Tag Archives: lessons learned

Lessons from Trekking

14 Oct

During my recent trekking adventure in Oregon that was nothing like I thought it was going to be, I realized that there are some important life lessons that I could take from the experience.  Here are my 5 lessons from trekking:

1.  Roll with it.

My Oregon trip was suppose to be a 4-night adventure in the Sisters area with beautiful fall weather – you know, crisp sunny days, blue skies, cool nights.  Not rain, snow, or alternate plans because where we planned to go was getting dumped on.  Not two in-town days because it would have been suffer-fest otherwise.  But, so far, I do not control the weather.  In fact, the more time passes in my life, the more I realize I simply have control over just about nothing.  Not one thing.

Except myself.  I have control of myself and how I respond to things when they change.  So, in this moment, even though I had spent time (and money) envisioning what this vacation was going to be life, I had to accept that things were going to be different.  They were not going to play out they way I wanted them to.  They were going to play out just the way they were. with rain and snow and wind.  In the past, I have had a tendency to be frustrated in these situations – unable to move past what I wanted and what I had hoped for.  Which, surprisingly, did not change my situation and just made me, and anyone who was around me, miserable.

And so, the rain and snow came down in the mountains… I drank tasty Oregon IPAs and laughed with my friend while we sat around her fire and made plans for a different hike.

Taking a walk in Bend - where, pleasantly enough, it was sunny!

Taking a walk in Bend – where, pleasantly enough, it was sunny!

Sometimes it’s hard, we want things to work out one way so badly, which I am wildly guilty of.  But, often enough, if I just roll with things, and let it all play out, everything is just fine.   I guess this lesson could also be known as:  trust.

2.  It hurts now, but it’ll pass.

Our trek up into the mountains in the Diamond Peak wilderness started with a light drizzle, that turned into a heavier rain, transitioning into wet snow.  And the higher we went, the more snow that was on the ground, until eventually we were walking through several inches of snow.  By the time we reached the site where we planned to bed down for the night, our feet were soaking wet and the temperatures were dropping.  We spent the afternoon and night in the tent, eating tasty warm food and burrowing deep into our bags.  In the morning, our thermometer read 26 degrees.  In the tent.  Yep, it was a cold one.

Cold enough that our shoes froze.  Solid.  Putting those puppies on was not one of the more fun things I have done.  The first hour was excruciatingly painful.  Even though the sun came out and we had to walk uphill which warmed up my body, my feet were still damn cold and painful.  I have over-exposed my feet to cold temps so many times that doing so now causes me to hobble in pain, which is where K found me at the top of the hill — hobbling, gasping in pain, on the verge of tears.  She looked at me and calmly said – it’ll pass.  It wasn’t magic, my feet didn’t stop hurting at that moment – but it was a good reminder that this was temporary.  They have hurt before, but they would stop hurting eventually.

First night of camping, snow, fog, rain, cold temps

First night of camping, snow, fog, rain, cold temps

And…. the same with other times I have been in pain, emotional or physical.  It passes.  The heartbreak over that man? It passed.  That shoulder surgery?  It healed.  Those things that feel so big, that hurt so much….  eventually that pain pass.  Eventually that hurt heals.

3.  The signs are everywhere, we just have to look for them.

Because the ground was covered in several inches of snow, it made it hard to navigate the trail.  In the beginning, we made many wrong turns (or rather, missed the turns we should have taken).  We followed routes that seemed right, but weren’t.  We spent time searching for the trail.  But, as time passed, we got better and better at it.  Over time, we started to notice where the snow lay in the trough of the trail.  We started to notice trees that had been cut to clear the trail.  We started to see the signs that had been there all along, we just had to look for them.

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

And this, seems to me, to be not far off from the way things really are.  That relationship that you keep going, in hopes that it will get better?  The signs have been there all along that it wasn’t right.  That job, that apartment, that friendship, that guy you’ve been on a few dates with?  The signs are there, telling you if it is right or wrong, there to stay or time to move along.  But, so often, we don’t want to see those signs when they don’t jive with what we want or hope for.  So, instead of seeing the signs that are there, we keep moving in the direction we think is right, hoping for something that is different from the reality in front of us.  If only we’d slow down, start looking and listening at what is actually in front of us, versus the story we have made up in our minds, it seems that a lot more would be clear.

