What started out as a bucket list item turned out to be another learning experience on this journey of self-discovery. I thought I was going to hike up a mountain for 4 days and arrive at my goal tired with muscles hurting, but exhilarated at knowing that I had “done it!” This was my plan. Alas, as many of you know, even the best laid plan has a way of changing course on you.
Lesson Learned: Preparation is the best tool when trying to accomplish any goal, but despite the amount of preparation and training you do sometimes your plan, or plans, will change.
It will be difficult, but there comes a time when you realize Plan A is not working, so it is better to move on to Plan B. On my hike up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru, altitude sickness got the better of me and my carefully made plans were slowly falling away. Here, in a nutshell, is what happened.
The first day and a half of climbing was fine. We moved at a steady pace up the first section past Piskakucho and when we reached camp at Wayllabamba some 2980 meters above sea level the altitude was almost bearable. I say almost, because when I arrived at the camp I immediately proceeded to vomit up everything I had eaten that day. When nothing else would come up I stood up straight only to find my head spinning like a whirlpool. I did not realize it yet, but I was experiencing my first bout of altitude sickness. I felt that after I had some hot tea and a good night’s sleep all that would be over.
Lesson Learned: Always be Prepared for Any Outcome
I woke up the next morning feeling less than 40%, but decided that I would be alright. A cup of tea, some quinoa porridge, and I could press on. My stomach was still queasy. My eyes were bloodshot, but I was okay. I was ready to take whatever day two had to give me. Big mistake!
Things did go well, for a while that is. I did move at a slower pace than most. The hike got steeper and my breathing became more labored, still on I went. My lungs felt as if it was trying to break free of my chest. My heart was racing fast and furious. The thud, thudding grew louder in my ears with each agonizing step that I took. All I kept asking myself was, “What is going on?” “Why do I feel this way?”
Lesson Learned: Regardless of how many people are in the group or on the team, you are still responsible for your own actions.
Our guide, Vlad, hung back with me. Patiently, he coaxed and cajoled, trying to make me feel good. Nevertheless, I could see in his face that he knew I was struggling. His years of taking groups up and down the Inca Trail allowed him to assess the situation very quickly. The altitude was taking its toll on me and I would not be able to tackle the next leg of the journey. It was far too steep and the air would get much thinner.
Lesson Learned: There is more than one way to accomplish any endeavor you aspire to attain. Your real challenge is to be flexible and open to what might happen along the way.
It was an agonizing time but I had to make a choice. I could continue on, moving slower and in more pain, or I could turn around, somewhat defeated, and go back down. The hike down would also be slow and painful, but the pain would be to my ego, not my heart and lungs.
I sat down on a big stone and suddenly the tears began to pour. Tears for the pain I felt in my chest and the fact that I was finding it so hard to breathe. Tears of grief because I knew I had to make a decision there and then whether to labor on or turn back. Tears of relief because I knew that once the choice was made it would be the right choice.
Lesson Learned: You do not have any idea how small and insignificant you are in this great big world until you stand facing a mountain or are surrounded by a range of mountains.
As I walked down the mountain with just the guide and porter accompanying me, I had a deeper revelation of what my purpose in life is. The journey was not about succeeding. Instead it was a journey of inspiration, motivation and exchange. I was able to spend time with people I had never met before who touched my life in such a special way. I was allowed to hear some of the dreams, desires and aspirations of several of them, as well as get to know them on a more personal level. All because half way up the mountain my plans changed.
Lesson Learned: Fear stems through everything that we do.
If we allow unrealistic fear to remain long after the perceived danger has passed, then we are allowing something that was only a short-term challenge stop us from moving forward in our lives.
Lesson Learned: It’s not about me, it’s about you.
My purpose is to give practical help to people who want to overcome the unrealistic fear or fears that stop them from accomplishing the goals and dreams that will lead to a successful future. If you are one of those people who want to Kick Fear Now, then you’ve arrived at the right place.