In my last post, I wrote about hills. I tried to use them as a metaphor to explain nagging sense of incompletion when you single out one activity over another. The feeling that there’s always a more exciting hill off in the distance to go climb, instead of the one you’re on.
I said my next post would be about how to pick between different options, particularly when you have many to choose from. This post is not that. This is a short piece about an experience I had in South America that relates to the hills post: about contentment in the moment and letting things go.
On the first day of the Inca Trail in Peru (December 2013) we marched along as a happy band. The foothills were easy to cope with and the weather was great. The course of antibiotics I’d started back in Cuzco was taking effect and I was feeling better than I had in weeks.
Mid-afternoon we stopped for a while on a saddle in the hills. The pathway upward led us onward for the rest of the day’s walking, while down in the valley below, as our guide explained, there was another fascinating Inca ruin. He told us that the trail was so important to the Inca because it connected all these large settlements along the route. It was the beautiful remains of a stone town, laid out as an archeological curiosity. I stood there wondering about who built it and what their lives must have been like. I thought about how far I was from London and how different my life was from the people who lived down there in that valley.
It was a moment of clarity.
What also dawned on me at this point was the knowledge that this was the closest I would get to that town. I peered down and took a photo. Maybe two or three. Until then, I’d been very much “see all the things”, “do all the things”. I was Inca-mad. Until that day, the realisation I wouldn’t see any more of the town would have saddened me. But there, looking down and reflecting as I was, it didn’t seem to matter. I didn’t need to hang on to the idea of going down to see it. There were other things to do, other hills to climb.
So, this is not that promised insight into how to choose your battles, obsessions, reading material, or Netflix series. It’s just a moment where I was album to let go of that “next hill’s better” attitude and keep climbing the hill I was on. Sure, being part of a group meant I had no real say in the matter, but I could choose not to pout and throw myself into the next section of the walk. And the funny thing is that I now remember that valley far more than I otherwise might have done.
Next up: rivers.