Last year I had the good fortune of traveling to South America to climb 3 mountains as part of an international group of women. We were all strangers when we arrived in Cusco Peru but we departed as friends. I learned a lot from that experience. I learned about others and I learned about myself. It has taken me several months to digest it all and to incorporate lessons learned. As a team we faced conflict, illness, fatigue, discomfort, joy, ego, pride, bites over 98 percent of our bodies but hopefully we all came home knowing our strength and with an experience we will never forget. When I was chosen by Peaks Foundation, a charitable organization providing funds to women and girls, to my surprise I was nervous and began to question my own capabilities. I wondered if I was strong enough and if I had the strength to keep up. I thought of the other women and just how we would form a team and how we would all get along.
Whenever one travels with a group there is bound to be personality differences, some good and some not so good. We learn and figure out where we fit in the scheme of it all. We learn to stay out of dramas that will not matter in the long run. For those of us that are fortunate, we learn to listen to our own bodies and our limitations. In the mountains of Peru, I learned the value of getting on a horse when exhaustion and altitude threatened to derail my every step. I learned ego is not a friend when trying to summit a mountain. That day I gained strength as I closed my eyes and held on tight to the sturdy horse that would give me some reprieve. I observed the team as divisions and ego made us angry as we headed towards our tallest peak with guides that failed us terribly in the safety department. We were splintered as a team when some of us refused to summit due to safety and others went ahead. Someone could have died that day. We had failed to make a decision that was beneficial and safe for us all. Fortunately, we found our way through the madness of ego to the other side and all remained in one piece.
Since I have been back, I have been changed. I am not the same person that left. I know that getting to the top is not my ultimate goal. It is the journey and the enjoyment along the way. It is about taking it slow, breathing in, looking around and getting to know one’s self and just what we are capable of. As I tread into the mountains on these early mornings, I do not race and I do not speed. I take my time. I watch the steps and the breath. There is nothing in this life that I have to race towards. There is no one that I need to compete against. It is the voice inside of me that I hear as I take those steps. I no longer beat myself when the alarm rings at 700 am and I roll back over for a little more sleep.