In January 2006, I set off on a curious adventure and a turning point in my life.
I walked up Mt Kenya to reach 4200metres. Why curious? I am sure for walkers, mountains climbers and the like, this seems a good effort but maybe not a big deal but for me it was. It was my curiosity that pushed me to book a flight to Nairobi into the unknown.
I had never been a great walker, indeed not much of an outdoor type unless at sea, where I loved sailing. I didn’t know anyone I was travelling with and had made the decision to go only three weeks before leaving with my borrowed rucksack and inadequate golfing boots for over 2 weeks in Kenya.
There was something else happening than the usual ‘holiday’ desire, there was a curiosity to explore, to know what a totally new experience would teach me and to do something I had never done before.
My curious desire to expand what I knew about ‘me’ was certainly achieved although, as ever, not quite like I’d imagined and not necessarily in a predictable fashion. My first learning was that changing every parameter i.e. unknown place, people and context (mountain/tents/latrines/altitude) challenged my usual good sense of confidence; I was alone in a crowd on a dangerous track, and I became shy! Eeekkkk!
I had never realized until then the true meaning of that word. I found myself timid, reserved and it was like being back as a child of 11 going up to my upper school without my best friend because we had fallen out. Then I had developed coping skills of communication, rapport and relating so that I could become the ‘connector’ of the class and so gain respect from all. I found myself doing the same with my climbing companions. Facing a challenging task with a range of experience, a diverse set of people and intimate living in communal tents with strangers was a good way to test your people skills!!
It reminds me now of how we can get over confident with our known experiences and forget to check-in on how others are feeling in the same situation which may be new for them.
How often do we not notice what others are feeling?
I sought courage!
The second challenge was the actual ‘doing’ the trek, it was tough. Apart from rushing up and down my 47 steps to the front door of my flat, I had really had no exercise as such. The mountain was long, slow, and steep – for me. We took it slow, a trip that can be done in 2 days easily by fit walkers, was taken over 5 days. I learned about endurance, courage, and pace. I learned also about ‘being’ at your pace not being worried about competing, the mountain was asking me to listen to my own rhythm.
Slowly, slowly, I learned to walk at a snail’s pace; breathe, and look up and notice the world around me rather than being stuck in my own fear of “can I do this?”
How often do we do this in our daily over pressure life?
I found insight and wisdom…
At the top of my trek, I stopped and rested at 4200m I saw the world in a new light. The mountain peaks, the valleys, the overhangs, the boulders, the pathway strewn with tiny sharp stones, the community we formed, the support network as we walked and talked and ate together, all formed a world in itself. Each experience, each adventure, each curiosity, was a micro view of my world and the whole world.
We come together, some unknown to each other, some friends, some family, all with different ages, genders, nationalities – and we all experienced the experience differently. I learned not to take things for granted, to get out of my own comfort zone, and to be in tune with the ground beneath my feet and the sky above me and all the beauty of life in between!!
My wise advice – Go be curious, be adventurous, delve into the unknown and know always it enhances your life if you’re willing! If I had not, I would never have seen this view….