4.  When you think you’re lost, trust your gut.

K and I got to a section where we just couldn’t find the trail.  We searched for at least an hour.  We contemplated turning around (and we loathe to go back the way we have come).  We circled around, following false starts and elk paths.  We even got to the point where we thought that we would just go over land and bushwack our way back to the car.  We consulted our map, took bearings on our compass and we searched.  We saw a trail, but it appeared to just circle back to the trail we had been on.  So, we searched some more.  It was frustrating.  It started to snow.  We took a bearing, headed out, going NE planning to go until it was dark and we found a suitable place to bed down.  As we climbed uphill, skirting around rocks, not knowing what was in front of us, I stopped us – feeling like we needed to go back to that trail.  I just had a feeling….

And sure enough, we followed it, and as the sun started to go down, we came to where we had planned to camp all along.

Sun shining through the moss, pines and snow.

Sun shining through the moss, pines and snow.

If, in that moment, we had slowed down and trusted our gut and actually tried that trail, we would have avoided several hours of messing around.  I didn’t know that was the right way, but I had a feeling that it was.  Instead, I talked myself out of it.  What would happen, when faced with a decision, if we always listened to our gut?  If we took the time to slow down and actually listen to ourselves?  Listened to what we were feeling to find out what was the right answer?  I imagine our choices might be different.  And even if the results weren’t actually different, would we feel different about them because we had made the choice ourselves?  My guess is yes, yes it would feel different.

5.  Laugh in the face of it all.  

We got lost.  It snowed.  It was freezing.  It wasn’t the trek we planned on doing.  We spent more hours in our tent than we ever planned on (which is what happens when you get into your sleeping bag at 4:30 in the afternoon).  But through it all, we laughed.  We supported each other.  We saw beauty in our surroundings and we celebrated our good fortune.

thanks buddy!

thanks buddy!

There is so much to celebrate in this world of ours, it just seems that we should make the time to laugh each and every day.  In the face of all that seems unfair and unjust and wrong and painful, there is so much to laugh at and celebrate.  Be thankful when you have a buddy with you to laugh at jokes that never get old.  And when you’re alone?  Laugh at the absurdity and make sure not to take yourself too seriously.  ‘Cause there’s just too much joy with out there!

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I guess when I think about these 5 lessons — they are really just come down to trust.

To be here now and trust that everything will fall into place.  ‘Cause it does.  It just does.

And in the mean time, drink a hoppy cascade-hopped ipa and laugh with an old friend!

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Here is my ‘Dear Life’

28 Aug

This is a reprint from my friend Kim’s blog.  

Tuesday, 7:30 pm

Dear Life –

I’ve been hesitant to write you because I wasn’t sure how I felt about you.  I knew believed you were giving me “gifts” – but they sure didn’t feel like gifts – all that struggle and messiness?!  Come on now – what kind of gifts are those?!

But now… now I think I’m getting it.  And I think that I’m ready to say thank you.

Thank you for travel – a solo journey that I thought would be the answer – but instead was only the opening of the door.  And that door being my heart, naturally.  And the opening of that door just prepared me to do the really hard work of this past year – which meant more opening and naming all that I want and all that I am worth.

And thank you for courage.  The courage to be vulnerable.  The courage to believe I’m worthy of everything I want.  The courage to push open the door to my heart even further.  And what hard work it is – so thank you again for the courage to take it on.

Finding the beauty in each day

Finding the beauty in each day

But life, I know that you are pragmatic (since you’re my life – of course you’re pragmatic!) – so thank you for deep lungs and big strong muscular thighs.  So, I can’t find pants to fit right (it’s way more fun to wear cute dresses anyway), but I can climb mountains and pedal my bike for hours and be active and outside, which feeds my soul and heart in countless ways.

And thank you for watermelon and hoppy ipas.  And bachata and cumbia.  And friends new and old to keep me laughing and celebrating and exploring and pushing myself.

And thank you life – for filling me with more dreams than I will ever accomplish in this life time and filling me with the dissonance of loving my work and loving this world – what a great dilemma to have!

And just…. Thank you.  With all my heart.

Live it like you mean it.

3 Jun

‘Wow, that’s so brave’, she remarked to me, after I told her I moved here only knowing one or two people.  I chuckled to myself, thinking – ‘oh, if only you knew!’  I decided to not share all those times that I felt scared, felt less than courageous, in the last 10 months.

