make sure you have the right gear and the clouds won’t get in your way. The Siren 3 from Merrell, a light hiking boot specifically designed for women, comes complete with extra support for maximum confidence, no matter what the terrain or the weather is doing.

4. Get up before the sun

Nabihah Iqbal is standing on the South Africa’s Cederberg mountains and watching the sun rise after a morning hike

While you’ve probably got your morning routine down to a science (wake up with 30 mins to spare, squeeze in a 10-minute shower, pop some bread in the toaster, then run out the door), it’s worth switching things up and giving yourself more time.

Once a week, try setting your alarm and waking up before the sun does. Giving yourself that extra time and seeing the sun rise will make you feel like you run your life, rather than feeling that it runs you.

Plus, your subconscious (the dream-like part of your brain) will be really engaged too, so you’ll probably have some of your best creative ideas.

For Nabihah, her sunrise hike got her thinking about “beauty, music, creativity and what humans strive to do when they ‘create’. So many thoughts and questions came into my mind, triggered by that mesmerising sunrise.”

5. Meditate with real nature sounds 

Nabihah Iqbal is outside hiking in nature and recording sounds that she might use in her music later

When it comes to bringing more balance into your life, rather than downloading a white noise app that plays rain sounds, use nature’s own rhythms to get you into a meditative state. 

“I’ve always been interested in the sounds of nature and the nature of sound,” says Nabihah. “I often make field recordings of my surroundings, especially when I’m in a new place because I want to explore the way sounds act as strong links to feelings and memories.”

“In a place as remote as the Cederberg mountains, the thing that had the most lasting impression on me was the silence,” Nabihah continues. “My mind felt so clear, my body felt so calm, and creative ideas were flowing. It made me realise there’s just as much inspiration and energy to be gained from silence and stillness as there is from sound and movement.”

Embrace escapism with Merrell’s Siren 3-this hiker is built with Q FORM® 2 stability technology and a Vibram® MegaGrip™ outsole for confidence no matter the terrain.

Wherever you are, city-based or in the countryside, Merrell believes that nothing should get in the way of you enjoying active outdoor adventures.