Do I dream about getting away to a place where I can be pampered and just relax? “Um, no” comes to mind first, followed by “of course not!” I can’t relax in real life and I don’t look forward to it when I get away. In fact, I don’t travel to get away from anything at all, I travel to explore. I crave adventure; I’m addicted to it. Hi, my name is Kristin and I am an adventure-addict.
In this tech driven world, I sit in front of screens for 10+ hours some days, so relaxing, especially when it involves some form of sitting sounds terrible to me.
Hence the things I come up with for my travels might be categorized by some as miserable, uncomfortable or perhaps self-inflicted torture.
Let me take you back for a moment. In 2014, Jeremy and I traveled to Peru to hike the Inca Trail. As you might expect, upon return people asked us how the trip went and our typical answer was something like this:
“Oh, it was great. Super cool! Really so beautiful, the hike is absolutely spectacular, in fact I think it was better than Machu Picchu itself. The views are just unbelievable and it really feels like you are taking a walk through history. I definitely recommend it!”
Because it would be strange if we answered:
“Oh, it was great. We spent four days hiking with 40-pound packs on our backs, up and back on these over-sized rocky stairs. We would get to camp each night, set up our tent and just fall into it from exhaustion. On the third day of the hike, we spent the first half of the day going straight up and the second half of the day going straight down. It was so painful I cried and complained for a straight hour until I sat on a rock and protested moving for the next 20 minutes. But by far the best part, was the intermittent bouts of serious diarrhea paired with the lack of toilets or bathrooms.”
How is it that we can have an experience like above and think it was seriously awesome? That paragraph isn’t intended as a complaint; it was just how it was. Looking back now, I honestly wouldn’t change a damn thing. Perhaps we could have done without the diarrhea, but now we die laughing every time we think about how uncomfortable it was.
My first response, the typical answer, wasn’t a lie. The views were spectacular, the history mesmerizing, even hauntingly-beautiful. Walking the steps of an ancient roadway system that spanned over 25,000 miles from Columbia down to Chile is seared into my mind in a way that I can never forget.
Our surface stories are never about the journey or the difficult moments that inevitably come up when we are traveling, in fact we seem to want to hide the fact that something went awry. I think we even sometimes go so far that we strive for perfect-sounding and looking (guilty!) travels.
But here’s the thing, having challenging travel moments definitely does not mean you are doing it incorrectly. In fact, you might be doing it just right.
When I wrote about the day I cried on the Inca Trail, what I left out was this: As I sat there on a rock sulking, a deer walked right up to me (with in 5 feet), hung out for a while eating some plants, and I was able to just take in the majesty of mother nature and all of her creations. If I hadn’t become so frustrated I couldn’t take another step, I would never have had that moment with the deer because my howling and grumbling would have kept the deer safely in the woods.
As I think back to my trip to Guatemala last year, the challenge of summiting Acatenango, freezing my ass off up there in a tent, trekking straight up knee deep sand (true misery for an hour), peeing out in the open of the crater (there’s actually nothing there to ‘hide behind’ up there), stands out to me way more than wandering around Antigua. I loved Antigua, it was stunning and awesome to explore, but it didn’t provide any real challenge. It didn’t push me to a new limit, it didn’t show me the epic purple sunset over Volcan Fuego or what sunrise looks like from the middle of an inactive volcanic crater.
These challenges seem to clue me in to my experience, they slow me down and manage to imprint, thankfully positively, in my mind for what seems like forever. As I think back to all of my experiences that truly stand out, each I had some crazy catalyst or challenge that brought about one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Hiking pain that forced me to sit down so that I could have perfect moment with nature, a dead rat that led me to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen (you can read about it here), not getting a job so that I could get my dream job and meet some of the coolest people around. Putting yourself out there or challenging yourself sometimes hurts in the moment, but it is just a step in the direction of something amazing.
I don’t know about you, but I am going after amazing.
I am posting this blog in 2018 and I wrote it after I got back from Guatemala in March of 2017, but I never shared it. There wasn’t specifically a reason for this, I just filed it away and forgot about it. Interestingly enough, I think it was serendipitous (if you believe in that kind of thing) that I came across it this week.
I am gearing up for a trip to Africa in a few weeks where I will be returning to South Africa, but will also visit Botswana and Zimbabwe (new countries for me!) with my husband, mother and mother-in-law. In Botswana, I will be running a soccer camp focusing on conservation for a week where I will be camping in the bush and working in the local village. If you read my previous blog about how much I lovecamping (I realize the sarcasm is difficult to pick up here), you can imagine that there will be some challenges that come along with this plan. I can’t predict what those will be, but if history has told me anything, it has the potential to be one of the most profound parts to this multi-part trip.
I’m pretty excited to see what craziness ensues to create some amazingness.
P.S. The final thing I want to mention is that everyone’s definition of challenge is different. For some, the moments listed above might have been easy, while for others it might be in a different realm. Doesn’t matter. You define your challenge.