In a pocket of the country strange and new, distant and odd to me, I felt like I belonged. We were not alone in the west, nor in this country, but rather a part of it.
Unfortunately, life had plans for me that did not involve taking a single footstep in my hiking boots.
Over the next couple of days, it didn’t get any easier, but I learned to love the challenge and accomplishment. Each night coming to camp I felt proud of myself for making it, and that sense of accomplishment kept me going.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. - Eleanor Roosevelt
The next morning JP told me we would be climbing several 450 meter hills over the next three days. 'I thought the coast would be more coasty,' I thought, as panic and dread set in.
A faint glow emerged on the horizon, a welcome change from the blackness of the night. Slowly, the landscape lit up. Never had I been happier to see the sunrise. Tears pricked my eyes and a warm glow flooded my body. I was so proud of myself for making it this far. But I still had a long way to go.
This cyclone of self-guilt leads me down all of the other times I’ve made similar decisions; charging into environments without maybe fully appreciating the circumstances until completely immersed without any way to back out. The first thing that jumps out at me is something that has shadowed my life over the past 7 years.
The course weaved around the city, and gave me outstanding views of the Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Grand Palace, Chateau de Vincennes, and of course I could see the Eiffel Tower in the background at many different points. It was a bit surreal, seeing all of these iconic landmarks that I had only ever seen in books and movies. Sort of like running through a fairy tale…
The physical challenge was enormous—but so was the mental challenge. I would try to occupy my mind throughout the day while I was running so that I wasn’t focusing on the pain in my body.
I stand here, appreciating lush landscapes as I gracefully brush my fingertips against the grains of rice fields and watch in wonder as the sun begins to set beyond the horizon.
At that exact moment I knew it was time for me to return to the person that I, my friends and my family loved me for. And I needed a challenge, a big one.
I fell way behind my pack, limping like the runt of the litter. As my boyfriend fell behind to help me up the millionth step, I felt instant shame, looking around at the faces of my patient pals as they held on for me to catch up.
Each day we went from stages of absolute misery in the mornings as we pulled ourselves up on our aching legs to euphoria as we passed through an ancient ruin site or reached a new peak.
It’s a very soul-affirming feeling to travel and rely completely on oneself. For the first time in a long time I was responsible for me and had only me to answer to.
We all wake much later than expected following our evening at Craggy Range. I blame the exhausting bike-ride. The others blame the three bottles of wine we had at dinner.
A couple of weeks later and everything was booked, and I was ready to hand in my resignation: No safety nets—I was going to figure my life out.