Something I should have learned from my five years in China is the Daoist principle that one of the most important parts of life is the journey, rather than the destination (but I did notice their temples were at the very top of mountains, thanks to my adventurous parents and school trips to different provinces in China). However, a recent hiking trip in my home state, Hawaii, helped me to see things in a more journey-oriented way.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
We had previously hiked the short 15-minutes into Pololu Valley. Usually we were content with stopping at the black sand beach at the bottom, admiring the view, and turning right back around.
My ‘destination’ (so to speak) that I was so fixated on this time was the Silver International Youth Award. I’d gotten the Bronze Award last year and had completed the 6 months of training, service, and physical recreation required to get the award. The only thing I was missing was the adventurous journey aspect. I wanted the three days and two nights over and done with. It was easy enough to go hiking and camp out, bringing all my food, water, and gear with me, I thought. Might as well get it over and done with before school starts.
Anyway, we had walked down the beach to the end of the valley and found the trail up the mountain leading to the next valley. I wasn’t really looking forward to a schlep (a Yiddish word I use to describe a difficult hike), and it had rained the night before. I’m not a big fan of slippery things, since I’m a klutz, and I don’t enjoy mud too much either. I was wondering if I was really going to have fun finishing my journey.
I wasn’t entirely sure, but what changed my mind was my sister. She’d helped me plan the journey, but was now asking quite frequently whether we really had to keep hiking and commenting that the trail had ended. At one such instance, we stopped for a water break, and saw, through the lush vegetation, the cerulean ocean and the point.
Wow, I thought, that’s really beautiful. And so I took it as my responsibility to keep us walking, even past what I thought was the end of the trail at a gate. But my friend, who had once hiked for three days from seven valleys over, had explained that before the second valley there was a rope, and if it was dry when we got there we could repel down the mountainside. I was planning to save the repelling for another hike; even so I was determined to at least make it that far. But now, instead of focusing on how much sludge was underfoot, I was looking around me, through the trees, and down at the ocean. When we saw the second valley I felt a sense of accomplishment – but I’d enjoyed the journey, too. If we’d stopped at the first valley or somewhere before where an earthquake had destroyed the trail, we would have never discovered the grassy area overlooking the ocean where we had lunch, or found wild lilikoi passionfruit on vines draped on trees next to the trail. I was proud of myself for sticking it out, spotting the fruit, and going as far as I did. But mostly, for finally seeing the point of the journey.
On the way back (which seemed so much faster than the way there), a tourist asked me, “Is the journey worth it?”
“Yes,” I told him, “Definitely.”
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