My mission is to challenge myself and to be present. The journey has helped me to better appreciate life.
Last fall, I booked a rather spontaneous trip to visit Virgin Islands National Park. It was my first solo journey to an unfamiliar destination, and while I was a little nervous, I was excited for everything new I would experience. It’s a mindset I’ve adopted and love — one of adventure and curiosity.
Even with some extensive travel under my belt, from New Zealand to Machu Picchu and Ecuador, I felt a multitude of emotions landing in St. Thomas. I was relaxed as I took in the Caribbean scenery. I was taken aback by the damage from the Category 5 hurricanes that came through a year earlier. I was melting from the humidity. Yet all the while I was eager to explore my 30th U.S. national park.
I took the car ferry from St. Thomas to St. John and was ready to hike the Lind Point Trail in the park. I stopped to take photos from an overlook, then hiked down to Solomon Beach. Only one other person was there, swimming. It was beautiful. As I got to the sand and took off my boots, I felt a drop. Two drops. Then, it was raining. I looked out at the water and let the rain fall on me. I stayed, cherishing the moment, focused on being present and mindful of my happiness.
I wasn’t worried about my counseling caseload, the psycho-educational reports I had to write, or meetings I had to attend as part of my career as a school psychologist. The reward of the contrasting gray skies with the beautiful Caribbean-blue waters framed by lush green vegetation far outweighed anything else. I appreciated the brownish-purple hue of the iguana that surprised me on the trail, the coolness of the rain on my skin, and the sand under my toes. The happiness continued as I hiked, saw crabs and a deer, and celebrated surviving another day of adventure at the best restaurant on St. John. The rain was a small hiccup in what I expected, but another part of the experience I was having.
I set a purposeful intention to live in the present moment on my journeys — for exploring and in life and strive to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” Everything new is a little uncomfortable. Challenging myself always presents more positives and life-changing experiences than playing it safe. If I want something, “Why not try?”
My first “Why not?” was during my senior year at Geneseo. I wanted to move across the country to serve as a tutor and mentor with City Year Los Angeles, an AmeriCorps program, at an under-resourced middle school in Watts. I loaded up my dented Chevy Malibu to see if I really wanted to work with students. There have been many “Why Nots?” since.
It took years of graduate school and family members telling me to “slow down” before I really understood what they meant. You have to in order to appreciate the beauty of your surroundings. Now, I live for weekends and vacations and try to perfect a work-life balance.
In living in the present moment and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, I challenge my Type-A personality to “go with the flow.” Every unplanned mishap ranging from rain to canceled flights no longer causes stress and anguish. Getting stranded in Peru last summer due to a canceled flight meant a few days to explore Cusco.
This mindset has opened the world to me in a way. I’m still figuring out how it affects me, and that’s a beauty of it. I used to rush, to do all I could. Traveling makes me slow down. In slowing down, I am present. In being present, I appreciate the difference I find in people I meet, our similarities in the connections we make, great food and different cultures. I soak it in and keep it with me every day.