Our first hike together was memorable. It was in fact my first hike (ever). I'd lived somewhat an unadventurous life choosing relationship-lust over wanderlust.
Our first hike was somewhere in Wales on a windy wet morning. I've to admit I was more concerned with my wrong choice of footwear and running mascara than anything else.
After walking around in circles for sometime, he announced that we had to climb over a dodgy looking crumbling stone wall to get back on the right path. I huffed and puffed as I tried to clamber over, getting my foot stuck among the crags. I was no natural to the outdoors that's for sure even though I could take my vodka straight (it wasn't as hardcore as mountain life).
He came to my rescue (slightly dramatic) and we continued to the near top deciding to adventure back down quickly as the weather was getting worse. Retreating to his car for soup and chocolate.
We both learnt lots about each other that day. I learnt that if we went on other adventures, I'd have to take up navigational skills. He learnt that if he was ever going to coax me out of my comfort zone, it had to involve chocolate (he got me up Snowdon with that lesson learnt)!
Some time ago, my ideal date consisted of bar hoping in chic, cosy places about town. I loved this superficial setting because it was the perfect place to be on my best behaviour. I could carefully craft my ideal version of my life story. Not a mascara leak anywhere.
By the 5th date, it was looking great - a possible match? But it never did last long. We soon learnt things about each other, the vodka had made us conveniently forget!
From the flattering light and false security of a chic bar to suddenly being on top of what seemed like a mountain at the time. Slightly scared of getting lost. Cold because I didn't bring the right equipment. Irritable because I ate my packed lunch on the way up.
He reassures me (despite the stone wall incident). Gives me a spare jacket he'd packed on a just in case basis. Lets me have some of his home made winter warmer soup and a bit of chocolate bar (you had me at chocolate).
It's moments like these in life that you get a better insight into a person's true character and you're able to learn the important 'stuff' about them - the glue that bonds you together.
A few years on and we're still learning lots about each other in the great outdoors. We both quit drinking and bar hopping at the time of meeting, in a bid to feel refreshed for early morning adventures.
We've certainly got to know one another's flaws and all whilst in the great outdoors. There really is no hiding. He's seen me at my most anxious, scared and wind swept. Yet he's seen me at my most happiest because I've pushed through comfort zones.
I've witnessed his frustrations and disappointments. I've also felt his sheer determination and have seen him at his most passionate (towards the weather mainly) or when I conquer something I've doubted myself on.
If anything, going back to nature has brought me back to basics with myself. It's helped me to break a pattern with superficial people and experiences. It's enabled me to accept myself and encouraged me to self develop. I've finally discovered that if you can be in a happy (ish) relationship (for most of the time) with yourself, then you've got a better chance of having an even better relationship with another.
And I know that's easier said than done. It's certainly a journey between you and the elements. No one can take that journey for you. Perhaps you may be lucky enough like I did, to meet someone that inspires your journey...
I have no time for relationships that are based on paranoia. Constantly wondering why your special someone hasn't text you back or where they are. Trying to second guess what they're thinking or feeling. We're all guilty of making our partner our main focus and we soon forget about our own wants and needs. Social media certainly adds to the drama and causes no end of trouble where relationships are concerned.
My focus is now directed towards my connection to the outdoors and it's helped me to unplug from social media and break free from that fake reassurance it offers you with the 'Facebook official relationship' ideal.
Don't get me wrong - no relationship is ever perfect, outdoors or no outdoors. However, I've discovered when you cease to obsess over your relationship (not make it a hobby) and simply be in the moment and just enjoy it - everything seems to fit in rather nicely. Having a mutual love for the outdoors has taught us; trust, acceptance, boundaries and most importantly a sense of humour - things bar hopping would never have taught me!
So next time ask your date, if they fancy an outdoor adventure? You never know what you could both learn about yourselves and each other.
Chelsea Louise Haden
Photographs belong to the author