1. Show up with no expectations
Possibly the most important lesson I learned through a series of let downs. Our imaginations are wildly creative and can paint within us an expectation for perfection whether or not we realize it. We must simply show up and appreciate a destination, a journey, for what it is rather than what we hoped for it to be. Since first testing this mindset on a trip to Guadalupe Mountain National Park, I was surprised to find myself far more fulfilled on this one experience than all of my previous travels combined. I arrived with no hopes for things yet to come and departed deeply content and satisfied.
2. Don’t rely heavily on plans
Our plans should flow readily with the ebb and flow of life. We can’t possibly anticipate how plans will turn out; therefore, wouldn’t it be best to avoid them? We don’t deny it’s important to have loose plans in the case of emergencies, but certainly some spontaneity is lost when we plan out our every second. And for anyone who wonders what they could miss out on if they don’t research and plan to see the best attractions, trails, and restaurants alike – I can only say some of my favorite adventures have been those unplanned. While backpacking Europe, I departed from Italy with plans to explore Switzerland for a week. Only on the third day while in Switzerland, in the middle of hiking a trail, did I decide I wanted to hitchhike back to Italy. My “plans” had been loose from the beginning, and thank goodness, because I might have missed out on the joys of the Italian coast.
3. Sometimes it’s best to throw yourself into independence
Although much of my adventures have been shared in company, some of the sweetest and most memorable are those I experienced solo. My first memory of throwing myself into independence was on a trip in Colorado. I embarked on a 16-mile trek that revealed more than a quiet lake at the end. It was from this independence that I found peace in my own company and the understanding that I was far more capable than I imagined. Though my surroundings were new and unfamiliar, I felt right at home. Since that trip, many more solo expeditions have revealed to me that to grow independent requires confidence in yourself, and that sense of confidence sometimes means going it alone.
4. Not all adventure company is good company
This lesson was a hard pill to swallow, but maybe the most profound. As an introvert at heart, I very much value my own company to begin with, but some moments are best shared with others. At one time, I generalized “good company” to include anyone who was willing to go on the same adventures as me. It took a couple poor experiences to realize that a similar interest does not guarantee quality company, conversation, and experience. I don’t identify anyone as being bad company, but some people make moments far more sweet than others, and that’s okay. Differentiating between good and adequate company has allowed me to understand people on a deeper level and surround myself with those that will only enhance an experience through times good and bad.
5. It is better to be patient than to force a potentially bad time
Early one summer I had my eyes fixed on Colorado. A friend and I stubbornly journeyed 10 hours to Colorado, despite incredibly poor hiking conditions, determined to make the most of this experience. It took us arriving at a park ranger station and being shown the minute number of trails open for this lesson to finally break through my thick skull. Had I really driven all the way to Colorado knowing full well of the avalanches and limited trails, but still trying to convince myself otherwise, to realize it would be better to practice patience? Yep. We spent a whole 3 hours in Colorado before deciding to delay our trip to later in the summer. Our patience was worth it, because not three months later did we head back to Colorado only to have the most remarkable experience we never would have had had we tried to force our plans the first time.
6. Adversity happens for you
This is a lesson I repeat to myself nearly every day. There are two perspectives of adversity: it either happens to you, or for you. We can fall victim to our circumstances, or we can recognize the silver lining and identify the lessons to be learned. There will always be obstacles on the horizon, so wouldn’t it be nice to have the mindset that no matter the obstacle, everything is happening for you. Each adversity is an opportunity for growth. I am a product of that which happens to me, and though I have no control over what adversities lie in my path, I can choose to prevail.