by: Clare Healy | San Francisco, CA
Right after my parents and my education, I can attribute most important life lessons to one thing - hiking. From trekking through the Rif Mountains of Morocco to exploring every inch of my current home’s gem - the Golden Gate Bridge, I find myself more awestruck, grateful, and understanding with every adventure.
Whether you already love getting lost in a forest or you would prefer a night on the couch with Netflix and ice cream, there is one hiking lesson for everyone - the desire path. A desire path, quite simply, is an alternate trail that takes the shortest or most easily navigated route between points. Desire paths are less traveled and are often created when 1. the existing route is nonsensical or nonexistent or 2. there is something beautiful to be seen off the beaten path.
But the idea behind a desire path is much more than a dusty shortcut through a forest. It is a way of life that can be achieved by being courageous.
By being 1% more courageous, I have reached my destinations far more quickly than via the typical route. I have taken a path less traveled. I have learned more than I would have otherwise. I have seen more than expected. Rather than taking the typical path, courage has allowed me to pave a path just for me.
But I know building up courage can be more difficult than choosing which hiking trail to take. So, how did I choose my particular desire path?
I learned what courage meant for others. I looked up definitions of the word, sought quotes, read articles, and watched videos. A lot of people talk about courage. I learned that everyone is perceives courage in a very differently way.
To Melinda Gates, courage is believing that change is possible. Derek Sivers says courage is the ability “to follow and show others how to follow.” Others think courage is being scared of something, but doing it anyways.
I chose what courage meant FOR ME. I decided that true courage is risking being uncomfortable. I accepted that discomfort is better than being too comfortable.
I figured out what I was fearful of. We are all afraid of something. Okay - many things. When I was graduating college, I could not escape my fear of being holed up in an office all my life and not seeing the world. This was going to be my inspiration. I started seeking smaller things that made me anxious. I began biking everywhere. I woke up earlier every day. I set out on weekend hikes. I enrolled in a writing class.
I looked at my circumstances and changed the ones I could. I moved somewhere new. I knew I was stuck in a mental rut in Los Angeles so I moved up to San Francisco - a place that pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me to do what I love. I found a job that inspires me to hustle in all areas of life. I stopped going out late every single Friday and Saturday. I promised to do something for myself every week. I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone.
I stopped listening to people who complain a lot. There are a lot of complainers in my lifetime and there will be a lot in yours, too. These are not the people who will inspire you to be courageous.
I found heroes. Heroes are the people that can inspire us, persuade us, and push us. Heroes can make huge, seemingly impossible feats more attainable.
When I decided I wasn’t going to force myself to choose between a job or seeing the world around me, I didn’t know anyone who was doing this like I wanted to do it. Most adventurers made a living out of traveling. To me, they did not understand the challenge of squeezing trips into weekends or not spending tons of money.
Instead of relying on heroes to pave the perfect path before me, I found backpackers, photographers, hikers, and writers who were sharing their journeys on social media. I followed them. I (respectfully) stalked them. I learned where they had travelled, what they had written about, and who they had photographed. I took note of how they got there, why they went, and what they brought. My heroes’ documentation of travel didn’t just inspire me - it made my goal attainable. It brought me from “Maybe I could go here in the next 5 years” to “I am doing that next month.”
I did my research. We are so ridiculously lucky to have all the information we need at our fingertips. No matter your goal, you can find information, support, and inspiration on the internet. I quickly learned that I could find everything from the most breathtaking beaches to the most photogenic backpacking trails with a quick internet search. I could also find tips from other people, packing lists, and more.
I acted. Pretty soon, I was getting outside every weekend. I was finding new hiking trails, beaches, and waterfalls in my own backyard. I was getting lost in a city I thought I knew well. I was sitting speechless and at awe, looking at some of the most beautiful things our home has to offer.
For me, 1% more courage was the start to 1% more creativity, more open-mindedness, more adventure, and more enthusiasm for life. From India to Death Valley, courage has brought me to corners of the earth I had never even thought of going to. It has pushed me to hustle harder at work and to love my job. It has challenged me to create something new every day. It has taught me that I have the power to choose my future.
Today, my chosen heroes continue to challenge me to explore. I still get goosebumps just planning my next adventure. I seek new places, incredible journeys, and discomfort. Most importantly, I try to be more courageous, 1% at a time.