“It’s easy. You can’t lose yourself,” said the owner of the hostel I was staying at. I smiled and said “Gracias” knowing that I would do exactly that. I had asked him where the river was. Supposedly it’s only 10 minutes away.
I had decided to go away alone for the weekend over my birthday. I chose to go to Minca, Colombia as a friend told me it was really relaxed and chilled. When I arrived at my beautiful hostel, I discovered there were enough walking trails to keep me busy the whole weekend. Excellent! Walking is not something I do much of on a sailboat.
I often feel lost around my birthday. I’ve spent many birthdays analysing why this is. I partly contribute it to the lovely bully I had throughout primary school. It was her favourite time of the year to taunt me. My Mom sent out the birthday invitations and she happily used that as a way to control me or tease me. “You know, everyone is going to your party because of me. If I tell them not to go, they won’t.” This torture lasted weeks.
The day of my party, I would anxiously await and if no one had arrived three minutes past, the disappointment and panic set in. Luckily, the people that said they were coming always did.
I am well aware of the power that childhood experiences have on people. However, my beliefs suggest that life is most simple when I leave things in the past, so why do I keep letting it bother me every year? Whether I show it to other people or not, I always shed tears around the week of my birthday and dread the actual day.
So while I was trying to find the river, you know, the river that is a ten minute walk from the hostel, yet I had been walking for thirty… You can’t lose yourself he said…, I thought, how can I stop this pattern? One reason I went away was because I was convinced Captain Cool would forget my birthday and I would be upset with nobody. It’s easier just to be with nobody, right? Last year he didn’t forget and gave me a very nice celebration. Obviously I was still carrying the bully on my back.
Guess what? I’ve carried her on my back on and off for many years. I’m tired of it. So I set upon this walk alone determined to throw her off the mountain and rid her for good. I want to claim my birthday back! I had a good discussion with myself. That saying, “You come into this world alone and die alone,” came into my head so I thought I was doing exactly what I should on my “special day.” Then I realised actually that saying doesn’t make sense to me. My Mom was with me when I was born and maybe I’ll die alone, but if I’m ill, I would like to think someone will be holding my hand in those last moments.
Then I came to another Y in the trail and started to get a little frustrated because I had little water, it was hot and after 45 minutes, still no sign of the river. Then I realised I had no plans, no one was waiting for me and the view was absolutely stunning. I’m in the Sierra Nevada, why be frustrated?!? I knew I should’ve brought more water as I am an expert at getting lost, so I could only blame myself for being ill prepared.
As I took the path to the left, I smiled about how I am more often than not, geographically lost. This is how I get to know cities so well and find little unknown pockets. I often entertain my friends acting like I have a clue and then later confessing I’ve had no idea where we’ve been for the last 20 minutes, but hasn’t it been fun? Varied responses to that question…
Then I realised like now around my birthday, I often feel lost non-geographically as well. I love to make metaphors of life and nature. I realised that more often than not, I take the “wrong” path or walk straight without noticing there are other options, or even jump across a blind pass not knowing what is on the other side. Guess what? I always have an adventure. Sure there are times I am scared, lonely, sad, confused, even angry. That’s called being a human being. The point is, I can look back at my life and think, “Shit!! I did that? That was super fun, or I won’t be trying that again.” It doesn’t matter. They have all been adventures and have taught me what it means to truly live.
After an hour, I had long given up on finding the refreshing water and just enjoyed the path I was on. I saw a man on his horse dragging a long tube, I saw another guy on his motorbike on a path I was a bit nervous of walking on, much less riding on. I enjoyed the birds, the coloured lizards and the noise of the insects. Then I came to a barbwire fence with no through gate. I was slightly disheartened until I thought, sometimes life gives us these dead ends and there’s a reason.
So I turned around and then took another path, not expecting to find the river, just enjoying the sights of that path. It got a little treacherous, so I turned around and thought how it can sometimes be easier or more difficult to go back on a path I’ve already been on in life. Easier if I gained strength from it or it was a pleasant event, more difficult if I let it get me down or am still carrying hurt.
I then played back the conversation I had with Juan. He talked about a tree on the right and a path to the left. I obviously didn’t listen carefully enough and took the path that didn’t lead to the river. On the way back, I ran into another man on his motorbike, so I asked him where the river was and he said it was to the right. Oops, I hadn’t listened carefully enough!
I took the path and found the river. I took my shoes off and waded to a rock where I sat listening to the rapids. I reflected on this journey and my life journey and how it’s all just ok. It’s ok to be lost, it’s ok to try different paths, it’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to come across those dead ends, it’s ok to try many paths. The most important part is to enjoy the journey because so many unknown obstacles and opportunities occur which can change the path. The one thing I will not change is the peace I have within.
As I laid on that rock, I could feel my bully slipping away from my shoulders. I released her into the cool water and have sent her on her way never to return. I wish her no harm on her way as I don’t know her life journey. I simply feel grateful to have less weight on mine.
The next day, I took a longer hike and indeed got lost, various times. Luckily the Colombian farmers were most interested in my welfare and helped me find the way back, various times. Seven hours later, I was back where I started, but from a totally different route. It was a beautiful journey as you can tell from the photos.
As was the case last weekend in the mountains, I am feeling a bit lost on the path I’m on now, but there is a lot of beauty in my life. As I did this weekend, I will just enjoy my current journey until the path ahead of me gives me different options. No doubt options that will give me new adventures. I shall await and keep walking with that smile on my face breathing in the gifts life is offering me today.