This Thanksgiving I fed my soul

Well, it is a little late to be writing about Thanksgiving, as it is just past Christmas, but I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. Over the November holiday , I got to take an amazing trip with two lovely people, Casey and Erin, who I am happy to call two of my closest friends. We went to Patagonia, Chile (thank you Erin for being the creator and catalyst!) to hike the W trail in Torres del Paine. For those of you who thought of Patagonia as a clothing brand and some distant place that sounds epic, fear not, you are not alone (or maybe that was just me…). It is the large region on the southern tip of South America shared by both Chile and Argentina with the Andes as the dividing line. We however were right here…

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This is how the beautiful national park in Southern Chile, more commonly referred to as Torres del Paine, greets you.

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Where the water is known as glacier milk and can be imbibed “straight from the mountains teet” TM (Casey, I hope you're laughing and getting ready to make t-shirts), where fires are not permitted due to an incident with some used toilet tissue back in 2011 that burned more than 14,000 acres of the park to a crisp, and where scenery changes vastly from day to day but is consistently gorgeous.

Anyways, while this may appear unrelated, I am taking a holistic online health course and its foundation is based on the logic that we all need “Primary Foods”. The primary foods are physical activity, relationships, career, and spirituality. With these primary foods, actual food that we consume can become secondary and we are able to make healthier choices aligned with our body’s physical needs. During our 5-day hike in Torres del Paine, I had my fill of ALL the primary foods (and some of the secondary… It is mind blowing how hot water and quick oats can taste like heaven first thing in the morning).

Physical Activity

Well duh. We hiked a shit ton (roughly 37 miles, may need to correct that). At least by my inexperienced standards. But let me just say that the way my body adapted throughout the trip astounded me. Day 1 a was tough with lots of elevation, so by the evening of day 2, my butt, legs, and hips were sore to the touch. But, it was TOTALLY worth it because we got to feast our eyes on this…

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And I got to capture moments like these…

I was actually shocked that my supposed “fitness level” did not leave me feeling like this was a piece of cake. Well by the middle of day 3, I felt… strong. Carrying that pack, I was amazed by the feeling of strength in my core and my legs, the ability I had at pulling myself up onto rocky staircases and fighting gravity on the way down with my heavy pack. I loved the sound of our footsteps and the concentration on my breathing during tough up hills. The feeling of my body heat being cooled and the light sweat on my face being dried by the crisp, fresh mountain air was a new type of refreshing. It felt like cardiovascular meditation, which is one of my favorite releases. But it was different from my typical running escape in that it was a longer, slower, very compassionate type of meditation. You could stop when you wished, you could drink water, you could sit and gaze at the gorgeous scenery that was at EVERY turn.

I mean, come on….

Also amazingly, I never felt that feeling of tired exhaustion that I so often get when I go to NYC for the day, or to a museum, or the mall. You know, that kind of tired where you feel like you want to drag your knuckles on the floor and if you don’t sit down immediately (or have an Auntie Anne's Pretzel) you may start throwing a hairy fit? Those are all activities that involve WAY less physical strain, but I guess mentally, they really tire me out. Not on that trail I tell you. I felt sensationally energized the entire 5 days. I also fell asleep immediately when my head hit the sleeping bag, but during the hike, I felt a consistent stream of steady, relaxed energy. Perhaps it was the Mate tea which we shared every morning, or the mountain air, or maybe it was the completely clear state of mind when all that we had to accomplish that day is to walk from point A to point B. A feeling like that is rare treat for those of us who live in the hustle and bustle day to day. It was like a drug and I am ready to rob a bank to get me some more oh dat! Just kidding, but really... get me a tourniquet.

 

Relationships

I felt like I deepened my connection with Erin and Casey, two gals who I ADORE spending time with and really admired anyway. But on this trip, we had times of deep conversation, of inane banter, booming laughter, and peaceful silence, all of which made me feel like I got to know them in a special way that I didn’t before. Even more exceptional were the physical ailments we all encountered, from swollen eyelids to bum knees to peeling sunburned scalps, and yet, I felt in even more awe of their beauty and ability to handle punishing ailments than I had ever before.

