I was genetically programmed to be an uber-competitive overachiever.
I was bred to focus on the goal, the end result and nothing else.
The programming and genetic modification has yielded tremendous results over the years but it has also caused many days when I laid down on the floor, full of frustration and cursed the gods with “Why I am not there yet?”
Where is there?
Yes, yes, I’ve been told many times that it is not about the destination, it is the journey the counts. You must realize that logic works against every cell of my genetic make-up. I always counter with, “sure, but I like to know where I am going. I really want to get there.”
Out of nowhere one day, I stumble across this phrase, “There is no destination, only the journey.”
Wait. I think I just popped a circuit breaker some where in my mind.
On a recent trek in Colombia, I thought I’d give this new mindset a try. I often lament the fact that I can ever only test these ideas and principals out on my own life, I am my own lab rat.
My friend and I get to Parque Nacionales Iguaque (elevation 2800 meters) much later in the day than we should have (we were delayed by chocolate croissants and coffee). It is a 4.5KM to reach Laguna Iguaque with an elevation gain of 700 meters. The park ranger doesn’t seem to think we will be able to hike to the lake and be back down in time for the last bus. If we are to get to the lake at all, we would need to hike the 4.5KM in less than 2 hours.
I spent a couple of nights in Bogota (elevation 2600m) before we arrive at Iguaque so I don’t think the elevation is much of an issue, yet I am still running out of air pretty consistenly. The incline is steep and muddy. The overachiever in me wants to push really hard, set a quick pace, despite my frequent need for oxygen, and get to the lake in time. There is also the desire in me to impress my trek mate. “Sure, you may have longer legs than me and are training for a marathon, but I can set a pace that will get us to the lake and back in time !”
However, I am not enjoying myself at all. When we set out on this trek today our desire is to do something fun, be active, and get away from the city for a little while. We are in a lovely National Park with no one around us. Deeply embedded in the greenery with the cool air on my skin, all I really want to do is a leisurely hike and not scamper up the side of a mountain to sit by a lake for 5 minutes.
With the new directive of NO DESTINATION in mind, I slowed my pace down to achieve a sustainable heart rate and start to listen and feel.
It is the perfect temperature out for a hike. It is cool but not cold. We are so deep in the forest that it smells green. I can hear the creek that is running to the side of the trail even if I can’t see it. There are giant white clouds in the sky and when I turn around I can see the vast expanse of the valley below and beyond. HMMM…this is really what I wanted. Just to be outside. Just to feel the earth underneath me and inhale the space around me.
Two hours tick by and we are at another sign post that informs us Laugna Iguaque is ahead, except it doesn’t tell us how many more kilometers farther the lake is . The lake can’t be very far away now but we really should turn around and head back so we can catch the bus in time. Having fully eradicated the notion of A DESTINATION for this experiment, I am entirely okay with turning around and not continuing to look for the lake. Just as we start our descent, we see a couple of women hikers on their way to the lake. They have their own car and would be happy to give us a ride back. Oh, this is where the experiment really gets tricky. My friend wants to reach the lake. He is goal driven and actually would be upset if we don’t get there, especially now that there is the promise of a ride back to town. It takes every ounce of strength in me to say, “No, I’m gonna take my time heading down. You go ahead and report back.”
With that, I start my descent and he goes back up with the two women toward the lake.
The fog was rolling in thick and fast and visibility was reduced to 50 meters ahead, at best. The path down blends in with the surrounding hills and I can’t really tell one from another. I sit on a rock for a minute in the middle of the fog and take it all in. I feel the space around me and the new space inside of me. I seem to be still operating and functioning despite consciously acting against my genetic programming. I had fun and fully enjoyed myself, even if I didn’t get to the lake.
I make it back down the trail, lay down on the grass, watch the clouds roll by and wait for my friend.
“How was the lake?”
“We never made it. We couldn’t find it.”
I quietly chuckle to myself and fully savor the irony of how the gods conspired to help me out with this experiment of “no destination.”
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