I looked ahead, scanning the rocks to find a stable place to land my footing. The “trail” isn’t easily marked like I’m used to. Norway is famous for having open land, where you can walk or hike, creating your own path & forging ahead to your destination. Norwegians have a tendency to follow the start of a path, giving you a sense of the right direction, then large sections of it can disappear and confusingly reappear. So, like detective work you need to decide if the trodden grass or mud in front of you is truly THE trail or if it’s a jumping off point a more experienced hiker has taken before you. Like a metaphor, you literally follow your own path. That’s the adventurous and simultaneously terrifying part of hiking Norway.
As a less experienced climber, I quickly became what I dubbed myself the “Angela Lansbury of faulty rocks”, attempting to find clues to make sure I stayed on an easy path, but managing to always uncover all little holes in the footing, every loose stone. If there was an exceptionally mushy ground in the muddy bog area, my foot seemed to hone in and find it. I began to second-guess my choices and started to doubt my gut.
“Well, there are footprints here,” I mumble to myself as I surveyed the land in front and then slightly ahead of me. Since I was the master at finding the worst places to walk, I had started to question if this was the right way to go. I trusted the trail in front of me and shortly ended up stuck on a boulder, with a high enough vantage point to see to the right lay a dirt path, with rocky stairs leading up to a small plateau about halfway to the top, 400 yards ahead. I caught my breath, puffing and red faced as I watched as a small group of Norwegian girls easily navigate down the trail, bouncing across the soil with ease as I stood trying to find my balance while scanning the land for the quickest way back on track. How do they make it look so light and carefree as I’m lumbering up the mountain like an uncoordinated troll? They wave as the breeze by me, unaware that I’m basically a lump trapped on this rock. I force an uneasy smile and wave back, watching them become little specks as the float downhill.
It was then that I had a moment of distrust in myself that disturbed me. I now stood alone, looking out to the sea, then down to the road. Why wasn’t I happy that I had made it this far? I forced myself to shake my negativity and to feel proud of what I’ve completed instead of feeling sorry for myself because of what a pack of svelte Scandinavian models had accomplished. The worry of failure can creep up at the most inopportune times. Much like the philosophy of Norwegian hikes, finding my own path has helped me to confront those fears. Solo travel has forced me to acknowledge these feelings and recognize that they’re complete bullshit. There’s no one on this mountain that can help me get to the top but me. I put faith in myself that I can accomplish anything, shaking those insecurities like a pebble, bouncing towards the base of the climb.
These pebbles of doubt can begin to be such a nuisance that they start to feel as heavy as boulders.
For instance, one of those pebbles is that I’ve never felt “conventionally pretty”. I would never be described as the skinny, fit or beautiful friend. I’ve always been OK with that since childhood, and I learned what I lacked in looks I’ve made up for with personality. I’m more likely to be described as funny or outgoing than anything else making it easy for me to question my physical abilities. It’s interesting how even at a young age you can pick up on these things and adapt, and I’m not sure if I’m disappointed in our culture for creating such stigmas for little girls, or if I’m impressed with how quickly I figured out how the world worked and molded to it.
I’m consistently trying to be more confident and outgrow the box I placed myself in. Self-doubt is hard to shake and it’s easy to develop a new set of insecurities while traveling. It’s why the older I am the more I realize that those feelings from the past have a way of repeating itself, that teenage chore of trying to impress, fit in, maintain and navigate never really goes away, it just presents itself in another way with each passing year.
My goal is simple: to be happy just being me. My goal is to be proud of my accomplishments and to then get out of my own way so I can achieve greater. To not put restrictions on myself that creates barriers to my happiness and to break free from those childhood delusions.
I stood there on that rock, sweaty and tired, and reminded myself of this mantra. I’m capable to climb this mountain and thinking I’m not fit enough, pretty enough, skinny enough or good enough is the only thing preventing me from reaching the summit.
And so I continue my climb.
I made it to the top and although fatigued, I was elated to be rewarded with such an incredible view. I did it; I persevered through my harshest critic, my own internal voice.
I’d like to think I’m not the only person who can get caught up in a similar dialogue. Getting in our own way because of thoughts that were ingrained in us as young girls. I need to be reminded to compliment myself and find joy in all of my achievements. Why can it be difficult to acknowledge who we are now while encouraging our potential? Why is it so hard for our societies to lift women up instead of creating unrealistic expectations?
I think social media has a major role in this. I want to see real life; genuine emotions and not curated content, making reality feel less important than staged photos. I want to see images of real women doing amazing things. I want to exist in a space where women spend more time encouraging each other instead of judging one another. Where young girls don’t have to adapt to fit a mold, they can be unique and accepted, not made to feel or look a certain way.
On this mountain, I’m celebrating that I can be a force of positivity in the lives of others who like me have periods of self-doubt. On this mountain I’m celebrating both my flaws and my strengths. On this mountain, I’m celebrating beauty, both inside and out.
I’m celebrating everybody’s bodies, because if THIS body is capable of amazing things, ANY body is.
Check out 68 North as a great reference to see information about the climb as well as other hikes I completed while in the stunning Lofoten Islands.