But what happened?  Was I the same person who arrived at a bus station in India and picked where I was going next by getting on the next departing bus?  Was I the same person who learned to venture out and trust myself?  It was hard to believe, sitting at home, on my couch, feeling…. well, frankly, pretty far from brave.

For some reason, things feel different here.  Perhaps, it is that I am not a traveler anymore.  This is my country, and now, my home.  Perhaps it is that NYC is not known as one of the friendlier places in the world (though, full disclosure, I don’t find it that rough either – people have the capacity to be friendly.  They just choose not to be most of the time).

But, whatever that difference is, the fact remains that I don’t feel as brave as I did when I was traveling the world.  And when you don’t have friends in a new place, getting yourself out there is very effortful.  Tiring, even.  And so, I found, over the months since I moved here – I lost that courage.  It was sometimes easier to stay in with a good book, watch House of Cards on netflix.

Yet, I remember what it felt like to be out there, to explore, and have that freedom.  So, I am going to dedicate the next few months/time to making that effort.  To re-aquatinting myself with that freedom and joy and exploration.  To being the traveler – but this time with a home (that no one is puking in) and way more clothes and shoes.

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

So, here is to learning to be a travler in my own home, wherever that home is – and finding courage.

chinese new year in flushing

chinese new year in flushing

Gratitude. part dos

27 Jan

Last week when I wrote about making a list of what I am grateful for in this past year, a few folks asked about that list.  So — here is a portion of that list, in no particular order (the numbers are there just because I like lists, not because of priority).

38 things I am grateful for:

1.  My mom and dad for encouraging me and supporting me to follow my dreams, accepting that my path is not as straight as others.  Though it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, I am ever so thankful for their inspiration, acceptance and support.

2.  Katherine – my buddy in adventures.  We have skied the Chic Chocs, bed down in the whites, climbed some pretty high mountains and have hiked countless number of miles together.  I feel lucky to have a friend who will go on such adventures with me – and cannot wait to plan the next one!

katherine and I on top of mt. whitney

katherine and I on top of mt. whitney

3.  My job.  I do work that I care about, work that I believe makes the world a better place.  Work that makes me think and pushes me to be my best self.

4.  My mentors.  I am lucky to have some pretty great mentors, people who are looking out for me, who have given me guidance along the way and have inspired me in my work.  Thanks Steve, Julie H., Sue, Lily and Meg (among others).

5.  India – for reminding me of the goodness of people and the beauty of humanity and that, ultimately, the world is a good place full of good people.

Couldn't speak any common language, but we could understand enough

Couldn’t speak any common language, but we could understand enough

6.  Hope.  Ultimately, I am full of hope, even when I try to hide that hope.  Hope makes us vulnerable.  It makes us trust.  It opens us up.  Sometimes all that is scary – but as much as it scares me, I cannot deny that is who I am.

7.  Climbing, trekking, skiing, backpacking, hiking, walking – being outside and active (and not hurt – unlike right now…..  which I hate.  I hate being hurt.  oh, wait – wrong list).

8.  Mountains – for keeping me dreaming.

one of the many, many mountains i dream of climbing

one of the many, many mountains i dream of climbing

9.  My brother.  We’re just under two years apart, went to the same school — all the way to college – together.  Now we live on different sides of the country, but every time we get together we laugh and have fun.  But, can’t leave out my other brother who is much younger, but is well on his way to leading an interesting life himself.

10. My bestest girlfriends.  I am beyond lucky that I have an amazing group of girl friends.  Yogatara, Jessica, heather, susan, cynthia, tracy, smak, cara, meggy, jessica.  These women make me laugh, feed my soul, listen to me complain, let me cry on their shoulders and tell me to shut up when I need to hear that.

weekend in the berkshires

weekend in the berkshires – look how much we love hanging out with each other!

11.  Bucket lists.  Biking around the world?  Climbing a mountain over 20,000 feet?  Living in another country?  Becoming fluent in spanish?  Being in Thailand for a sky lantern festival?  Trekking in remote Nepal?  Yes, don’t mind if I do.

12.  Laughter.  The world keeps me endlessly amused.  I like to laugh – often and loud.  In fact, one of my students use to make fun of my laugh because it was so loud.  awesome.  keep it coming.

13.  Books.  Fiction, specifically.  And lots of it.

14.  Patagonia – for make me yearn for wild places.  Patagonia – will you marry me?

i am in love….

