These past two weeks I have walked over 60 kms; not all at once, but in total. I did over 10 kms in one morning and found myself feeling as if I had been on a mini quest. I choose quests because they reveal much about our sense of self and can cause a shift in our perspective, energy and confidence.
I had the privilege of hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak at a conference in the United States. Elizabeth is the author of ‘Eat Pray Love’. She discussed her real life quest, which turned into her bestselling book and then a movie. The book is described as ‘a memoir of one woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia’. She was worth listening to.
Although I would have loved to find ‘everything’ on my recent quest, what I did find is that when we set our mind to something, we can do it, even when there is an insect buzzing frantically beside your head and ears for over an hour straight. It can make us curse, try our patience, test our limits and immensely increase our inner spirit when we accomplish a goal of any sort.
My mini quest started with several morning walks while visiting family in the Ottawa/Quebec area. Since the weather was up to 45 degrees with the humidity, I had to get out and about in the early mornings and late evenings in order to beat the heat. I would put on my big floppy hat, grab a bottle of water and strap on my running shoes. Off I would go to explore and take photos.
Most days I didn’t have an agenda. I would try to head in a new direction, experience different parts of the area and venture anywhere that had a walkable path, sidewalk or trail. This one particular morning, I wanted to get to the marina. I knew that I had seen signs for a marina but I wasn’t exactly sure how far away it was. I prepped with a little back pack, snacks, two bottles of water, a long sleeve sun shirt, my cell and my wallet.
Telling my Aunt that I was headed to the marina, she replied, ‘That is an ambitious goal’. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant but I decided to see for myself. Off I went toward the Aylmer Marina in Gatineau, Quebec from their neighbourhood near Island Park and Champlain Bridge, along the Ottawa River.
Less than a km in, I saw the sign that indicated I was 10 kms away from the marina. I began comparing some other walks that I knew were 2 kms each and quickly assessed if I could do it. Since it was before 7am, I made the decision to officially set that as my goal; the Aylmer Marina it was.
The problem with me; however, is that I gravitate toward water. Whenever I came across a scenic pathway through the woods, to the Ottawa River from the bicycle and walking path, I took it. I explored every bench, beach, photo opportunity and fresh breeze that I could find. This meant that I was walking more than 10 kms in total. My path was like a zigzag in and out of the bush and back to the paved trail.
I learned that dodging bicyclists took skill. Since most do not ring their bells or make any sound, I always needed to stick close to the right side of the path. I learned that even though I was supposed to stay on the right side, I choose to walk completely off the trail or on the left side when rounding a corner, to avoid getting run over by the very serious cyclists in the Ottawa-Gatineau area. Therefore, lesson number one of my quest was to be a rebel.
I also learned that the insect that was like a hornet on energy drinks, which would not leave my head for over an hour, was enough to drive me insane. I tried batting it with my sunhat, pulling my sunhat right down beside my ears, carefully covering my ears with my hair and stopping in an attempt to kill it. Nothing worked until I called on a higher power. I commanded that God get rid of the insect before I lost my mind. Sure enough, the bug went away.
I learned that prayer really does work. I figure that because I had thanked God for all of the beauty, fresh air, nature, photo ops, trees, water, etc. at the beginning of my walk that I had some prayers in the bank. Being very stern that I needed the bug to leave me worked almost instantly. Therefore, lesson number two of my quest was to pray for the things I am grateful for regularly so that when I need something, I will have earned it.
Finally arriving at my destination of the Aylmer Marina in Gatineau, I also learned of the remarkable feeling of accomplishing a goal. Even though no one was waiting at the finish line, there was no ribbon to bust through and anyone who saw me smiling from ear to ear had no idea what I was so happy about, the sense of reaching my goal was a huge inner explosion of pride.
I had walked from before 7am to finally arrive at my destination at 11am. I had to tuck under trees whenever I got too hot and needed to cool down, I took hundreds of photos, as I travelled found rapids and glorious spots to sit and snack on a banana. I found a portable washroom, information plaques, benches to sit, a turtle, a beautiful rock beach, an Island with thousands of seagulls, and more.
I learned that completing a task of any kind can be a confidence booster and feels amazing, especially when it requires hard work and perseverance. Lesson number three of my mini quest was that we must stay focused on where we are going, while enjoying the journey along the way.
After taking myself out for a summer salad overlooking the marina I knew that I wouldn’t be able to walk back in the heat. I had the waitress give me $10 in change, looked up the transit route on my phone, had to walk 9 minutes to the nearest bus stop and hopped on a Gatineau bus to get back.
I choose quests because I felt a true sense of inner pride that I did it; I decided where I was going and made the effort to get there. I had to battle the negative voices in my head, various times along the way, because I often doubted that I could make it. I had to be smart and careful with the beating sun to stay cooled, hydrated, energized and fed.
I hope that you are able to do some mini quests in your life. Maybe they don’t even require that you leave your home. Maybe it is battling through a cleaning, decluttering or organizing project. Maybe it is painting a room you have wanted to paint. Maybe it is venturing to nearby scenic area where you have always wanted to go.
Be prepared, hold your vision, get organized, stick it out and watch your sense of confidence soar.