Literally a thousand miles and seemingly a lifetime ago.. I set to climbing the mountains and swimming the rivers of my life.. I took that initial step along an epic path and began the first day of the rest of my life! Now as I sit back comfortably in my ‘First Class Suite’ aboard an Emirates flight bound for ‘the future’.. I am able to reflect on the impact of my recent hike.. a 156 day.. 4277 kilometer odyssey that has undoubtedly changed my life!
I readily admit that if I had known at the start what I now know.. if I had foreseen the challenges and dangers into which I was naively plunging as I set out to cross the magnificent but unforgiving Sierra in this.. the highest snow year since 1969 requiring mountaineering and type specific skills I did not yet possess.. I would never have started! I might instead have chosen a ‘normal’ year.. one in which the snows dissipate.. recede and finally clear by mid June.. but ultimately.. this exceptional year was to be ‘my’ year?!
Over and above the many physical changes.. the loss of almost 20 kilograms (44 pounds).. the growth of hair and beard.. the increased size from 9 to 11.5 of my feet.. countless blisters and the resulting calluses.. the cuts.. scratches and bruises.. the dried.. cracked and broken lips and skin.. a broken tooth.. rashes and bites of both plant and insect and the sprains and strains.. there were also the profound mental and psychological changes within?! I certainly had a world of time in which to think!
What started as an egotistical goal.. and the basking in accolades of accomplishment.. had within weeks.. all changed irrevocably in the face of the challenge I had set myself.. and were replaced instead by an immensely humbling respect for the forces at work within our world.. equanimity and fortitude had replaced pain and ineptitude.. strength and courage replaced weakness! I was forced to face the unimaginable power.. diversity and beauty of our natural world in all its forms and I was humbled!
This fast paced world in which we survive and the stresses under which we live are of our own creation.. it is an unfortunate and unnecessary product of our existence.. Why we covet the material and idolize the seemingly impossible is a result of a culmination of both advertising and media in all its forms. The paths of our lives have been to a greater or lesser extent.. depending on where and how we live.. dictated from birth.. and we have become prisoners within a system of our own design!
Taking ‘time out’ to survive.. devoid of the comforts and luxuries so abundant in a materialistic world built on compulsive obsession.. has taught me just how little in fact we need.. just how little on which we are able to exist.. and how.. when this material is stripped away.. torn from around us.. we are forced to acknowledge and instead live our ‘natural’ lives.. serene and at peace within nature’s embrace!
Why then have I.. or must I return to this world of reckless materialism rather than embrace natures divinity?! Precisely because through design.. I have become a product of our modern existence.. I too am an addict and I too am addicted to the comforts and luxuries around which we live! Once we have tasted the fruit of success.. it is a rare individual.. few and far between that will revoke the privilege bestowed upon them and irreversibly return to the rawness of nature!
I have been extremely fortunate in life.. I love my life and I love the fact that I am able to enjoy the adventure of travel.. surrounding myself with diverse peoples and their cultures.. Yet when the time or need arises.. I am able to rest in the comfort of ‘home’.. and all without becoming a burden on the society of my creation! We are all of us.. imperfect people living within an imperfect world.. but the role we have to play will determine the legacy we leave behind!
Live life to the full.. as none of us know which day will be our last? I may wish to live another hundred years.. but I will happily accept whatever I am given! Life is a gift and not a right.. so celebrate the passing of the ages!
I will at the end of the day.. live the adventure of today.. and look forward to adventures yet to come!