As I hobble awkwardly along the beach, two purple swollen blood soaked shins and a pain through my right ankle that feels almost rhythmic as I place one foot in front of the other, the dazzling white charter boat comes into view.
Full of smartly dressed tourists, the boat eases gently through the ocean waves complete with cozy deck chairs and canapes. With phones at the ready, eager to take in the view, it is in this moment I become acutely aware of the vast chasm that exists between our two realities. Though there may be a mere 50m separating us in distance, our experiences are light years apart.
I am not the same person I was 72 hours ago. The beginning of each trek is always the same. Full of anticipation and excitement about what lay ahead, oblivious to the ways in which I will be changed before I arrive back at the beginning.
As I glimpse the lightness of their smiling faces and champagne laden hands, I can’t help but wonder what they make of this woman on the beach, dragging herself and her salty hair and battered body towards the thousand step finale of her journey.
How thankful they are to be on that boat and not the beach…how much better and more enjoyable they believe their experience to be….
Should our worlds collide in another time and place, the boat goer and I, no distinction will exist between their experience and mine for our photographs have captured the same landscapes. ‘Oh yes, I’ve been there too, beautiful isn’t it’ you will hear them say. The difference will be apparent only to me.
That difference… the knowledge of experience.
I have spent 3 days immersed in this environment. Living in its vastness, I have not just walked its contours, I have touched its beauty, swam in its waters, slept under its stars and breathed its changing moods. I have felt elation and exhaustion, pleasure and pain, triumph and defeat. I have summited peaks and tumbled down valleys. I have greeted new parts of me, discovering how I deal (and don’t deal) with challenge, how to listen to the rhythms of my body, when to say yes and when I need to say no and how to quiet my chattering mind when it launches a silent assault of doubt upon me.
And the tourists on the boat…what remains of their time spent here?
A picture. A distant memory of another nice landscape viewed from afar, a holiday they once had.
For me, the woman on the beach, the wisdom of my experience will remain permanently etched on my being. Its lessons and learnings imprinted on my being like part of my DNA that will continue to reveal their meaning as they guide me into each new day and each new experience, a more alive, aware and resilient human than before.
By Sam Mair