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In terms of new relationships, it's hard to count! There is a lot of companionship on a trail and in a campground, almost like, “kudos, I similarly smell like a dirty sock and have not eaten this much trail mix in my entire life either, let’s be friends”. The folks that made the largest impact on me were the team at Dittmar Adventures. If you have any thoughts about going to Patagonia, Chile (before or after this post) you MUST MUST MUST go with these guys. They immediately make you feel like you are part of a family. We were greeted at the bus stop upon our arrival by the lovely Julie in Puerto Natales and brought back to the “Tin House” (also a place with 8 beds and "cool atmosphere" for travelers to stay) where we met our guide, Mauricio. We even shared drinks until late at night with one of the owners of Dittmar Adventures, David. Like I said, they immediately welcome you and are eager to share their travel experiences and hear about yours.

The rest is history. Ana and Alejandro also traveled with us and I feel like we got closer every day (and my Spanish was improving incrementally thanks to their patience). We laughed more, shared more, drank more (Mate! ...and some beer). I was so sad to leave these folks and the park after just 5 days… It didn’t feel like enough.

Post hike, in Puerto Natales, there was one moment that truly touched me and manifested the types of bonds that we were able to form. Throughout the hike, we got to know Mauricio better and learned that his wife was pregnant with their first child. The excitement and love he felt for his child and for everything around him as a result of his child’s existence was evident and contagious. Hearing him talk, about anything really, made me smile. Well, when we were leaving the bar in Puerto Natales to catch a ride back to Punta Arenas, he comes to say goodbye and wish us luck and then he says, “I want to show you something”. He pulls out his phone and shows us a picture of his wife’s ultrasound. His child. The look on Mauricio’s face and the joy in his eyes is something I see very infrequently and can only hope to experience myself one day. Seeing someone who you care for in such a state of happiness left me awestruck. I was taken aback by the ability of human emotion and that I got to witness such a happy moment in his life. It was true beauty, surpassing that of this scene…

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Or that...

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Yeah, that beautiful. Relationships that make you feel insane joy and warmth are the special ones. I am so lucky to have had that many times in this far off place where I only spent 5 days.

Spirituality

This is something that I have gotten super into within the past 2.5 years. It guided me through my last bit of college, helped me adapt to the new, real world, and allowed me a chance to get to know myself better and enhance the relationships that I had. When I was out on that trail, I felt a deep connection to myself and what truly makes me happy. Every day as we were hiking and there was a period of long silence (as there often is on a long walk) I would find myself feeling this vibration-like energy in my chest that would wind up finding its way to my lips and my eyes and before I knew it I was smiling… And feeling… BEAUTIFUL.

Weird, right? Conceited? Maybe. But there was no mirror in sight! I was wearing the same clothes that I had slept in, I hadn’t showered in days, my eyelashes were bleached invisible by the sun and there was no mascara for miles. Despite all of the evidence that pointed to the contrary, I felt radiant, beautiful, and healthy. As mentioned earlier, my body felt strong and my mind felt clear. I had never been more connected to my spirit and my thoughts than I was during those 5 days. Luckily, I am left with the remnants of those feelings and inspirations. These feelings and inspirations are just beginning to produce results … To be continued ;)

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Career

This is kind of a weird one to incorporate here, as I was on vacation from my career… But being in the park made me…

#1: appreciate that my career affords me these opportunities both in vacation time and financially.

#2: more aware of how much I enjoy being outside and being active throughout my day. I NEED ME SOME MORE NATURE and I need to start carving out time for that and being more forthcoming with that information when I make my preferences known to the powers that be (aka my supervision).

And #3… I am still working through #3, but will let you know when I hash all of that out.

 

So there you have it folks. The impact that this trip has had on me mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually was profound. I feel so thankful to have gotten to experience it all and will continue to look for chances when I can experience it again. All I know is Torres del Paine hasn’t seen the last of me yet. I have to get back there… soon.

Thank you for indulging me and reading this post! Please continue to scroll down for some travel porn and a magnificent video montage that Casey put together. I never cease to be impressed by the hidden talents of my friends.

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[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h1Fi9pCgIc&w=560&h=315]

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