Sitting in the tent, the wind threatening to blow us them from the plateau, the summit climb looming behind us, Gayle and I were busy getting ready. We had only a few hours to wait until midnight, when the ash of the volcanic cone that formed the mountain’s rim would be frozen, and we had the best chance of reaching the summit before the sun rose and the solid ash became dust again. Before we slept we had to rehydrate ourselves, eat enough to fuel us for the long climb in sub-zero temperatures and tend to our blistered feet and chapped faces. The team doctor was worried about my breathing; the cold and the altitude was causing my asthma to make an appearance and her stethoscope had detected a rattle in each of my lungs. Gayle and I talked about our pacing, our strategy, agreed what we would do if one of us faltered or had to descend before we reached the summit, reminded each other why we were there, and packed our rucksacks so we were ready when the call to leave the tents came. We knew we were pushing our bodies and minds to their limits, so we really had to look after ourselves, and each other. The preparation was done. All we could do now was wait for the call, and then walk uphill for several hours, our hearts set on reaching the summit and getting safely back down to this tent, neither of which was guaranteed.
We both made the summit, and are still here to tell the tale. I learnt a lot about myself while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but I’ve learnt a lot about myself while walking parts of the South Downs Way as well. I love adventures and I have come to realise that any adventure, no matter how big or small, is an act of self-love.
Everyday adventures and having an attitude of wonder and adventure in everything I do, gives me endless opportunities for awe and wonder – which are known to be connected to positive mental heath and well-being. The physical aspect of huffing and puffing my way up a hill or picking a route through an uneven forest give my body opportunities to gain in strength and endurance. The view from the top nourishes my soul and puts my problems into perspective.
My body has had it’s fair share of injury and wear over the years so I need to pay attention to it. Being aware of what my body is feeling or how it is responding, is the first part of active self-care. When I am walking or cycling, I need to notice what is happening in my body, allowing me to stop thinking for a while, and to simply ‘be’. It gives me a chance to be fully in my experience and not in my thoughts. Bringing mindfulness to adventure is a natural step, enhancing each and every experience and making it so much more vivid and encompassing, that I want to do it again and again.
Making adventure part of your life gives you a positive reason to develop good self-care habits. Taking care of your mind, body and soul as you travel gently through the countryside heals your pain, allows clear thinking or simply being in the moment, so that inspiration has room to enter.
By giving yourself opportunities to practice self-care, and with it, self-love, you set up a positive cycle of needing self-care, and giving yourself opportunities to practice it.
Learning to pay attention to your needs enables you to recognise when you are hungry, tired or in need of support. And taking this into your daily life means that you recognise those needs when you are working in your business or in your work as well.
Admittedly, you might get some strange looks if you start to dress your blisters in the weekly meeting, but raising other needs that you have becomes more instinctive when you are familiar with how it feels when you take the best possible care of yourself.
The first step is taking notice of your needs, and adventure gives you that chance.
Next time, I’ll share how I used these skills to help me in the world of work, and how the skills I had learnt during adventures enabled me to recognise when I needed help.
With love, Zoé x