Good friends traveled to Nepal to hike the Annapurna Circuit and, while talking about their experience, I couldn’t help but see the similarities between trekking and, you guessed it, saving and investing. Their story:

“Trekking in the Himalayas in Nepal is an experience unlike any other travel adventure. It can be such a freeing and meditative experience. Breathing high mountain air while walking slowly, taking in the scenery and stopping for tea and lunch are what happens most days. At higher elevations, the paradoxical secret to going faster is to shorten your stride, sometimes to a turtle’s pace. Then, you rarely get out of breath and don’t have the progressively more difficult challenge of stopping to rest, recover and try to get your heartrate back down. At first my usual tendency to walk faster with bigger strides when trying to catch up with others was successful, but soon it became apparent that it was counterproductive given how long it took to catch my breath when I needed a rest. Learning to take short steps and slow down actually proved to be the fastest way to hike for the day!”

Other friends have hiked Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest peak at 19,000’+. Their guides repeatedly urged them on with the chant, “Pule, pule” or “Slow, slow”, and those who listened both summited and enjoyed the experience.

You have to be fit but you also have to hike smart in sustained high altitudes. The natural instinct is to hike strong, you’re in a demanding environment, but my friends learned quickly that a slow, measured pace was the secret. In fact, a fast pace increased health risks and decreased their ability to enjoy the experience, a sure lose-lose.

You can see the analogies – reducing risk by investing in low-cost index funds regularly overtime, enjoying the confidence of following a financial plan designed to reach your retirement goals slowly but surely, and not trying to catch up by investing in high-risk investments that promise out-sized returns.

It seems obvious that those who make slow, steady progress do reach the summit while those who take risks with a faster pace don’t always. Remember, “the paradoxical secret to going faster is to shorten your stride”.