My eyes are barely open as I unzip the tent fly and stumble outside onto the wet, morning grass. I wonder why I can’t remember hearing the sound of rain the night before, then realize that it must be dew. I yawn and groggily walk towards the oak tree so I can pee. As I follow the trail back to the tent, I catch a glimpse of orange just over the peaks in the horizon. I run back and try to wake my friends, but they all groan and pull their pillows over their heads.
“Guys, come out! The sun is starting to rise!” I say, slapping each of their legs. Milo mumbles something inaudible and shoos me away with his hand. Oscar is still fast asleep and snoring, while Michelle is buried somewhere inside her sleeping bag.
“Aw, c’mon. It’ll be really beautiful,” I try. But still, no one wakes. I head over to the vantage point alone.
The sun has inched its way over the trees now, coloring the sky in perfect shades of reds and oranges. I scramble down the rocks to reach the ledge of the mountain and let my feet dangle below me. The fog blankets the quiet county beneath me, and for a brief moment, I forget where I am. I am surrounded by half-bloomed purple perennials and a couple of dandelions growing out of the cracks in the dirt. I’m back in Africa, watching a sunrise from the other side of the world.
I believe that a life well-lived is one in which you are successful. To me, success is not what you have accomplished, but how you have chosen to engage with the world. I used to think living simply meant settling down. It meant a white picket fence, two kids, and a steady job. It meant the same views every day. But now I believe that a simplified life means just the opposite. It allows space for adventure – whether you find it in Gravesend, Africa, or here on this mountain in upstate New York.
The sunrise here reminds me of the ones I saw in Tanzania, Panama, and Spain. All were breathtaking and beautiful, but different in their own ways. Tanzania is where I witnessed the transformation of a sky painted in a marvelous array of purples. Panama is where I saw metallic pinks and silvers. Spain is where I saw intense reds. By surrendering myself to change and embracing unfamiliarity, I have had meaningful experiences- ones that have taught me the value of living simply, but happily.
The fog is finally clearing up, and I can see the fields and rolling hills that we hiked through yesterday, far east of where I’m sitting. I do not know where I will be or what will become of me in the next few years, but I hope I will be waking up to a new sunrise every morning.
I believe that the greatest joy in life comes from having an endlessly changing horizon.
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