Hiking 75km over multiple days along the West Coast of Vancouver Island with your husband – how challenging could it be? We initially signed up for this crazy assignment on 24th March 2014 – we had to book early to ensure our spot. Physical fitness, food preparation and pack organization were going to be keys to our success, or so we thought. Every fortnight we would head out to see beautiful sites carrying our packs which gradually increased in weight. June was fast approaching and even the day before we were still preparing – I packed and unpacked three times – we set off for Port Renfrew! We completed the orientation session (discussing bears, cougars and wolves!), then set off to start the West Coast Trail. This initial team consisted of 4 Austrians, 2 Australians and a token Canadian!
As we approached the trail head – I remained unaware of the profound impact this adventure would have on me! I would be rewarded with valuable life lessons and a new passion for the song ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey! 5 key principles learnt along the 5 day journey have contributed to my success both on and off the trail in all areas of life. This confidence means I can hold onto this feeling; rocking self-belief on my journey. I would like to share each unique experience with you to aid in your success in work and life:
The WCT constantly changes each year due to significant rain and storm events which move in from the Pacific Ocean – detours provided us with the opportunity to embrace a new path. Detours were aplenty! Day 5 was a challenging day – we walked 26km and for the last 6km my legs burned! The last 5kms was covered in berry bushes that were 6ft high (perfect bear territory) as we walked along we met an experienced hiker who shared some important advice ‘the tide was low so we could head to the beach and walk around the final headland and avoid the inner trail which included 7 ladders’. We chose the easiest path and headed towards the beach! As we walked onto the beach – a bear stood at the end of the headland! Being Aussies we were ready to run, but remember kids never turn your back to a bear…….so we started making noise and the bear ran up into the woods. Eventually we made it around the headland and completed the trek!
The trail route changes every year as new bridges, ladders and boardwalks need to repaired or replaced. Along the trail significant sets of ladders need to be completed whilst carrying a pack. On the second day just after lunch we walked along a boardwalk which snaked through old growth rainforest, as this progressed the vegetation became sparser and we realised we were walking along a rocky headland. The boardwalk finished and we looked over a cliff – there was only one way down which consisted of two ladders on precarious angles attached to the cliff face. I knew many other people had successfully completed it! Facing my fears I took a deep breath and moved towards the ladder and descended – I talked to myself and counted aloud til I reached the bottom. Life resembles a game of snakes and ladders with the challenges and opportunities which come our way – and often these are not as scary as we think they are!
Small steps will lead us to our ultimate destination – but remember to lift your head, look around and take in the surroundings occasionally! Every step I took meant I was closer to 75km! This lesson is applicable to all facets of our life, even if you are working on a long-term project – celebrate the smaller milestones along the way. The daily celebration on the trail consisted of a freeze dried meal, cup of tea, great company and the most amazing views!
No “I” in TEAM
Each day on the trail – you would meet the same hikers at each campsite as we covered a similar distance each day. The only technology we could bring was a camera. Lack of technology provided us with the opportunity to engage in conversation with no distractions. Through active listening, I learnt so much about each individual and the reasons for them making their own unique journey. We laughed, encouraged and supported each other over the coming 5 days! Remember there is no I in team and those we meet along the way enlighten us. So go ahead step away from the smartphone or computer and give yourself permission to fully immerse yourself in the conversation!
Do yourself a favour and download Don’t Stop Believing by Journey!
Embrace detours as an alternative, organize your team, take small steps, and you will be able to create opportunity and overcome challenges in all facets of life. Be proud of who you are and take a few minutes each day to acknowledge what successes you have had in your day! Find your own rhythm to rock self-belief on your journey through life and dance!