5 lessons from hiking 620km in 24 days, solo, across Northern Spain.
Since completing my solo hike, I have come to believe that these keys are needed to achieve any bold mission at pace. I hope you find them helpful as you step out to achieve your own purposeful goals.
1. WATCH, LISTEN AND LEARN FROM THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU
Despite what your ego tells you, you are not the first person in the world to attempt what you are attempting…or at least something vaguely similar.
Humans are pretty smart, learn from these other humans, be humble. Think outside the square for those who may have had similar ideas to you, even if this means learning from those who walked the earth many generations ago.
Talk to them, ask good thoughtful questions, and listen to what they say.
If the person you want to speak to is no longer alive, I find it helpful to ask ‘How would ‘insert name of epic human’ approach this mission?’ You may feel silly at first, but actually ask the question, then listen quietly to the answer.
2. GET THE BEST, AND LEAST, AMOUNT OF GEAR FOR THE JOB
Get the best gear for the job, and nothing, and I mean nothing more. To achieve this you will need radical preparation. You can’t afford to have ‘stuff’ that will slow you down, cost you money, distract you in its acquisition, and ultimately be a waste of the planets resources.
Prior to setting off I researched the heck out of what gear was required to keep me safe for the conditions. To be in my backpack, my gear needed to meet the following 5 conditions, without compromise:
Re-usable, ideally beyond the immediate mission
Respectful of nature and people. I prioritized gear that had undertaken a cradle to cradle (full life cycle) approach to design
Respectful of my body
When embarking on an ambitious goal you need to keep your tools lean.
The ‘lean criteria’ listed above is a simple way to filter and prioritise what you might need to take with you.
3. GET A PERSONAL MANTRA OR SUCCESS ANTHEM
When setting out on your mission you will hit barriers you didn’t foresee and that will set you back. It’s easy to spend time wallowing, but what you really need to do is change your internal state, immediately. When you change your state the panic will subside and I promise a solution will come to you.
There were times on my hike when I found myself alone, lost, injured, hungry, at the mercy of mother natures rain and winds and unable to think straight. It happens. Being lost is part of the bold journey into the unknown.
These two practical things helped me rapidly change my state:
1. I got a mantra.
Mine was ‘Just go around’ – it’s shorthand for 'find another way'. I’d repeat it to myself, in an upbeat gentle way, when I needed a way out and couldn’t see it. I’d repeat it sometimes many times a day. The mantra itself isn’t mine per se; I stole it from Seth Godin, who said (in a Tim Ferris podcast) how he uses it with his son.
2. I got an anthem.
Mine was a kind of success theme song, and actually, I had two. Beyonce: ‘Run the World (Girls)’- to strut my feminine power. And, Beastie Boys: ‘Make Some Noise’- big beats and a dance party in my hiking boots. I made sure I could access and actually play this music as part of my emergency first aid kit.
While Beyonce or The Beastie Boys might not be your bag, I suggest you purposefully choose music that feels familiar to you, is happy and that you can easily sing along to. If you keep it for when you really need it, it will have a profound and immediate impact.
4. BE ON GUARD FOR PHYSICAL PAIN, BUT DON’T LET IT TRICK YOU
You’re ability to keep yourself mentally fit and mindful of thought patterns when you are in physical pain are keys to rapid success.
As you set out on your bold mission your mind will be trying to convince you of all sorts of hyped up scenarios. Scenarios that, (if played out) could guarantee your failure. The thing is, most scenarios will be not only false, but they also cause you to obsess about and focus on the WRONG things.
When you're attempting something big, lets face it, a certain degree of pain is inevitable, but it doesn't need to derail you. To get past it you'll need to locate your inner resolve and mix it with a good portion of common sense. I find that when my mind is coming up with stuff like ‘I can’t go on’, ‘I’ll injure myself permanently’, or ‘I’m not built for this’, it’s time to pay attention.
When you first notice any internal chatter around pain keep your wits about you, notice, but don’t dwell on the pain or obsess. If physical pain is enough to stop you in your tracks (even when you aren’t focusing on it), stop IMMEDIATELY and repair what damage you can ...then stop focusing on it and KEEP GOING. Keep going until you can’t physically take the pain anymore, then repeat the cycle.
If you do this I promise you will surprise yourself with both the limits you can handle, and the progress you will make.
5. EMBRACE THE BEAUTY OF NOT KNOWING WHAT LIES AHEAD
Many of the best experiences I had on my hike were those when I was just starting to feel vulnerable or frightened about what lay ahead. There were times where I wondered what the hell I was doing or considered that I must be mildly insane.
Quite often I also found myself unsure of what was happening in any given moment, I couldn’t understand the language and I was in unfamiliar territory.
I find a similar pattern in life, when I am attempting a bold mission, the self doubt driven questions start to bubble up. We feel vulnerable when we don’t what lies ahead. I’ve come to believe it’s a good sign to feel nervous and have a certain degree of self doubt, it keeps me humble, prepared, and on my toes.
If you are questioning your sanity, you are most likely on the right path. Keep walking! and good luck
By Rebecca Mills