Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The walk…

It’s amazing how the attitude one chooses in the most insignificant of situations, can reflect one’s attitude in general. I went for a hike this weekend and once again was reminded in a six-hour walk, that in life, all that really counts is your attitude.

Everybody that signed on for this hike arrived full of energy and ready to walk! After roll call, people formed their walking groups, began discussing the route and double-checked their knapsacks for the things they’d need. There were those that travelled light, who didn’t want to carry a lot on their shoulders. Others travelled heavy, carrying with them everything from jackets and torches to tissues and headache tablets. I didn’t travel light, nor did I travel heavy. In my backpack the contents were limited to a bottle of water, a jacket, tissues, my wallet, an apple, an orange, two sandwiches and two bottles of juice… okay… and a chocolate snack bar! I double-checked that I had my cap and sunglasses and got in the bus with everyone else.

Arriving at the beginning of our adventure, the first lucky few that were in front grabbed a hiking stick to help along the way. I decided to forfeit mine as I think a stick only gets in the way after a while. We were given safety instructions and began following the guide. The walk began almost like a race. Every now and then, one person would overtake another. Only after a while we began to slow down and people began relying on their groups for encouragement and support. I found it amazing at how similar the walk resembled society and it’s behaviour, so at our first stop I bit on my apple and sat on a big rock to better observing my fellow walking companions.

There was a group of women catching up on their gossip, on later stops when they no longer had gossip to spread, they took everybody’s measurements and took the opportunity to criticise any aspect that they considered to be wrong in the person. In life, I’ve found that there are many of these groups and they seem to live off bringing everyone else down. They demand perfection in the world surrounding them but are not capable of seeing any faults in the reflection in the mirror.

A group of men sat by the guides discussing the walking route. Each seemed to have a better alternative than the one set out by the guides. I chuckled when I linked their resemblance to a couple of know-it-alls I know, whose sole goal in life is to prove everyone else wrong. Next to them were a couple that seemed to be lunching just about all the food they’d brought with them… I wondered if they wouldn’t feel too heavy to walk or most importantly, wish they’d had some food left over for the next few stops. They reminded me of some people who are able to spend their whole paycheck in the beginning of the week, not saving anything to last them to the end of the month.

Not too far from me were the quitters, they’d barely started and already they were complaining that their feet and backs hurt, that the trip was too long and that perhaps they should’ve stayed at home and come when they felt better. I found it ridiculous that they would set out on an adventure if they weren’t ready for one, however I figured that all their moaning and groaning was just to see if they could get someone to carry their load for them. These are normally those people that think that life owes them a living and that it’s the world duty to make them happy. A sad sigh escaped my lungs while remembering more than one person with that kind of outlook on life… but then my attention was caught by cheerful laughter.
On a nearby rock I saw a whole family picnicking together. To my relief, there were still a group that I could count on to take photo’s, commentate on the scenery, share jokes along with the sandwiches and still have energy to chase one of the younger members around the rock. I smiled as I realised that they were frequent hikers and that they’d be present in more of my future hikes. These are the kind of people that I wanted to be surrounded by.

Whilst in awe of nature’s creativity surrounding me, I began thinking of my own life. I thought about the hours wasted behind a desk and tried calculating how much time I waste worrying about insignificant things. At times I’m so busy with life that I fail to appreciate the beautiful things and the great people around me. If there’s one thing that I came out that trip thinking, is that I’d start things slower and enjoy the ride. I felt at peace with myself and couldn’t help smiling. Allowing my surroundings to overtake my senses, the colours around me seemed brighter, the sky seemed clearer, the air seemed clearer and the sun’s rays felt warmer.

I came out of my mild meditation when the guides called for us to move along again and noticed that from a distance there was a group that was already miles away. I found it amusing that they seemed to be in quite a hurry to get to the end. Why? If the purpose of the hike is the walk itself and not finishing it, where is the need for speed? Hasn’t anyone told them that life is all about the journey and not the destination? What exactly are they enjoying if they’re too busy walking to look around them? I kept pondering on the subject as we kept on track. Going at my regular speed, I tried not walking too fast nor too slow, stopping when I wanted to take a better look at something and moving faster when I needed to catch up with the group.

The uphills were tough, as they implied more determination. When there was climbing to be done, you had to concentrate on your step and grab on to something reliable. Often you could get hit by a stone or pebble from the person above you or by mistake let one fall on top of the person below. But no matter how high the climb, how tough or how many times you stopped to catch your breath, everyone shared the exhilarating feeling of accomplishment once reaching the top!

Downhills seemed to be easier but one false step could send you spiralling down. A good tip is to keep your distance from the next person so that if you slip, you don’t take anybody else down with you. Weak knees are the result of your descend, ironic that it is the same in life with people who get things too easy. There were times that I felt more tired than others but the sights and sounds of the walk rewarded my efforts. The good conversation and jokes I shared with my walking partner kept the both us motivated and entertained… at times, we just walked in silence… and that was good too.

Near the end of the walk, we came to a tunnel that kept us a good fifteen minutes in the dark. Some of us (including me!) had forgotten to bring a flashlight and depended on the light of others. Being behind a person without a flashlight, I relied on my hand that touched the wall beside me to warn me of unexpected rocks in the path. My colleague was right behind me and because she too didn’t have a flashlight, I spoke her through the puddles and sharp corners that I’d felt or gone through so that she wouldn’t have to do the same. That’s what friends are for, they warn each other of the danger ahead. It’s not that there’s something wrong with your own two eyes, but it’s always more reassuring when you’re warned by a friend.

We reached the end of trip, physically exhausted but mentally exhilarated! It’s the sweet feeling of satisfaction that accompanied me in the bus. I mentally ran through the day in my head and after all my comparing the hike with real life, I once again came to the conclusion that it’s all about attitude. A positive attitude, a good walking partner and sticking to a good group of hikers gets you through any kind of walk in life… I guess the only thing I need to remember for next time… is to pack my flashlight!

“Things turn out best for those people who make the best of the way things turn out!”

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