Years ago, when my wife was expecting a diamond engagement ring at any moment, I went hiking in the Chilean Patagonia with my buddy Johnny Walker (that’s his real name).
Over the next week, we hiked the famous “W’ trail through rain, snow, hail, more rain, and more hail.
We were cold and wet most of the time. But the wind was the worst. The wind took your soul.
While our misery prevented much introspection on the trail, it allowed for some clarity while taking stock on the trip home. On my way to the airport, my thoughts turned back towards the real world. I don’t know if I expected some sort of enlightenment or illumination from hiking in Patagonia. I don’t know if I hoped for some breakthrough in some aspect of my life. I don’t quite know what I expected to find.
The term “finding oneself” has become another casualty of good phrasing in that it has become cliché. It’s an interesting idea; the notion that we can discover unknown reserves of strength, wisdom, or inner peace. But perhaps we are thinking about it the wrong way.
Maybe the urban philosopher Eminem had it right when he said you’ve got “to lose yourself”. Why do we strain to identify so strongly with a feeling of being found, when maybe being lost is really what we need the most? Do we forget what we’re capable of when we aren’t being pushed?
In the end, the “lightbulb” moment came weeks after I returned. I had been thinking about the trips my friends and I used to take and how people’s lives change and evolve over time. I used to go on trips in search of good times, great people, and strong drink; being eager only to live life to its fullest; to have stories to tell, and long nights to be forgotten as travelers have done throughout history.
A man I particularly admire once said of modern society that “the open road still softly calls”. I found I still yearned for adventure; no longer in search of life’s fleeting pleasures, but rather in search of the soul’s satisfaction.
Six months later I proposed to my (now) wife on top of the US Capitol dome.