little sarah Big World

Tag: hiking

More to Come

“Do not burn yourself out. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there.

Rooted & Free

So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks.

Chaddo in the Wild

Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space.

Irridescent Fun Guys

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.

Japan Anew

I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards.”

Edward Abbey

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A Breath of Fresh Air

Chad and Sarah = Jack and Rose

Sometimes I can’t go straight from things being broken to things being fixed, because I need to make a rest-stop in a place where things are okay. Like a waiting period between identifying the problem and tackling it.

I remember a camping trip, age 19, summer after freshman year of college. I had taken ecstasy for the first time (heavily cut with speed) and spent a wild night talking and emoting at full blast with my best-friend and roommate in the front seats of my boyfriend’s parent’s Subaru. Despite what I’d heard about gnarly emotional come-downs, the next morning I mostly felt tired and newly opened, or pleasantly vulnerable. I got dropped off back at my Mom’s place, where my older sisters were bustling about, cooking and gossiping with Mom, taking care of baby Bashy. The air seemed abuzz with a sort of hectic femininity, with childcare and recipes and house work and strong female bonds. I felt so susceptible to all that womanly grace, and also very overwhelmed.

Because…how could I ever express to my mother and sisters what they meant to me, and how much I admired and needed them? How could I gracefully make the transition from sullen, solitary teenage angst to warm, giving, jovial womanhood? Most importantly, how could I share this new-found love and appreciation without revealing the fact that I’d taken illegal, mind-altering substances the night before?

Ha! Then I remembered I didn’t have to do it all at once. That I didn’t need to make any grand proclamations or sudden life-altering turns to affect the change I wished to see in my life. I could do it little by little. I could start by just being there, spending quality time with my beloved female family. So I sat down on the bed where Natalie was changing Bashie’s diaper, and we talked.

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This Happened:

A hike happened, with 9 different ladies and only 1 common-denominator friend, thrown loosely together, after work on a Tuesday.

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What I’ve Learned in My Travels

~OR~

Special is as Special Does

So we hiked Macchu Pichu. Yes, we did that. The stuff dreams are made of.

But not my dreams. I mean, sure, it’s a bucket-list-worthy, life-changing event that many people spend years saving up and planning for. I’m just not one of those people. I’ve got a bucket list, of course, but this was never on it. Running a marathon? On the list. Writing a book? Also on the list. Climbing one of the New 7 Wonders of the World? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong–it was cool. It was pretty cool to see this place that so few (or so many?) people will see in their lifetimes. And I much appreciated and enjoyed some time away from B & J on a long, solo hike. It reminded me of riding my bike last summer in France–lots of time to think and just be alone.

But was it worth it? That’s the question, Friends, and I don’t know that I can honestly answer yes. Eric Friend asays our generation has this fascination with travel, valuing it above most other experiences. When we think of vacation, we picture working really hard for a long time to save up. Then you go away somewhere, spend it all, and start over.

And I’ve done that, Friends. Many times, always precipitated by the worry that I’m making the right choice (adventure over stability) and followed the stress of being back at square one, financially and emotionally.

Sometimes it is worth it. France last summer was absolutely worth it–I gained insight, patience, self-love, and of course language skills. And when I did a similar program (a month-long study abroad) in Spain, that was undeniably life changing–I gained confidence, perspective, a life-long friend, and I was finally able to leave a 5 1/2 year, passionless relationship.

Because I was just in one spot for these “vacations,” getting to know a place and its people deeply, rather than just skimming the surface, skipping from town to town every other day, like in South America.

The year I lived in Spain, my happiest months were November, April and May–the three months where I didn’t leave Madrid. Even last year, the year of many travels, I felt scattered, untethered. After I came home from visiting Kevin in Spain in January, I stayed put for (what seemed like) a record 4 months. And I was happier than I’ve been in a long, long time.

So I can’t say that it’s worth it. The stress, anxiety, financial burden and absence do not, for me, justify being able to say “I climbed Macchu Pichu. Yes, I did that.”

