At the beginning of the year I made a promise to myself.
In creating a rich life I wanted to make sure that I had enriching experiences, so I vowed to look for ones that would take me outside of my comfort zone and challenge me both mentally and physically. There are several benefits to this, not the least of which is a new perspective and possibly an firmer rear-end.
So when visiting UK social worker Zoë Betts suggested that she wanted to hike to the highest point in Jamaica (Blue Mountains) I said, “Why not?” (a decision I would later consider as one made during an episode of temporary insanity).
It’s been a week since that trip and I’ve had enough time to consider the benefits of having done something that will benefit me for the rest of my life.
Lesson #1. Know your body and let it work to your advantage
I’m not in great shape by any stretch of the imagination, but if I know anything it’s my body – at least I know how it responds to exercise and how far I can push it. So on the hike I made sure I had good walking shoes to support my knees through the rugged climb, stretched my hamstrings and paced myself. I also had water and made sure I was hydrated (thanks, super-guide Paul).
While the uphill trek wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, we stopped several times, not because of my body, but because one of the hikers with us (who was much younger than I) was having resistance with hers.
I was reminded of a famous quote by Jim Rohn; “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
If your body’s able to walk, jump, run, or just expel waste regularly, count your blessings. You’re richer than many others who can’t.
Lesson #2: Take time to relax, relate, and release
This is not a new lesson, but one that I had a newfound appreciation for after hiking uphill for six hours with an ever-increasing load on my back (at least it felt like it was ever-increasing).
While we started hiking on Friday night, we didn’t actually reach our resting point until Saturday morning around 4 a.m. – and thank God we had no plans for that day except to rest up for the remainder of the hike Sunday morning.
I couldn’t help but relate that it’s like that in life –
Lesson #3: The company you choose can make you or break you
This is a lesson that I can’t stress enough.
When I lived in Taiwan I remember standing in the middle of the capital, Taipei, by myself at Christmas time and thinking, “This is so beautiful, but I have no one to share this memory with.” That was the moment I vowed that the next time I planned to have a memorable experience, I wouldn’t be alone.
Aside from the beautiful scenery, the best part of the trip was getting to talk social work with Zoë in between our rants about aching backs and sore feet.
Having Zoë there helped to push me when all I wanted to do was curl up in a little ball on the path and sleep.
And the best part is that now we’re now “warrior-sisters” for having gone through the experience together – a joke that I’m sure we’ll remember fondly for the rest of our lives…and who couldn’t use more great memories?!
Lesson #4: Beauty surrounds you – even if you can’t see it
Because we started our trek at night we weren’t able to see much. In fact, without flashlights and our Luci‘s, I doubt we would have been able to make it through the sometimes thick wood at all.
Of course in the light of day we were blown away by the beauty that surrounded us and amazed at how peaceful and serene our new environment was. But my deeper lesson was this:
Lesson #5: Not everything has a magical ending. Some things are just worth doing for the sake of doing them
Seventeen and 0.4 miles (17.4); that’s how long we walked to get to the peak. And while we left in time to see the sunrise, we couldn’t because of the clouds and precipitation .
But who cares?! We walked 17.4 miles to the highest point in Jamaica! How many people can say that? (Ok, maybe a lot, but not the majority of people in the world so it’s still somethin’ special.)
So what, we got up at 2a.m. and hiked uphill 3.5 miles? So what, there was no epic sunrise? So what, our shoes and socks got soaked and smelly after all that walking, walking, walking, endless walking uphill for hours on end? We did it, and that’s an epic enough feat on it’s own.
Not everything worth doing is going to have a magical ending, but being able to say you’ve done it can make it just as worthwhile.
…which brings me to my next lesson.
Lesson #6: Celebrate your achievements and remember them often
One of my joys in the last week has been telling people about my adventure walking through the Blue Mountains because it’s always met with awe, interest, and congratulations.
To some it may not seem like a monumental event, but for someone who usually spends her weekends on less-challenging activities, this trip continues to serve as a reminder that I – and the group of people I was with – really can do anything we put our minds to – and so can you. I’m so proud of us for that!
Lesson #7: You won’t know until you go, and it’s never the way that you imagine
I have a saying: “I don’t like to stay ignorant,” and for me trekking through the Blue Mountains was an eye-opener.
While it wasn’t exactly what I expected (I had little expectation), it was nowhere near as “bad” as I thought it might be. In fact, I enjoyed it.
I’m thankful for my experience in the clouds and have since then renewed my commitment to take better care of my body and take more risks. It’s not an entirely new perspective for me, but one I intend to keep in order to create my rich life.
I firmly believe that unless you move outside of your comfort zone, you’ll never get a chance to learn, grow, or experience the richer life that’s always available for you.
So what are you waiting for?