When I was 19 years old I embarked on my first retreat into the wilderness. This first wilderness adventure took me to Big Bend National Park in the dead of winter.
After, four cold nights, a few water scares, and plenty of rolled ankles I was hooked.
Backpacking offered the test I had been searching for. It doled out through countless unexpected challenges the toughest test of my mental and physical resolve I had ever experienced. Since then, eight years have flown by and I have backpacked in the Tetons, Rockies, Zion NP, Black Hills Badlands, and as of yesterday the Ouachita National Forest! Each one offering its own unique set of tests that have pushed me beyond my limits.
Besides, these experiences of physical and mental growth; the greatest benefit that these trips have provided me was the opportunity to wrestle with my mind and journal…lots of journaling.
When hiking hours on the trail it allows ample time for self-reflection. Thinking of the year that has been, that could have been, and especially what this upcoming year will be!
Some have asked me, couldn’t you just do this at home? In a coffeeshop? Someplace a little less exotic?
My answer, sure.
I could take an afternoon and retreat to the Radina’s Coffeeshop. Heck, I could plug in some music, to drown out that pesky, distracting mind of mine. I definitely will not look at that pressing e-mail message…okay maybe I can type out a response real quick. Hey look there is one of my former students, it would be rude not to stop and say hello.
DO YOU GET MY POINT?!
The wilderness offers refuge from the distractions that bear down. The total disconnect afforded by no reception/contact forces me to grapple and reckon with the thoughts that flood my mind. This is where the goals that guide my year arise.
The four areas of my life that I dedicate these hours of thoughts and goal-setting are: Spiritual Growth, Family Connectedness, Personal Discipline, & Professional Development.
Focusing my goals through the lens of these four areas have helped ground me throughout the year and serve as daily reminders to my WHY.
Escaping into the wilderness for my annual personal retreat is something that has transformed the way I operate. I feel strongly that each of us would find great value in doing so at least once a year. We are never too old or too young to start connecting with who we are in the depths of the wilderness; away from technology, away from the demands of the world.
The following quote by Benjamin Disraeli whispers from the wilderness, “Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.”
This year let us enter Into the Wilderness and discover ourselves!