15.  Peru – for offering me lessons when I needed them.  For its beautiful people, its passion, its landscape, its rich history.  I might cheat on patagonia for peru.

16.  The universe – what a grand, amazing world this is conspiring each and every day to remind me how great it is.

17.  My journey.  As unpredictable as it has been, as winding, and messy and twisty it is, what a great journey it has been.

18.  Surprises and magic.  Last year when I was traveling – each thing that happened, that seemed wrong and bad — ultimately it would all turn out to be ok, even great.

yahoooooo

19.  Open heart.  See #6.  Open heart and hope and vulnerability — all tied up.  And I am ever thankful that I am on this journey to keep my heart open (with varying success along the way).

20.  Wisdom.  As I get older, the more wisdom I get.  I have a long way to go, but it is one thing about getting older that I love.

There’s more.  Another 18 on the list (whoa, that makes me feel old), but you get the idea…..

Thanks world.

38.

21 Jan

I am not a fan of making resolutions at New Year’s.  Maybe it is because I think that the new year should either be the solstice, or my birthday. Or maybe it is because it just seems like kind of a fake holiday – I mean, who says that it should be a 365 day year?  What marks December 31st as the end of the year?  Or maybe it is just because I am not a joiner – so I’ve never liked doing what everyone else is doing.

Or maybe I was just hung over and didn’t feel like reflecting – since it would surely be all about not being as unhealthy as I felt in that moment.

In either case, I didn’t take time to reflect or make resolutions.  Not that there isn’t plenty I could start doing differently, but instead, I decided to wait until my birthday to start thinking about where I have been and where I am going.

In reflecting on my year – thinking about where I have come from – I started re-read the post I wrote on  my 37th birthday.  I could feel the joy in my words, the magic of adventure, the wonder of possibility.  I remember that sunrise – seeing fitz roy – being in the Andes, in Patagonia.  fulfill my dreams.  checking off the bucket list.  happy 37.

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fitz roy

Over the course of this past year I have:

  • Traveled to 4 different countries
  • Took a risk by moving to a city I never imagined living in
  • Climbed a few mountains
  • Landed a pretty great job that fulfills my goals to help make the world a better place
  • Spent time with old friends, made a few new ones
  • Laughed, a lot (and cried some too)

And a whole lot more.  It was a year of transitions (but more coming on that soon in another post).

So, here I am.  38.  A year later, living life in one place, more than a backpack to carry my stuff, more than 2 shirts to choose from.  More stuff, more responsibilities, more…everything.  At the same time – less.  Less adventure, less freedom, less beauty and wonder in the every day.

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welcoming 38 in with mostly open arms
(even if they are crossed…..)

Last year, I started a practice of writing the 37, or 38 as the case is this year, things that I am grateful for.  Last year, the list was easy to write — the beauty in front of me, the joy surrounding me, the freedom I felt.

This year…..  it feels a bit more of a stretch.  The world doesn’t feel as open and joyous as it did while on the road.  Not that there isn’t plenty for me to be grateful for, it just takes a bit more searching.  I’m not checking off the bucket-list (Shit, living in NYC wasn’t even on my bucket-list! ), I am not surrounded by beautiful mountains and sitting in plazas eating popcorn and talking to locals.

Instead, I am rushing from place to place, riding the subway, working long hours, and not getting the kind of time I use to have to sit and reflect and think about where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I am sitting in a hotel room, preparing for a training.  I am riding the bus, working on a curriculum unit.  I am sitting in front of my computer, answering emails.

And so — my goal for this year is to slow down.  To remember to hold onto that freedom I felt while traveling.  To remember to find what I am grateful for.  To not get sucked up into the world of working and dedicating everything to my work (again), even if it is important, good work.  To hold onto the confidence and assuredness I gained from being on the road.

So, I am starting that practice by writing my list of 38 things I am grateful for.  I am up to #22 – taking the time each day in the next week to reflect, think and push myself to be in the moment.  Because, no matter what or where I am, there’s so much to be grateful for.

The Last Night

11 Aug

The last night we were in Ecuador, I realized that it was my last night of my ‘year’ of travel.  I sat with my journal, after evening meeting and reflected on where I had gone and where I was going.  Here are  my thoughts from that night….

9 months.  7 countries.

Love. Growth. Breakthroughs. Reflection. Mountains. Learning. Mistakes. Letting go. Envisioning. Dreaming. Planning. Loving myself. Loving the world. Contentment. Popcorn.

