3 Lessons Volcan San Pedro Taught Me

I recently got back from one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken. I knew Guatemala would be beautiful and energizing but I underestimated just how much I would fall in love with it. Staying on Lake Atitlan, I was in a constant state of awe of not just the lake but the mountains and volcanoes all around me. Words cannot even begin to do justice to the pure beauty of it all. One of the other women on the same retreat as me, Sara, has a bucket list that includes hiking a volcano. If there ever was to be the perfect opportunity to do so, it was there, on Volcan San Pedro. She invited me to join her, and after much agonizing over whether I should, I decided to go for it. Sara has a contagious positive quality about her, and so between that, the universe nudging me to go, the magic of the portal and every other sign I was receiving, I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed. (More about the portal and the magic of the lake to come in a later blog).

I consider myself to be respectfully strong and in shape but I am by no means an experienced hiker.  I had no delusions that hiking 10,000 feet up (and of course back down) San Pedro would be easy.  It was a slow spiral trail that went up, up, up, up and up some more, with virtually no flat spots (which meant we had to create our own places to stop, rest and catch our breath). When we hiked down, about 10 minutes in, it began to rain. I am talking torrential downpour for the entire way down.

On a good day, the hike down would have been challenging enough, but when you add rain to the mix, it makes for an extremely steep descend of trekking through mud, slush and newly formed streams of water and over the most slippery rocks and terrain imaginable. Sara and I each nearly wiped out on our butts at least 12 times each. I am amazed that we managed to steady ourselves and stay safe every time. Miraculously our guide, David, only slipped once. Show-off!

The best way I can describe the experience is that I hated practically every minute of the hike. My muscles were sore, my body was fatigued and my brain just would not accept that no matter how many hours I hiked, I still had hours more to go. Yet, once I finished the hike, I realized how much I absolutely loved the experience for so many reasons. That day and that beloved volcano taught me so much.

  1. Being on such a massive natural piece of this earth for an entire day is simply humbling. It made me realize that there are so many things in this world bigger than I am. Than we are. In a world where we get so caught up in our routines and the same surroundings, it is easy to forget that we are really just little peons in the bigger scheme of things (important peons I should add but peons nonetheless). Enjoying the simplicity of just being part of a bigger universe is beautiful in and of itself.

 

  1. Not every choice in life is going to be pleasant. It won’t always be things like do I go to the pool or the beach today? Do I buy a Lexus or BMW? Do I want to vacation in Europe or Asia?  These are all what I liked to refer to as #highclassproblems. There are times, unlike those, where we have two pretty shitty options in front of us and we have to pick the one that may suck just slightly less.When it started to rain on the hike, David had us go under some trees to take cover. After a few minutes, it really wasn’t giving us shelter. At all.  We asked David how long we would be standing there and he said probably an hour. HELLLLL to the no! I was not about to spend an hour standing and waiting helplessly for the rain to possibly clear. (It rained every day in Guatemala I had been there, and given that this particular day that we decided to hike a volcano it started to rain about 2 hours earlier than normal, I was not so optimistic that it would pass anytime soon).Sara and I suggested that since we were getting soaked anyways, could we keep moving? And so we did. It was not easy or fun to be hiking down in rain but the alternative of waiting seemed riskier to us. The more it rained, the worse the terrain would get. The more it rained, the more soaked, tired and cranky we would get waiting. So we made a choice that was by no means pleasant but seemed favorable to being completely helpless to the weather. When we did make it to the bottom, we were extremely relieved with the choice we made.

 

  1. Attitude is everything. Seems obvious right but how often do we forget the significance that our attitude towards something impacts the experience? David has hiked San Pedro about once a week for the last 4 years. That means we were roughly his 190th guided tour. When we said asked him if this was the worst hike he ever had done, he said yes. He also agreed to my eloquent statement of “This is some crazy shit, isn’t it, David?” A little sense of humor in life doesn’t hurt.Yes, Sara and I did ask a dozen times “how much longer?” but aside from that, we kept our spirits up. We cracked stupid jokes the entire way down and in between balancing ourselves with our walking sticks and balancing ourselves on the same rocks we were trying not to curse; we focused on just getting to know each other better. Being stressed, snippy and negative would not have gotten us down any faster or any safer.As aforementioned, that while it was not a pleasant hike, I attribute feeling so accomplished and proud to the modest fact that we kept our attitude positive. I even joked at one point that there better be a rainbow when we get down and sure enough, there really was! It was a sweet reward and I believe the universe’s way of rewarding us for powering through a harrowing day (and for not be whining divas while doing so).

It’s ironic to me that I had to climb a volcano to get myself grounded. I went into it thinking it was just something I should do for the sake of the experience (and for the amazing photo opportunities). I left San Pedro feeling Zen and calm, which if you know me are not two words you would typically associate with my personality. I still feel like that since I have returned to real life. That day was really all about perspective. I believe it goes to show that sometimes you have to step outside of your typical world in order to be reminded of how you want to govern the one life you are given.

 

 

New ‘Tude Part Dos

I blogged recently about lessons learned in 2015. Along those same lines, here are some other things that made this past year educational and informative. Oooh we are going to get deep. Get ready!

  1. Tough decisions sometimes need to be tackled like removing a band aid: Stop avoiding it and pull it off fast. Often your gut instinctively tells you what you need to do but you chose to ignore that. Or justify the opposite of what your gut is saying because change is hard. So stop worrying about it and just do it.
  2. You can’t get what you want without letting something else go. Life is a give and take. Some examples are more obvious than others. You want to lose weight well you may have to sacrifice your favorite meals or late nights to allow time to hit the gym. You want a new car well then you need to give up dinners out to save money. You want to feel happy well then you need to remove yourself from negative people and things in your life. It is such a simple formula yet not always easy to implement.
  3. It is ok to not take on other people’s stuff. Yes we want to be loyal and good friends and be there for someone else. There is an important distinction though between being there for someone versus letting their negativity be toxic to your well being. I pride myself in being a sounding board for friends and a sanity check for them. I love doing that for my friends when they recognize their own accountability in a situation or are on a path to getting to a better place, whatever that means to them. I do not however care much to be around negativity that does nothing but bring me down. I have fought so much throughout my life to try to be as positive as I can because I spent much of my existence being a glass half empty kind of gal. I do not want to revert to that and know how easily that could happen if I am around the wrong company or take on other people’s stuff.
  4. If something doesn’t feel good or right to you, just don’t do it. Like I wrote in my other blog, what worked for you yesterday may not work for you tomorrow. So stop agonizing over trying to fix it or make it right. Sometimes it’s ok to walk away.
  5. People have a tendency to go into difficult situations or conversations with the wrong attitude. We expect the other person to meet us where we are and to just take and agree with everything we say. Then of course we are floored when a conversation escalates and are appalled that the other person didn’t “get it.” Try going into a conversation with a let’s meet half way attitude. If you truly want to resolve conflict, you need to accept that the solution is probably not necessarily what you expect it to be. (One key take away I took from a work training recently is that sometimes the best solution is not one that you thought up on your own. It’s something two or more people came up with together. Why? Because you get their buy in. Without buy in, it’s very difficult to achieve an agreeable outcome).
  6. Have more empathy people! I have been talking about getting buy in and being perceptive of other people’s feelings. It feels pretty shitty when someone dismisses how you feel or tells you how ridiculous you are being. You may not agree with how someone is feeling but it is not for you to dictate how someone else “should” feel. If someone is offended by something that you did that seems quite trivial, try first being, you guessed it, empathetic. Validate how they are feeling and it’s way more likely to have a more positive outcome.

So with that, start 2016 off right and get after what you want. Much love!