Are you looking for ways to push yourself even further when you travel? Find something that will test your endurance both physically and mentally and teach you new things about yourself along the way.
One of the most important aspects of travel is what it can teach us—and not just about different cultures, food, traditions, and languages. Travel also has the power to teach us about ourselves and offer life lessons that stick with us long after the flight home. Celaque National Park (Parque Nacional Montaña de Celaque) is home to the highest peak in Honduras—Cerro Las Minas—and also happens to be where I learned valuable life lessons about perseverance, inner strength, and both the literal and figurative power of putting one foot in front of the other.
Side Trip to a Small Town in Honduras
Founded in 1536, Gracias is one of the oldest towns in the Honduras, and is known for its colonial architecture. This sleepy town in the southwest of the country is also the easiest jumping-off point for exploring Parque Nacional Montaña de Celaque. My original Honduras travel plans did not include a visit to Gracias, having only planned a quick stop in Copan to see Mayan ruins before heading back into Guatemala. After several travelers I met along the way recommended a visit to the park and a hike up it’s peak, though, I decided to spend a few extra days in Honduras. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this decision would become a turning point not only in my travels, but also in my life.
As the bus approached Gracias, I was excited for a few reasons, the first of which was simply that I’d deviated from my original travel plan—a great way to discover potential travel gems on a trip. This also would be an opportunity to hike in the cloud forest, something I’d always wanted to do. Being a fairly inexperienced hiker, I opted for a day hike: eight hours towards the summit of Cerro Las Minas and then back down again, as opposed to the longer overnight excursion to the top.
Expectation Versus Reality
The next morning, my daypack filled with water, snacks, and bug repellent, I set off with a guide and a couple of other hikers just as the sun warmed the early hours of the day. The ride was scenic, my fellow hikers friendly, and my mood buoyant (if a little sluggish from the early wakeup call). The hike started off slow and steady, and I enjoyed the beautiful natural surroundings and ideal hiking weather.
Then the hike got hard in a way I wasn’t prepared for or expecting.
I was expecting a scenic walk up winding paths, a few selfies as we got close to the summit, then a breezy walk back down. I was expecting to keep up with the group, something I’d never struggled with in the past. In all ways, I was verywrong. Staggering switchbacks led all the way up, leaving me sweaty, frustrated, slipping on crumbling ground, and breathless. Within the first 90 minutes I was ready to quit, actually uttering the words, “leave me here” to my fellow hikers—which led to me hiking alone and behind. The frustration that ensued become a mental block that I just couldn’t move past, which in turn made the entire process more difficult. The more I fell behind, the more negative I felt—until everything changed.
Even in my state of defeat I realized that it wasn’t feasible to just camp out forever in a national park in Honduras, so I continued my slog. As I kept going (albeit slowly) my head began to clear, and I realized that all I really needed to do was put one foot in front of the other. As I did, I began to appreciate my surroundings, realizing I didn’t have to be fastest or fittest, I just needed to keep moving. Being alone, while initially a frustrating feeling, let me live in the moment and digest the experience on a whole new level.
The experience taught me a huge life lesson that I still draw on when things get difficult:
Just. Keep. Moving.
What life lessons have you drawn from your own travel experiences? Let us know in the comments!
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Off the Beaten Path: How to Hunt Down Hidden Travel Gems
A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking
Why Nature is Good for Your Mind
Related Eagle Creek Products:
Wayfinder Backpack 30L