From the drifter who kayaked every major waterway in the US, to the wanderlust Hawaiian who was on mile 942 of her journey from Mexico to Canada by foot (Pacific Coast Trail Through Hiker), to the two exchange students who had never been camping before in their lives…
Each person I crossed paths with on the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park taught me a lesson that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
These are lessons that can’t be read in a book. These are lessons that can’t be learned from a movie. These are lessons that can’t be transferred by story.
These are lessons that must be lived.
It wasn’t easy for me to completely disconnect from the world for 7 days, but damn, was it worth it.
Below are 3 lessons I learned while hiking the John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park:
Lesson #1: If you don’t do it now, what other time in your life are you going to do this?
As we sat by the crackling fire eating our freeze dried dinner, the Los Angeles county chemist began to share his hiking adventures with us.
I sat on the edge of my log hanging on every word as he described in detail his adventures through Zion, Yosemite, and countless other national parks.
As the silence between his stories filled the air, my child-like curiosity led me to ask him, “What inspires you to go on so many hiking trips?”
Once his laughter began to subside, he looked me dead in the eye and said,
“If I don’t do it now, what other time in my life am I going to do this?”
I quickly learned that John Muir Trail and Pacific Coast Trail hikers have a deep recognition of the fragility of life. They know that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us.
So rather than postpone their adventures for when “the time is right”, they choose to pursue their passion of exploring the world.
This really hit home for me because I was incredibly close to cancelling my trip last minute because of business.
I had every “reason” to postpone this trip, but instead of letting my fear of missing out on a business opportunity control me, I chose to exercise the freedom I built as an entrepreneur.
Was this a smart business decision?
Only time will tell…
But life is much more important than business. And I can confidently say that this was one of the best spontaneous decisions I have ever made in my life.
Lesson #2: When doing something non-conformist, ask yourself, “Why not?”
I had the fortune during this hike to meet several PCT (Pacific Coast Trail) & JMT (John Muir Trail) hikers.
Aside from these hikers having an entire language of their own, they seemed to all share a similar philosophy on life.
I mean what really inspires an individual to leave the comforts of their life behind to hike 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada?
There was no better person to ask than Abram, the Expeditioneer and River Ambassador who canoed every major waterway between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains over the span of 3 years (See his adventures here).
As I got to know Abram on our last day hiking the John Muir Trail I asked him, “was there an incident or event that triggered you to live such a non-conformist life?”
Abram slowed his pace, looked me square in the eye, and with his trustworthy southern drawl said, “why not?”
As you can imagine dozens of reasons flooded my mind about why one couldn’t live this lifestyle. But as my trail family expanded (hiker lingo), I quickly learned that there wasn’t a major catastrophe or event that led to this way of life.
It was simply a choice.
A recognition that the purpose of life is to live, not to exist.
Jack London, Author of “Call Of The Wild”, depicts this hiker’s philosophy best when he said…
“I would rather be ashes than dust, a spark burnt out in a brilliant blaze, than be stifled in dry rot. For man’s chief purpose is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Lesson #3: You can either fear unexpected challenges, or feel excited for unexpected challenges…it’s your choice.
While being swarmed by mosquitoes, we had the privilege of hiking part of the John Muir Trail with two exchange students who had never been camping before in their life.
Now I’m far from an experienced hiker. My 60 pound brand new Osprey backpack is a dead giveaway that I’m a newbie to the trail.
But even with my limited experience, I’m an expert hiker in contrast with these girls.
So as we all sipped whiskey underneath our mosquito nets after a long day hiking, the girls shared with me the challenges of their journey.
From having to rely on public transportation to get from San Francisco to Yosemite, to having no idea what gear was required for their 60 mile hike, to not knowing how to even read a map, these two girls never let their challenges discourage them from this adventure.
Maria and Ida then shared with me a statement that I will carry with me for the rest of my life…
“You can either fear unexpected challenges, or feel excited for unexpected challenges…we simply chose to feel excited.”
Most people would never take the leap of faith that these two non-english speaking exchange students took. So what’s their secret?
They simply chose to feel excited rather than feel afraid of the unexpected challenges, obstacles, and breakdowns that they knew were waiting for them.
Rather than waiting around to feel more courageous or confident, they knew that courage can only be cultivated by doing that which scares you.
As I reflect on this adventure in the comfort of this cozy coffee shop, I’m reminded that there is no greater growth than to put yourself in an environment where you’re going to face unexpected challenges.
For challenges are what build character.
I hope this post inspires you to leave the comforts of your everyday life behind. To forget about what society thinks is best for you, and to start living life on your terms.
And if it does, I ask you to leave a comment below to share your next adventure with us.
I’ll leave you with the words of a man far wiser than I, in hopes that you will explore, dream, and discover the life you truly desire…
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
Live Your Life Fearlessly,
Peter Scott IV – The Fearless Mindset Mentor
Founder, Fearless Life Academy
Author, “The Fearless Mindset”
P.S. If you enjoyed this post, I encourage you to discover how I overcome my fear of heights by climbing Half Dome in this blog post.