One of my most amazing walking experiences was hiking in Peru when my husband and I trekked the Inca Trail, whilst it has provided me with some amazing memories what I didn’t bank on was that it would also give me a source of strength for many years to come.
We were in our mid twenties, thought we were completely infallible, and had approached the Inca Trail like we had approached many things together, with little planning, preparation and the faith that it would all be ok. In many ways we were right, we were ok, we had the basics covered, but it was a journey we wouldn’t forget in a hurry!
After we had camped at the first base we tackled the first pass, which was approximately 12,000 feet, now to a hardened, experienced walker that would be literally a bump in the park and many walked, jogged, even ran past us. But for us, we found it tough.
Many times in life since, this was over 20 years ago, we have experienced life that has not been dissimilar to that first pass, we have found we were unprepared, ill-equipped, de-motivated, others have overtaken us and we have found it so difficult we have wanted to turn around. So what did we learn that on that pass that has helped us so many times since?
I think the most useful thing that mountain taught us was that you can achieve amazing things even when you don’t feel like it. The night before that climb I hadn’t slept having pitched our tent on a slope; I’d spent most of the night sliding out of our tent (I kid you not!) I was tired, emotional and fed up, I felt that I’d lost the reason why I had wanted to do this in the first place but deep down I knew that I could still do it if I wanted to and didn’t want to give up. So even though it had become the last thing in the world I thought I wanted to do, I knew deep down my head knew nothing about what I could achieve and I could carry on even if my head didn’t agree with me! So often in life we fall into the trap that we think we have to feel like doing something to do it – we simply don’t, we can still do it!
The second thing is that when you have a goal, no matter how big it is, you can achieve it at the rate and pace that is right for you. At one point my husband and I were walking two or three steps and then resting, but we kept moving forward. It didn’t matter that others were quicker or found it easier as long as we were focused on what we could achieve, we continued to achieve and moved closer towards it. Which is linked to the third thing, and that is to keep moving, it doesn’t matter how small the steps are that you take towards your goal, just keep taking them as each and every one of them counts.
And finally, what it taught me the most is that in life you don’t have to be ready to achieve your goals, you don’t have to be fully equipped or prepared. So often we put things off because we don’t have everything ‘sorted out’ and the day never comes when we get started, because we don’t feel ready. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend hiking up a mountain at altitude with little preparation I also wouldn’t recommend waiting to start achieving your goals until you have covered every eventuality because you may find that you never get started at all!
I will never forget what it was like to reach the top of that pass and look over the Andes in all it’s splendor from the top, it almost was more amazing than seeing the sun rise over Machu Picchu a couple of days later; because like all goals, I knew what it had taken to get there and also I knew that if I could do that, I could do anything I wanted to do!