Because I am writing this post for WanderBeyondHer, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that everyone reading this likes to go on adventures and explore. We’ve made lists of scenic travel destinations and spent our hard-earned savings on gear, gas, and plane tickets to make it to these places. However, during this process, we often become so transfixed by the goal of “getting there” that we push aside the most important adventure of all.
Last summer, I was at a turning point in my life. For the first time, I knew what my values were, and who I wanted to be. For the first time, I could see a future for myself that wasn’t dependent on someone else. All of this sounds great, but the reality was that I was having a lot of trouble actually being that person. It was far easier and a lot more comfortable to simply fall back into old habits. So, really nothing had changed.
I decided that the solution was to get somewhere. I left for the Adirondacks convinced that a trek up Mt. Marcy was the solution. I was going to summit this peak, alone, and when I got down, I would finally be ready to let go of all my uncertainty, to step into the unknown, to be myself and live the life I’ve always imagined.
Getting there can often seem like a panacea for any uncertainty we have within us. It gives us something tangible—something external— to put all our focus on. It’s easier to plan than to actually become. In my case, I believed the mountain would change me. All I had to do was get to the summit.
But it never works.
I did make it to the summit, and of course I was excited (Marcy is beautiful), but I still felt the same on the inside. Sure, I could cross another peak off my list, but this external accomplishment didn’t help me feel any more complete. When I got home, I kept making the same mistakes: drinking too much, eating food that was terrible for me, pining over my ex, dating people I had no reason being with…you name it, I was probably doing it.
The truth is that we have to get somewhere within ourselves.
This is the adventure of a lifetime—the most important adventure of them all. It’s a little ironic that to embark on our greatest, most courageous adventure, we don’t have to plan—we don’t even have to step outside our front door. We do have to take many, many steps deep into ourselves. We have to explore our triggers, our fears, our patterns, and also, our moments of happiness and joy.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t keep adventuring and exploring the world outside. In fact, it gives us even more of a reason to continue traveling. When you travel for the journey, not the destination, everything changes.
Two days ago, I attempted a winter solo summit of Mt. Marcy. Needless to say, I did not make it to the top—in fact I got stranded near the top for 6 hours. I was pretty scared, totally alone, and hours away from civilization. Things did not go according to plan. I feel really weird and a bit crazy saying this, but that hike and this trip in general has been the best vacation of my entire life. I’ve learned so much, enjoyed myself, and found the best in everything and everyone, which is not something I would’ve been able to do even 2 months ago.
This is largely because it is not the external world that colors our experiences, but our internal world that colors our perception of the outside. So, keep wandering, always. Travel to the ends of the earth if you want, but never forget to explore yourself. It’ll make all your other adventures better beyond your wildest expectations.
Rachel Betts is a writer and adventurer.
As much as she loves mountaineering, running, and skiing, she also loves cozying up with a warm chocolate chip cookie and reading next to her much-loved bunny, Olive.
Rachel resides in Rochester, NY and works as an English professor.