Journeying to the Mountaintop

by elizabethbrantley

I have been silent for a month, and some readers may have wondered where I might have gone. Well, I can excitingly say that I did go somewhere – a place further than I had ever been and that was the hardest place I have ever had to get to – Peru!

The idea for the trip began on the day I posted “Expect the Unexpected”. After posting and speaking about actively expecting the unexpected, I got a most unexpected email asking if I and Drew were available to host and lead a trip of 14 campers through the mountains, desert and cities of Peru. That was only the beginning.

The thing about this trip was perhaps how full it was of things I couldnt’ expect. The truth is that I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the majesty of the Andes. To wake up and see them tower over you and absorb you by their beauty. Nor do I think anything could have prepared me for the fits of laughter that ensued on the trip. Nevertheless, could I have been prepared to walk through a real oasis of palm trees and sparkling water in the middle of our desert adventure.

But the greatest thing I couldn’t prepare for was the actual journeying. Our travel schedule was very intense, waking up at 4 o’clock multiple days in a row, arriving at hotels at midnight those nights. Hiking 6 or more miles through ancient ruins at altitude. None the less the transfers of plane to bus to train to boat and back again.

A journey, it seems to me, has been romanticized a bit. We all hear each other say, “Life is a Journey” to help us appreciate that we are not all just scrounging around to try to get to one place, one destination. But what really does this mean?

The truth about a real journey is that you get weary. You get tired. It is hard. It is long.

For our group to get to Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel atop an Andean peak, I wish I could describe to you the amount of energy, effort and time it took us, and we didn’t hike the Inca trail.

This is exactly the point. You don’t get to the sacred mountain top without having to go on the unglamorous parts of travel, without putting in the time at first. The closer you get to the obscure destination, the harder and few paths there seem to be. To get to the town that launched us up the mountain, there was only one train, that was curiously similar to the Hogwarts Express. There were no roads. There was only a stream along side of us, and a few views of footpaths that the Incan’s had established hundreds of years ago. Before this, just to get to the train we had to fly to a town hours away, take Mr. Toads wild ride down and up mountain roads, and spend the night in numerous hotels. This was surely a journey. 

Until now, I don’t think I ever had a true, condensed journey. Now I understand more. There is no one who can take your place on the travel time. You have to be there, to wait it out yourself. There are many stops along the way. In life these may mean jobs, new cities, different relationships, and there will be more stops afterwards, too. And finally it is physically, emotionally and spiritually hard work to get to the place you want to be.

So often, we are able to coast, to breeze from one place to another, but if your destination is something like a mountaintop, like an 8th wonder of the world, whether that be personal success, financial freedom, Divine love and intimacy, it is going to take long hours, physical exhaustion and real work.

Yet this too is vital to the mountaintop experience. The journey will break you like a military training, so that when you finally climb the last few miles to your destination, you are weary and worn and ready to fall to your knees. This way the majesty, beauty and power of the destination has openings to seep its way into your soul and travel with you forever more.

So yes, Life is a journey. But the journey is most likely harder than you can think or imagine. This is part of its beauty and power. This is part that we can’t intellectualize or think about it. It requires a presence that only we can bring to it. So I hope you don’t delay, for the actual or metaphorical journeys that lay before you. Prepare your baggage, yes, but prepare your heart and your spirit more. You will need these more than toiletries or travel dictionaries. Since on any journey you are paying with the currency of your vitality and spirit. And the exchange rate is forever in your favor.