I have just returned from a 4 day/3 night trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Pecchu in Peru. Some may think this would be a dream vacation, adventurers may have had this on their bucket list for ages, beach holidayers would think we were crazy to take a vacay that would seem to take energy rather than replenish it.
Many times during this physically and mentally exhausting trip I asked myself what the heck I was doing and wondered how I even got there in the first place. A simple yes from me to a friend’s request to celebrate her 50th birthday and a wonderful yes from my adventurous daughter to join us would lead to an unforgettable trip. The fact that all of our luggage was lost only to be returned the day before we went home was a poor start. It caused us to have to power shop in one day in a foreign city to replace things we had painstakingly shopped for in the months of planning for the trip. So much for breaking in those hiking boots! But that was nothing compared to what lay ahead.
I won’t write a book here but suffice it to say calling this a ‘trail’ is a huge understatement – if you ask me I would call it a version of Mountain Climbing. In four days we tackled over 26 miles and nary a mile of it was flat. We climbed up steep rocky steps and pounded down uneven Inca-built stairs over the Andes’ Mountain range, in sweltering heat, pelting hail, wind and rain. All that with what seemed like an elastic band cutting off most of the flow to our lungs 10, 000 plus feet up.
Without a doubt this was the hardest physical challenge my body has ever endured (and there have been a few!) and quite possibly the hardest mental challenge as well and imagine for this experience we actually paid our hard earned money!
We were not alone, our group of 12 from all corners of the world were guided with experts and helped with porters and we even had a chef preparing us 4 course meals at the end of each painful day, if you can believe that. We did not rough it in the meal department that’s for sure!
On the trek itself though, with everyone going at their own pace, we were mostly alone – seeing no-one in front of me or no one behind me for long spaces of time. Pain, cold, fright, exhaustion, depletion, sadness, regret and even anger were just a few of the emotions that fought to overpower the awe, breathtaking beauty, inspiration, privilege and sacredness of the time and space that we were occupying.
When you thought you could not go another inch, literally you think your body cannot move – you have no choice but to keep going forward as there is no other way out. If we die, the porters will carry out our bodies we are told, how comforting. 🙁
The unforgiving Inca Trail did supply a wonderful analogy to life though.
Whether it’s a physical, emotional or intellectual challenge, whether it’s a death of a loved one, an unreciprocated adoration, a career loss or anything that leaves you fearing paralyzed, stuck or unable to move – when we think we are done – we are not done!
We dig deeper, we move – even if it’s not even a full step, just a half step closer to getting where we need to be. Even if we stop to catch our breath, stop to motivate ourselves with our inside voice, even if it would appear to the outside world we are not moving we are because we are gathering our resources to forge ahead. And we step however slowly, however cautiously, slightly forward – away from where we were and closer to where we need to be.
Though ‘it’ (whatever your ‘it’ is) seems like it’s going to go on forever, that it will never be over, that you will be stuck forever – hours, days, weeks, months later you look up and ‘suddenly’ you are out. You see a vista you could have never imagined, you find resources within you that you didn’t know you possessed, you look back and you think wow – ‘I did that??’
Aside from bonding with my daughter and my friend, aside from the history education I received about the amazing Inca’s, aside from seeing some of the most beautiful country in the entire world, aside from pushing my body and mind to limits it has never seen before – I realized the privilege I have to be able to create experiences that allow me the opportunity to stretch and grow and explore.
Do I recommend the Inca Trail to Machu Pecchu? Maybe – but know that it is far less about going to Machu Pecchu than it is about getting to Machu Pecchu. Just like life – it’s not about getting through it, it’s about getting to it. It’s about living the not just the length of it, but the breadth as well.
As usual, I welcome your thoughts!
Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success, an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, and the recipient of the 2014 Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur Award for Contributions to Community. Stephanie empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home. You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at http://www.YourLifeUnlimited.ca.
* Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013.