Exploring. Such a simple word that has come to hold great meaning for life as we know it. Explorers brought the first people to the continent of North America (let it be clear I am referring to the people who crossed the Bering Land Bridge). They were pioneers not sure of the journey ahead but confident in their inward abilities to take that first step. Exploring has led generations of brave humans to pioneer innovative new ideas that have changed the course of this world.
Humanity’s very foundation is built on this complex mixture of dreaming and doing. Without it, we would be stagnant creatures who know nothing more than boring consistency. Without exploring, we would all be the same.
Over the past month, the idea of exploring has been placed on my heart. So I finally decided to do something about it. The forecast called for 65 degrees and a bright sunny day; perfect weather for exploring. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the amount of self-discovery that would take place on this mini adventure that would lead me to an even larger understanding of authentic living.
Exploring forces us to face our deeply rooted doubts and skepticisms and turn them into a beautiful foundation to nurture growth and belief.
Honker Trail. My phone’s Google search resulted in that. The name did nothing to boost my confidence in taking a hiking endeavor and sure didn’t excite me about a beautiful day of sightseeing. But I trusted that I would make the day worth it no matter what I found. Out to LBL, I went with nothing but a map (no cell service) and some bottled water. The trail marker let me know that 6 miles of hiking were ahead of me and my doubts started to turn from a whisper to a yell.
The First Step: Vulnerability
I took a deep breath and started down the hill, surrounded by trees, grass, and a whole lot of fresh air. There was something about this moment that showed me the beauty of vulnerability. I did not know what was ahead of me on this trial but I trusted the qualities in myself to take on any bump and finish. Authenticity works much of the same way because we will never know the trails winding through our future; we simply have to put ourselves out there and GO!
The Second Step: Find Beauty in ALL Moments
My friend and I talked about the excitement we had of seeing glimpses of the lake but didn’t actually expect to walk along the edge of it. For about a mile we continued seeing the occasional stream and mini waterfalls which caused us to pause and take in the moment.
Often, I make plans hoping and expecting the best possible experience but then get severely let down when things aren’t going the way I envisioned. It is a trap we all get caught in that leads us to miss the insanely simple, glorious moments right in front of our eyes. This hike, I decided to change that. I was content, fully in the moment whether I was looking at bare trees or a clear stream. All of this was a piece of the artwork of the world in which we take for granted.
Authentic living acts in much the same way. We have this mental picture that when we are being our true, authentic selves, we are the best possible version we can be. Instead, authentic living is embracing the small moments of life while realizing that we will never be our constructed idea of perfection. Realizing this on my hike made doubt stand down and confidence rise up.
The Third Step: Rejoice in the Unexpected
After many hills and deep breaths, we were greeted by a sight that made my heart flutter and my writing mind go crazy. Water surrounded us. Bright blue water with the sun gleaming off of it. How lucky were we?! The hike took us a mile and half around and over the lake allowing us to take in the view from the top of a little island. My doubts began to change its tone of voice from apprehension of my ability to perform this activity to a sense of joyous determination to finish it.
This gorgeous sight serves as the perfect reminder for authenticity and exploring: When you least expect it, you will find something breathtaking; something that will change the way you see the world. Not only did I find this wonderful hike, I found a part of me that I didn’t know was there. The explorer inside of me rejoiced because I blindly trusted myself to take the first step and ended up being surrounded by the scenery God had painted. Joy radiated from my body and left me on a high.
The Fourth Step: Never Stop
As every season of life passes so did this beautiful view. at the other side of the lake, we were greeted by a trail marker that prompted us that we had 3 miles to go. Still on the exploration high, my friend and I decided to finish the trail instead of turning back around to take the shorter hike to the car. We didn’t even know for sure if this trail looped back around to where we parked so we used pure faith (and a little bit of stupidity) and hiked on.
Doubt started to talk a little louder but the newfound strength I was finding both physically and mentally put it in its place. Yes, my friend and I were ecstatic when we made it back to our starting point. Yes, we were exhausted and hungry (we thought my growling tummy was a wild animal). But we were both so joyous. Our feet kept walking and our minds kept growing. We NEVER stopped.
And that is the mentality I want to have going forward: To never stop exploring. I want to go on adventures, meet new people, and become more connected to the world that is our temporary home. Because I know when I do this, my doubts will be challenged and my soul will show more and more unique sides. In doing this, I will be living out my self-proclaimed authentic life. And wow, does that make me on fire for life.
Bonus: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
Exploring should be a daily practice. Whether you explore the woods behind your house or simply read a new book, you are exploring new territory. Hiking is a great way to explore this beautiful world and discover new qualities within yourself because it not only benefits you mentally but also physically.
I think many times we think that in order to get a physical benefit out of exercise, we must be dripping sweat, breathing hard, and unable to move the next day. NO! Now I’m not some fitness expert but I do not believe that. Hiking is hard (trust me) but it does not call for an all-out sprint. Thank the Lord! This hike changed my entire outlook of the day and left me feeling insanely proud of my body. I hiked for 6 miles. I did not give up. I was strong.
We all want to feel that way, it is only logical. But it is not just going to happen by sitting here and wishing it would happen. That took a couple years for me to learn. Instead, we must give ourselves the opportunity to get out in the world and do what is best for our bodies. I am lucky to have LBL right down the road but that doesn’t mean you have to have a gigantic park to start exploring. Your hometown is full of things that, if noticed, are quite unique and interesting. Here is why your body will thank you.
The simple act of walking raises our heart rate and gets our blood pumping through our body, promoting our cardiovascular health. Healthy hearts are the source of life in our bodies so why wouldn’t we take care of it? While our heart rate is up and we are consistently moving, endorphins are being released throughout our body. These little guys raise our spirits and clear our minds. They literally make you happy!! If I am ever having a bad day, I head outside to walk to the gym to complete and workout because I can sense that my body is in desperate need of some endorphins. Listen to your body and give it what it needs, you will be surprised what it does for you. After the hike you will feel like saving the world and playing with puppies all day so that is a pretty nice perk too.
Our bodies are hardwired for movement and we reap the benefits if we allow it to do so. That is why I think the idea of exploration is so neat. It pushes us to GO. And as we go, we meet new parts of our authentic self. Happy exploring.