There’s no doubt that physical activity and fitness stimulate the brain and improve our wellbeing on many levels. Life for me is always about finding a new challenge, something to sink my teeth into and push myself beyond the limits of my comfort. Generally I enjoy the things I’m good at, usually because I can do them comfortably, and because I don’t have to invest time or effort into learning new skills. But the greatest satisfaction always seems to come from pushing my boundaries, and putting my skills to the test by trying new things.
There’s definitely a reason I chose to try my hand at retail in an outdoor adventure store, because it represents the kind of activities I want to be doing myself. The part of my brain who carefully plans the direction of my life knew exactly where this path was leading, while the flippant, reactive, ‘everything has to be rosy all the time’ part, freaked out the moment monotony crept onto the scene. But over the last two weeks I took on the well-guided advice from my followers that happen to know exactly what is good for me. Get out and hike they said; which is exactly what I did. I dusted the cobwebs from my pack, filled it with gear, and walked with a friend to Garibaldi Lake 9km off the beaten track to one of the most stunning settings in the world. That was step one. My next challenge was to push my boundaries, which can be difficult having superseded my own standards by hiking the PCT right off the bat. But life ain’t all about long distance hiking, and I can tell you there’s much enjoyment to be found in shorter multi day excursions, overnight trips and day hiking.
A lovely young woman came into the store today and approached me to admit she was having a star struck moment because she follows my blog and has watched all of my videos (which is how she recognised my voice in the first place). I was left flattered and speechless, with that vague celebrity sensation I experienced when visiting the school children at Leona Valley, Del Sur and Anaverde Hills School in Southern California, post PCT hike. Of course I blushed exponentially with embarrassment and laughed throughout the entire experience, but what she said before she left stuck with me the entire day. She told me, “You’re so inspiring.”
This is a much easier statement to accept when you’re walking 2,650 miles across the length of the United States. But she didn’t say, ‘you were inspiring’, or ‘that hike you did two years ago was pretty cool’. She said ‘you’re inspiring’, and it definitely shifted my thinking. If I had to write down just one goal I hope to achieve in life, to be filed away in some universal volt alongside my hopes, dreams, and darkest secrets; it would be to inspire another human being. My goal used to be to impress my parents, because I often gauged my success on how proud they were of what I was doing. But although I still strive for my parent’s pride in the things I do, I now have to work even harder to impress myself.
Because of that interaction today, I’ve chosen to open up my world again to share my most recent experience, which I’m proud to say did push my boundaries in many ways. I’ve begun taking advantage of the field courses, discounted club memberships and the storeroom full of gear I’m able to rent at work, and have dived head first into the sport of kayaking, both on whitewater and on the sea. I made the short montage below of my first whitewater experience to share with the team I paddled with, but hopefully it will have the added benefit of inspiring the rest of you!
I believe the hardest part of starting or exploring a new hobby is finding a way into it, and the only way I’ve figured out how to do this is to surround myself with people who practise that activity. The doing part seems easier than figuring out how to get there. Like before I began the PCT, I remember my greatest concern was simply how to get to the trail. Once I was there, I knew all I had to do was hike, and once Don and Donna relieved me of that anxiety, it was up to me to continue walking.
Fortunately I’m surrounded by people who mountain bike, climb, kayak, hike, canoe, surf, swim, camp, and have a passion for the outdoors, every single day. It’s taken me a while to find my groove; but now that the doors are opening, it’s up to me to pick the ones I want to walk through.