Plazas. Alone. Walking. Thinking. writing. Journeys. Paths. love. Saying yes. Building bridges. getting ready for the next step. Jumping in. Finding my place. opening up. possibilities. disappointments. heartbreak. sitting with myself. Exploration. Chai. Thinking. Knowing. Wanting. Growing. Trying. Bridges. Breaking down walls. Awareness. Recognizing patterns. Interactions. Connections. Reaching out. Accepting help.

Watching. Being watched.

Accepting. Change. Smiling. Naming what I want. Falling in love. Mountains. Dreams. Openness. Growth. Reflection. Saying yes. Trusting my gut. Opening doors. Finding the positive. Taking risks.

Being scared. Trusting myself. Trusting the world. Smiles. Kids. Babies. Dark hair. Dancing. Knowing what I deserve (and believing it to my core).

Essentials. Taxis. Trains. Buses. Auto-rickshaws. Sherpas. Nepalis. Indians. Thai. Vietnamese. Argentines. Patagonia. Aconcagua. Bolivia. Cusco. Huaraz.

Stephanie. Christian. Chloe. Beth. Bijay. Michael. Lisa. Katherina. Alan.

Growth. Love. Yes.

Precious Life

5 Aug

As most of you know, I have taken a job in New York City as an School Designer, working for NYC Outward Bound Schools.  Which basically means that I will be supporting schools in NYC that are implementing the Expeditionary Learning Schools model.  Does it sound like the dream job for me?  Yep, pretty much.

But, 4 months ago — if you had asked me if I was gong to move to NYC – I would have told you a resounding ‘hell no‘ and told you about opportunities in India.  Or even 3 months ago, I would have told you about how I needed to be in Peru.

In fact, those who have known me longest have laughed – OUT LOUD (usually followed by a ‘no fucking way!?’) – when I tell them I am moving to NYC.

So – what happened and how did I end up here?

sunset in Southern India

During my last month of travel, in Peru, I kept coming back to the Mary Oliver quote:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?

So much had happened during my travels — so much in my thoughts and outlook on life.  I knew I wasn’t going to go back to Renaissance, but what was the next step?  Where to go next?

During my travels, I sat and thought a lot.  I mean, to the point of it being a little ridiculous.  What did you do while traveling?  Um, I thought.  I wrote.  I thought some more.  And of course, I went out and lived.  I climbed, I trekked, I sat in plazas, I tried new food.  I practiced my spanish, I got stared at a lot.  I met some amazing people.  I rode trains and buses and rickshaws.  I was scared and lonely.  I smiled at strangers.  I gradually let down my walls and opened up to the world.

And as time went on, I could feel myself change.  I could sense the openness and courage – when I wasn’t so scared to try new things.  When I became comfortable in my own skin and started to love traveling by myself.  When I loved sharing a laugh with a stranger.  When I was so authentically and truly myself with other people.  And it was beautiful and wonderful and made me laugh and smile at the world.

As I sensed this change, I cherished it.  And became terrified to loose it.  So, I started to name the kind of life I wanted to live.  Like a sculptor working with clay, I took the amorphous blob of stuff and started to give it form and shape, dimensions and depth.  And slowly, out of the jumble of ideas, I started to give shape to the exact life I wanted to live.  And on of the biggest ideas that I kept coming back to was this:  I do not want to live a mediocre life.  I do not want to sacrifice my happiness.

In this one ‘wild and precious life’, I want greatness and beauty and adventure and love.

Adventure.  It kept coming back to that – how alive I felt staring out to the train as I traveled down the Indian coast.  How alive I felt trekking through Patagonia.  How alive I felt sitting in the plaza at sunset in Cusco.  And so I knew, there was no other way for me to live my life from now on – adventure had to be part of it.

So, when the opportunity for New York City came up – though it not the wilderness I crave – it is certainly the wildnessI crave.  As I started to think about it, I realized that this, too, would be an adventure.

Ho Chi Minh City at night

And so, having a new-found courage in my ability to take on adventures and figure out how to navigate the world — I am ready to try this new adventure.  So, here I am – figuring it out, learning how to get around.

My travels will be limited from now on — getting from Brooklyn to Staten Island.  Manhattan to Queens.  But, I think that the adventures will be just as rich and just as important in my journey.