*       *       *

You can’t tell me that’s any more special than backyard parties with my family, or playing music with Eric, or going to Mad Men with the Stephanies. You can’t convince me that this whirlwind lifestyle is providing me with growth and experience that I would never get in a small city. You can’t tell me that the hustle and bustle beat sleeping in on Sunday mornings, or reading in my own bed, in my own apartment, on a rainy afternoon. You can’t make me believe that the people I’ve met in my travels are any more special or unique or amazing than the people I leave back home.

Because if I have learned one thing, it is that people are special, and unique, and amazing everywhere. People are also boring, and selfish, and horrible everywhere. And when you’re traveling you have to listen to tales of them drunkenly squandering their parents’ money on their 3- or 6- or 12-month adventures.

Not to give travel, or travelers, a bad name. It’s just that it’s so much easier to make connections and get at a deeper meaning when you allow yourself to stand still in one place, to put down roots.

So, yes, I stood on top of Macchu Pichu. Then I lost my friends, wandered around, waited in the sun surrounded by a teeming mass of tourists, walked back to town shaking with exhaustion and hunger, paid too much for shitty Chinese food, disputed with the waiter over whether or not my money was counterfeit, found my “friends,” went to some hot springs, made small talk with strangers, changed, dicked around in an internet cafe, paid too much for shitty burritos, had to run through town to catch my train, chatted with a naive, impressionable young Brit, then stumbled through Cuzco in the dark to find a hostel, where I slept poorly due to the constant flow of young travelers.

Today, on the other hand, I slept in til 9, ate cereal while checking my favorite blogs, went for a run, made a smoothie, tidied up the house, worked from 2-6 at the library, saw Contagion for free with friends, walked through the warm and windy evening, talked in a parked car, came home, enjoyed a delicious home-made burrito, blogged, and now I’m going to read my book.

This isn’t perfect, it isn’t forever, but it’s a pretty good fit. For me, for now.

I know that there is something more than this, that I have not yet found my place, but I no longer believe I can find it by wandering. My Special can not be found in hostels, or on 8-hour bus rides, or even on top of mountains.

Maybe, just maybe…my Special must be made.

Amantaní Island

After visiting Uros, we arrived on Amantaní, where we would be spending the night with host families. It was a peaceful farming land, divided into different communities, each of about 1,000 families. Ours was Occosuyo.

Everyone on Amantaní grows their own food, for the most part, so there are fields and sheep and cattle everywhere, and everything is drenched in sun and long, quiet hours as people go about their business, stopping to say hello. Occasionally a man will ride by with a little radio tied to his donkey, but even that had its charm.

Though peaceful, this stay was not restful. We were allowed a few hours to decompress and eat lunch, but then it was time to hike to the top.

…which I wouldn’t have minded except (have we forgotten?)…I was sick! So sick! With some sort of respiratory infection, and we were at a higher altitude  (12,507 ft/3,812 m) than even Salt Lake (4,226 ft/1,288 m), and climbing! I honestly thought my lungs might collapse; they kept doing this strange shivering tremble, and my heart rate would suddenly spike. I suppose it was all worth it for the view. And the delicious, warm, Peruvian beer I enjoyed at the top.

There were men, women and children trying to sell us hats they’d knit, chocolate bars and beer all along the hike. Just in case you thought we’d escaped the tourist trap aspect of the trip, we hadn’t.

Later, after dinner, we had to hike up again (though not as far, yet my lungs still spasmed) to go to a “customary” dance night, dressed in the traditional clothing of our host families. I suppose it was supposed to be fun, but again, I was just kind of bummed out. They put on these cultural experience nights nearly every night–not the same families every night, but it’s the same community and center–basically “on demand” for the tourists to have an authentic experience, yet it didn’t feel authentic to me. It felt more like a hollow shadow of what once was, reanimated in order to make ends meet. They can’t be happy doing this, right? Right?

I never quite found the answer to that question.

And then it was time to go.