I’m not sure if it’s myself or life that gets in the way of contributing to this blog. It seems that every time I dive back into writing continuously, I encounter a little hiccup. In June, I crashed my bike in a silly accident which left me with ten stitches and sprained knee. Today, I wear a Harry Potter-esque scar on my forehead paired with a heart-shaped one on my kneecap like badges of honor, but I’m still waiting for the sprain to mend completely. [Not so] fun fact: sprains can take just as long as, if not longer than, breaks to heal!
As a result, I became the poster girl for “summertime and the livin’ is (extremely) easy.” You may be wondering how that could possibly be a negative thing… But when you’re me and have been running on a regular basis to physically train for ticking off an Excel sheet of summits and extensive backpacking trips planned for a period of three months, then yeah, such a derailing can dampen a summer – at least, at first.
Initially, I let my injury dictate my life.
Though the pain and the possibility of worsening the injury held me back from accomplishing what I wanted to do this season, I used it as an excuse to be just plain lazy. Fortunately, the FOMO snapped me out of a downward spiral of slothfulness. While I wasn’t going to climb to the top of King’s Peak or backpack the Teton Crest Trail anytime soon, I could still get outside and adventure on a smaller scale.
So I created a lighthearted game with myself – 30 hikes in 30 days. I made a long list of short trails, lovingly dubbed “baby hikes,” and had a very loose objective to hike them all within a month. The purpose was simple: get outside, get exploring, get active.
I never reached my goal on a quantitative level – I did maybe ten hikes by my deadline – but I still succeeded, in a different, and arguably more important, way.
I got outside, I explored, I was active, but even more so, I learned that triumph is not measured in miles, minutes, or elevation. No, it isn’t that superficial. Its calculated by one’s personal experience; you define your own success.
This was a much needed lesson for me, as I often find myself scrolling my Instagram feed and admiring, in a sometimes unhealthy way, other people’s feats – climbing the Grand Teton, backpacking the PCT, or living out of their van all over the country. I even reminisce over my own past adventures – the Enchantments, Glacier National Park, Mt. Adams summit, bouldering in Leavenworth, backcountry skiing the saddle at Mt. Baker, or leading tour groups through some of our most treasured National Parks.
My little excursions taught me to stop comparing myself to others, and even to myself.
Happiness cannot be extracted from envy, but it can be cultivated by living in the present and acknowledging, welcoming, and appreciating your current situation. When I let go of the idea of “success,” I discovered that the 3 mile hike in my backyard brought me just as much gratification as the 65 mile one in Montana.
I stopped analyzing and started savoring my surroundings; instead of dwelling on what other people were accomplishing with their day, I reveled in my own adventures.
We are constantly advised to “live like there’s no tomorrow,” but it’s ok to live like there’s another day promised to you. If you aren’t ready to climb the Grand Teton, it’s ok to make it a goal for next summer and spend today bouldering a V1 in the gym. It’s ok that you spent your day on a hike rated “easy.” It’s ok that you don’t feel comfortable in the backcountry and want to stick to the resort slopes.
“Living life to the fullest” isn’t always about doing things that are risky, crazy, daring, or difficult. It’s about doing anything that makes you feel thrilled to be alive, warm with happiness, and wholly content when you go to sleep at night.
So whether you’re just getting started with hiking, backpacking, skiing, mountain biking, or what-have-you, or if you’re recovering from an injury – embrace the beginning and the “baby steps.” You’re not going to free climb Mora Mora today, or tomorrow, but if you have the right attitude, you can walk away from your adventure feeling like Sasha DiGiulian. It’s all about perspective and when you get it right, you’ll find big victories can come in the smallest packages.
Enjoy the ride.