“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
Ever since I was little, I had always said I wanted to move out west. It was something I could never explain or had a specific reason for. And of course, I had to know the reason why. But ironically, the reason I could not place it was probably because it is something that cannot be defined.
In the natural beauty of the west, you will rarely find the right words to justify what you are seeing. It represents a collection of majestic landscapes with millions of viewpoints, natural beauty, and enough unique exploration to satisfy an entire life.
It represents a search for something greater and when you fully submerge yourself in the wanderlust of it, you come away with so much more.
Up to this point in my life, it has always been a dream. Some day.
Then Michelle and I took a trip to AZ. While there, we came to the realization that we would love to live there and if we were ever going to move, now would be the time. About six weeks later, I went back on a solo trip for a job interview. A week after that, I was offered a position and our move was in the works.
On my solo trip, I finally realized the importance of why I need to be somewhere other than Iowa. And more importantly, that ‘somewhere’ is different for everyone and is worth pursuing.
For me, there is nothing like a hike in the great outdoors. In it, you discover a lot about yourself and free your mind from all of the responsibilities in life. You give yourself a chance to reflect on the deeper meanings of life as you take in the beauty that exists all around you.
The vast landscape stimulates your mind into thought patterns you would never have had elsewhere.
What is that for you?
Adulting comes with the constant planning and scheming for how to best make ends meet while at the same time still finding enjoyment in life. As many of us know, a busy mind can be hard to shut off.
Maybe meditation isn’t your jam. Nor is playing guitar. I do enjoy meditation, and guitar is a great stress reliever for me. However, the best meditation for me is moving meditation. And when I remove myself from the day-to-day routines (that I love), I unlock parts of my mind that have been hidden.
That’s probably the closest I can come to explaining my West fetish.
The hike of life
Naturally, I always like to assign a deeper meaning to things. And I thought this one was a decent analogy so I’ll run with it.
During a hike, instead of focusing on what it is you have to do, you just do. The subtle focus on each step placed on uneven terrain is just enough of a challenge to get out of my head. At the same time, allowing opportunities to constantly look around in awe at the landscapes that surround you.
Each step symbolizes how far you have gone and how far you have to go. And each step puts you closer to that vantage point you see off in the distance. Which is often part of the reason for the hike.
That vantage point is symbolic in itself. Once you get there, the views will be incredible!
At the top, there exists a brief moment of triumph as you take a break and relax. A feeling that lasts as long as you let it. You sit in joy and laughter at the top and close your eyes for a moment. You smile and take in the sun as a euphoric feeling goes through your body. The wind blows slightly as you get a chill from the fresh air of nature. When you open your eyes, you find that where you’re at has opened up more opportunities to continue.
The spot you stand in is no longer the destination of your hike.
You now can see further as your eyes follow the trail up to the next vantage point. Seeing the path is all you need to be driven towards the next vantage point hoping it will live up to the expectation in your head.
Such is life.
A step in the right direction
Like a hike, the vision becomes clearer as we take action towards that first vantage point. No matter where and when we find what we are looking for, the only way to find it is by taking action. To continue on that trail and allow yourself to discover more opportunities because you make the best of the ones you are given.
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – JFK
Taking action is the only way to bypass the dreadful “thens” that eat away at people. Once we have this, then we’ll be happy. Once I have enough money, then I’ll do this. When we’re older, then we are going to take more trips. How about the what ifs, too?
The constant search for great experiences is a similarity we all share and it’s something that gets put on hold far too often.
Through gratitude, I try to put myself closer to inner peace. When we are grateful, there is no room for hatred, envy, or annoyance. During the busyness, if we are not careful to acknowledge the beauty of life around us, we miss out on true fulfillment. We must reflect and appreciate the simple things. And not always try to have an answer for everything (guilty).
And that is what hiking is for me. That is one of my definitions of ‘the west’.
John Muir once said, “in every walk of nature, one receives more than he seeks.” This quote really resonated with me. Not only is it true for me, but I often have no idea what I am seeking.
No matter what that ‘west’ is to you, that desire will never subside. And despite what the future holds this move represents my commitment to taking steps toward one of my biggest fears in life. The unknown.
I finally get to experience what I have dreamed of since I was a wee lad. And the only way to continue to be in that place is to take action towards that next vantage point.
Then, you go back.