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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Stilling

If you want to find yourself, just look down at your feet (or we all need a rainy day to sit with ourselves)

I'm sitting at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Highland Center in Bretton Woods, NH, wrapping up a 10-day road trip from Maryland through upstate NY, Vermont, and NH. This morning, I hiked up Mt. Avalon before the rain and strong winds hit as soon as I stepped off the trail!

The Highland Center feels like a college dorm with bunk beds and shared bathrooms across the hall. This wouldn't have been my choice five years ago; I was too anxious. Anxious about what? Well, everything. Traveling used to trigger me. I needed to know every detail and ensure cleanliness and safety. But is it ever truly safe? And is anything ever certain!?! The things I was afraid of didn't really exist except in a time long ago and a place far away. Those monsters under the bed stay with us forever. Maybe you have your own monsters too. Please be kind to them, but never feed them!

Over time, I've navigated my past fears and embraced adventures despite them. As I age, I want to keep travelling, which means adhering to a budget, which sometimes leads us to quirky accommodations (more on that in my next post). If I get triggered, I now know what to do. I sit with it. I sit through it. I get to know it I befriend it. And then if relaxes.

That's the good news, because I love to travel!!

However, I've learned that traveling, being in Nature, retreating, or vacationing doesn't necessarily bring a profound life-altering experience.

I don't go away to "find myself."

I go away to challenge myself.

I go away to push myself.

I go away to listen to myself.

I go away to continue learning about myself.

So here I sit watching the rain and the wind in the beauty of the White Mountains and I find myself.

I find myself aging.

I find myself grateful I can do these intense hikes.

I find myself angry at the group of 12 men on the trail.

I find myself competitive because my anger drove me to beat them all up the mountain.

I find myself wanting to save people I love.

I find myself obsessing about mistakes I've made.

I find myself wanting forgiveness.

I find myself in love with the world and it's people.

I find myself forging myself and those who have harmed me.

I find myself content . . .even in all this, especially in all of this.

I find myself perfectly imperfect.

Let me end by saying this has been an incredible trip! Once upon a time, I was sitting with my shrink and she was heading on vacation. I said, "Have a great trip!" She retorted, "I'll have a trip. I'm sure some of it will be great and some of it won't."


This helps me. I know every single time I travel, I take me with me. And I am a lot. Not to mention the other people around me - they are a lot too. We all are. So how could everything be wonderful all the time - even on vacation?

There have been times in the mountains in the past few days where I had no words for what and how I was feeling. Seriously: no words. I used terms like: I am so happy right now, or This is my favorite hike ever, or I am so lucky to be here. But really none of that describes what I was feeling. Especially NOT the "I am so happy!" There is something so BOTH/AND for me in Nature. It grounds me and clears me. It brings peace and challenges. But most of all, it allows and accepts all of me to arise and exist- so that's a lot.

Where are you finding yourself today?


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