I know how important it is to nourish myself with more than food, but I’ve been running myself a bit ragged over the past few weeks and haven’t made that much of a priority.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness and lose sight of what matters.
Amazing things happen when we physically get away and give ourselves space to just be.
My recent vacation to Upstate New York was exactly what I needed to reset, recharge and refocus my body and brain.
It nourished my soul.
Most people who live in Baltimore spend their summers at the beach, but my vacation has always involved an 8-hour drive to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. It’s where my mom spent her summers as a kid and where her parents lived for as long as I can remember.
I have so many great memories of spending summer vacations “Up North” as a kid, and I’ve grown to appreciate it even more as an adult.
My parents think of it as their heaven on earth, and it has become something similar for me in recent years. As much as I’m running around all the time at home, I can’t help but disconnect and refocus myself physically and mentally when I’m up there.
It’s such a special, centering, and grounding place.
One of my favorite things to do is hike the mountains. The air is crisp, clear and free of pollution, and the views are absolutely breathtaking.
As my husband, Bill, and I were hiking one of the 46 High Peaks with my parents (both in their 60s!), it started to hit me how much hiking and life have in common.
Whether we’re trying to reach a goal related to weight, movement, or what we’re eating, having a healthy perspective around the journey, destination and challenges along the way can help us stay on the path instead of being deterred or discouraged.
I’m always open to inspiration, no matter what I’m doing, and our hike up Phelps Mountain ended up being the perfect time to take in the lessons life had to teach me that day.
When we take time to nourish our entire being and realize that there’s more to life and being well than kale salads and green smoothies, we can learn tremendous lessons.
Lesson #1: Be prepared and have a plan
When you go for a hike, you don’t typically do it on a whim.
You pick a trail you can physically handle and usually a peak with good views. For example on one of the iconic Dreamland Safari tours, you might find yourself exploring the breathtaking Vermilion Cliffs. You check the forecast to make sure the weather is going to be nice. Clear days are the best days for views at the summit, so you plan for those as best you can. You pack food, water, a trail guide, first aid supplies, a camera, and whatever else you’ll need to stay hydrated, fueled, and safe.
The same goes with life. The more we set aside time to think through a plan and map out what we’ll need to be successful, the more likely we are to end up where we want to be.
I know quite a few people who plan each day the night before, so they can live intentionally and start each day focused on what they want to get out of it instead of just letting it pass by.
Planning time is not wasted time. It helps us be more productive, focused and intentional, so make time for it in the midst of the busyness.
Lesson #2: Enjoy the journey
The goal of hiking isn’t just to get to the summit and climb back down. Relative to the total hike, you spend a sliver of time at the top and most of the time getting there or back.
Getting through the hike makes you appreciate the summit that much more, so instead of anticipating the outcome at the expense of appreciating the journey, enjoy the entire hike, from the ascent to the summit to the descent.
Stop and pick the blueberries, look for beauty, take off your shoes and rest your tired feet in the ice cold spring water.
As the daughter of two entrepreneurs and someone with passion and desire to continually raise the bar, I often forget to do this. I’m so focused on “getting somewhere” that I don’t appreciate where I am in the moment and end up stressed as a result.
Enjoying the journey as much as the destination is about being fully present to where we are in the moment instead of wishing it away.
Lesson #3: It’s okay to get lost or go the “wrong” way
Hiking trails aren’t always clearly defined. Sometimes you make a wrong turn or get lost and have to figure out how to get back on track.
One time, Bill and I completely missed a sign and ended up hiking up a ski trail (talk about tiring!). It actually ended up being a bit of a shortcut but was a tougher climb than the actual trail would have been. We may not have gone the “right way” but we ended up where we needed to be.
The same thing happens in life. We can be so afraid of making mistakes or doing something “wrong” that we don’t even try.
Who says your way isn’t the right way just because other people do it differently?
Lesson #4: Trust your gut; it’s smarter than you
When we talk about having a “gut” feeling, that’s a real thing. We have neurotransmitters and nerve endings in our digestive system that are directly connected to our brain. When we were on our hike with my parents, we didn’t see trail markers for a solid half hour, and my mom started to worry if we were going the right way.
But we instinctively knew we were on the trail. Eventually, we saw trail markers, but we didn’t wait until we saw them to keep moving up.
In life, there aren’t always giant, in-your-face signs telling us what to do or where to go.
If we’re always waiting for a definite, clear-cut answer about what to do before moving forward, we might miss out on something or never get to where we’re meant to be.
Sometimes, we just have to trust our gut and listen to what our intuition is telling us.
Lesson #5: You’re going to have some “Holy S#@!” moments
The High Peaks are infamous for some pretty steep rock beds and scrambles as you approach the summit. When you’re hiking, you’re usually looking not more than a few feet in front of you, so you don’t always see them up ahead.
I remember on our hike that I looked up at a steep pitch at one point and just thought to myself, “Holy S#@!” as I tried to figure out how the heck I was going to get beyond it.
This happens in life a lot. We’re in the midst of our day or our journey, and roadblocks or barriers come out of nowhere and rattle us.
Sometimes, we have no idea how we’re going to get around them. But we assess the situation, consider a few possible options and go with what makes the most sense or “feels” right. We have to take action, or we won’t move forward.
Lesson #6: Get support from others along the way
Some people like to hike alone for the solitude, and I can totally understand why. But I find so many aspects of hiking are more fun when I’m with at least one other person.
It means we can share the load of whatever we have in our packs. We have another set of eyes and intuition to guide us along the trail. We have someone who can help us over physical obstacles like ladders or steep pitches. We have someone to talk to and take pictures with throughout the hike.
The same goes with life. When we bring other people on our journey with us, they can support and guide us along the way and celebrate with us when we reach our goal.
Struggles and celebrations are easier when we go through them with other people.
Lesson #7: Soak in the summit
One of the most magical moments of a hike is when you reach the peak of a mountain. The views are stunning, especially on a clear day, that you can’t help but be silent and take in the beauty and peacefulness of your surroundings.
When we hike, we usually spend a solid hour at the summit. We take our shoes off, down some water, and enjoy our well-deserved lunch. We take pictures, lay on the rocks, bask in the sun, and take in the entire experience.
I find this hard to do in my life. When I accomplish something, I’m quick to move on to whatever the next project or goal is and rarely appreciate what I’ve just done.
I don’t take time to celebrate victories.
But last week, the mountains reminded me that there’s something incredibly satisfying about pausing to treasure and honor something we’ve worked hard to accomplish, to fully soak in the awesomeness of that moment.
Sometimes we have to step away from the crazy busy worlds most of us live in to reflect on our journey and what we’re trying to accomplish on a daily basis. I hope some of these reflections speak to and inspire you today to reset, refocus and take on a new perspective along your journey, no matter where you are on the path.
Gretchen McKay (@GretchenMcKay1)
Rachel, thanks for this: If we’re always waiting for a definite, clear-cut answer about what to do before moving forward, we might miss out on something or never get to where we’re meant to be.
I am contemplating a change career-wise and this is something I need to remember. I have always said that I learn from my students!
You’re welcome! I’m so glad it spoke to you. You taught me so much when I was at McDaniel, so it’s an honor to be in a position where you can learn from me! 🙂 Keep me posted on your plans!