So I’m back and I survived.
If you read my post from a few weeks ago, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. But if not (you should have), I’ll give you the quick breakdown of my life the past couple weeks:
– Went on a family vacation to Peru
– Hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for 4 days
– Those 4 days involved camping on the side of a mountain
– I have never camped before and didn’t even own a backpack prior to this trip
– I’m back and I survived
As the least outdoorsy person in the world, this excursion was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Physically, it was challenging of course, but I found that it was much more a test of my mental strength than physical strength. It was an amazing experience, and I am so grateful that
my parents guilted me into doing it I stuck it out.
What I Learned Hiking the Inca Trail
1. You’re Stronger Than You Think You Are
Both physically and mentally.
The Inca Trail is really only a moderate climb, but at 4215 meters above sea level, with nausea and a splitting headache from the altitude, and 8 hours of hiking behind you from just that day, the trail feels like Everest.
There were numerous times when I wanted to break down or even quit, and if I had been feeling like that back home, I totally would have. But there’s something very humbling about being essentially trapped on the side of a mountain with only one task: make it to the end. Once you put yourself in that situation, your survival instincts really do kick in and you become stronger than you ever thought you were.
On our trek, about half our group got sick or injured at some point throughout the 4 days. However, no one complained, no one broke down, and everyone made it to the end.
You really don’t know how strong you are until it’s your only choice. (And yes, that is a Real Housewives quote.)
2. It’s All in Your Head
As I mentioned above, the trek was definitely harder on me mentally than physically.
You see, once you’re on the Inca Trail, there is pretty much no way out until you finish. Sure, if someone gets really sick there are ways to deal with that, like having porters carry them (this is a real thing), or have them taken back by horse, or have them air lifted out by helicopter.
However, these alternatives are only possible in extreme cases. Unless you’re badly injured and there is absolutely no way that you will make it out yourself, you’re walking all the way back to the start. And that could take days.
Knowing that there is really no easy way out put this trek into perspective for me and showed me how much strength actually comes from our mental state. In times when I was physically exhausted and would have definitely turned back, I had to keep going. There was no choice.
Keeping a positive attitude and taking the hike one step at a time, one resting stop at a time, one day at a time, is the only way you’re going to get through it.
If you think you can, you really can.
3. It’s All About the Journey
Finally, the last major thing that I learned when hiking the Inca Trail is that it’s all about the journey. This sounds incredibly corny, but I truly found that this experience taught me what the saying, “life’s about the journey not the destination” is all about.
The journey was hard, exciting, tiring, and filled with struggle and triumph.
When we reached Machu Picchu it was amazing. However, I found that it was pretty anti-climactic in comparison to how I felt after hiking those 4 strenuous days.
Getting to Machu Picchu didn’t teach me anything about myself. It was trekking mile after mile, relying solely on my own mental strength to keep me going, and camping on the side of a mountain for 4 days that taught me so much about myself this trip.
Looking back, I barely think about exploring Machu Picchu as part of my excursion. All I think about is how amazing hiking the Inca Trail was and how happy I am that I was privileged enough to do it.
And how lucky I was to survive.