I (Nick) have been trying to conceptualize what this journey means to me. For quite some time, there's been a murky fog surrounding my enthusiasm for the trip, and I've been pondering... Obviously, it's a mixture of many different thoughts and emotions, but I am experiencing them together as one. I've dubbed this feeling leaving. Rather than an action I am about to make, I've decided leaving is a feeling I am experiencing. I'm writing this post to sort through my various sentiments, and hopefully give others who are encountering leaving something to relate to. Here's what leaving means to me:
My first 21 years have been spent at home in St. John's, Newfoundland. Newfoundland is where I learned to crawl, walk, run, jump, leap, swim, hike, camp, climb, think, analyze, consider, reconsider, strive, push myself... It's where I've become who I am. I finished university here, won scholarships, and was offered a position to do a Master's degree. I know all the local climbing areas, the routes and boulder problems. I've kayaked on most of the provinces best rivers, front flipped into all of the local swimming holes, and seen the full suite of local marine life during many SCUBA dives. I love Newfoundland, but I really have to leave.
The longest time I've spent away was 5 weeks during the summer of 2011, at a summer camp in Québec city. By no standards am I well traveled, but I have had enough experience to feel comfortable visiting different countries around the world. I've been on several trips to the Caribbean, visited different provinces in Canada, and gone on climbing trips in the US and Greece. However, leaving is something I have never experienced.
This trip is significant because it represents a pivotal change in my life. I'll be spending the next two thirds of a year on the road, returning home for an equal period of time, then likely moving away for graduate school.
This is the beginning of my leaving home, and lifestyle change is exactly what I need. Since beginning kindergarten I've started school every single September, and spent the majority of my year in classes. Once I started university, part-time work was added, and became full time work during the summers.
Gradually, I felt my free time slip away, so I combated it, for the most part. I refused to apply for any jobs I didn't think I would enjoy. Up to this point, I've worked outdoors, in the climbing gym, or in jobs related to outdoor sports exclusively. Likewise with school, I could feel the walls closing in. So I fought back. I took biology as my minor, and enrolled in classes with outdoor field trips. I eventually ended up pursuing my interest in SCUBA diving to the point that I conducted part of my undergraduate honours project underwater.
All these efforts led to great opportunities, but they weren't enough. Both kayaking and climbing are weather dependent. Unfortunately, it rains frequently here (bad for climbing), but it doesn't pour (which would be good for kayaking). These realities frustrated me over the years, and I've finally realized that there's no way I can be happy living like this. I can no longer grow here.
In my opinion, the only way to stay happy is by continuing to grow in a chosen direction. For me, that means taking on new challenges in the outdoors, which is not possible for me in Newfoundland anymore. There are no multi-pitch climbs, infrequent rains to fill the rivers, underwhelming snowfalls... you get the picture.
By travelling to regions where there are tall cliffs, mountains, raging rivers, and diverse oceans, I will have the opportunity to find my direction. The worst thing would be not knowing. Even if I am too intimidated to climb El Capitan in Yosemite, or the Howser towers in the Bugaboos, or even the chief in Squamish, I will be happy. Because then at least I will be able to say I found my limits, and I grew.
This trip is all about continuing my personal growth in different areas of my life. I'm going to challenge my mental and physical limits, meet new people, and explore more of the world.
Improvement - I don't think personal improvement should be taken for granted on a journey like this. Here is an axiom among outdoor sports enthusiasts:
" Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
It's important to acknowledge that this simple truth is often one of the most difficult principles to adhere to. I can think of countless times I've had the opportunity to push my limits, but instead shrunk away from the challenge. Took the easy way out. Made an excuse. I can already imagine how easy it would be to stare up from the base of a massive wall and immediately give up. Even halfway up, with all the air beneath me, thinking "I don't belong here," and "I want to go back down."
Without a doubt, I will have these moments. I just hope I will have the conviction to make that one all-important step forward. Forward into a better me.
Connection - Traveling is not merely an opportunity to explore the self. Travel is about connecting with new people in different places and broadening your view of the the world. One thing I've realized from growing up in Newfoundland is that it is an island both physically and metaphorically. It is culturally disconnected from the rest of the world because of its small, aging population, and low immigration rates. Because of this, my view of the world is narrow.
I hope to develop a better sense of my place in the world by interacting with a diverse collection of people during my travels. Aside from making new (and hopefully lifelong) friends, I look forward to hearing different attitudes about motivation, challenge, and how to live a fulfilling life. It all comes down to making new connections.
Reinforcement - Finally, I hope that at least some of the values and attitudes I have developed growing up will be fortified by my experiences. I plan to travel with an open mind, and surrender myself to the lessons I will learn, but not to a fault. I've seen a few people who leave, and it changes them completely. They get into a new social scene, a new lifestyle, and it completely consumes them. I plan to stay true to myself, and my core values through all experiences on the road. My hope is through trial or triumph, I will come home at the end of our adventure with the same qualities the people in my life now cherish.
As you can tell, if you've stuck with me this far, there are a lot of implications that go along with this trip. It's a change in my very way of life. My escape from a setting that has become too comfortable for me. I see myself shifting onto a new path, one that is daunting and filled with uncertainty, which is exactly what I need to continue growing and becoming the person I want to be.
I have many hopes for the coming journey. High up on a rock wall, surrounded by air and endless verticality, I plan to meet myself at my limit. If we find ourselves moving too slow, exhausting our food or water early, or even getting too scared, I will learn from those experiences and challenge myself to do better next time..
So, here's to leaving, a feeling I have not shaken by writing this article. Instead, I have come to embrace it. Leaving is not a bad feeling, it is just new. It is composed of all the sadness and uncertainty I have about leaving people I love, making important decisions about my future, and committing to a long time spent away from home. But these sentiments are coupled with excitement and confidence that I am ready for the challenges to come. I'll be back in Newfoundland in eight months, but I know I am destined to leave again. Leaving isn't haunting me anymore, I'm ready for it. I'm ready to take that all important step tomorrow, the first step into the rest of my life.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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