While you can’t see my face in this picture, my jaw was touching the ground as I saw we were going to be at the top of these mountains in 3 hours.

Thinking of hiking brings me back to my first real hike I did at Lake Tahoe in California. The trek was 14 miles up to the top, and my brother tagged along. We could make it with a couple stops for me to catch my breath since asthma slowed me down. Trailing behind another group, my brother wanted to follow them down the path they were going to return to the starting point, while I wanted to go back the way we came. As he suggested his idea, a woman lost her footing and slid down the path. With neither of us wearing proper shoes, we got lost in the forest after losing the group, for at least 2 hours before we found our way back home.

Homes and parts of the towns surrounding Montserrat as we began our descent to the top.

When we first arrived at Montserrat, I was reminded of those events, thinking I would slip or fall, or be the person the entire group waits for as she catches her breath or cannot finish the hike; in other words, I was petrified. The hike began “rockily”, with no steady path to follow, and no railings or handles to hold. There were many times I had to grab onto other rocks and pull myself up, or hope I’d be able to keep my balance as I hopped from rock to rock and stumbled a few times. At first, I began at the front, thinking I needed to prove myself, but at the end, I was in the back and benefited more. Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to be at the front and hear our fantastic guide Layla explain Montserrat and its significance, but I need to learn to go my own pace. What I’m doing for myself and my goals aren’t for anyone else, so it’s okay to take it as slow or as fast, or in whatever way I choose to.

I’m learning a lot about myself through these excursions, how far my limits go and how willing am I to push the boundaries, which I had no idea was even possible for me to consider. I feel my confidence building and my self-image increasing, which was a personal goal I kept to myself with no expectation to fulfill. Another lesson I’m learning is to credit myself; often in the United States, I feel our accomplishments become too cyclical. Whether it’s getting the GPA you wanted or earning the paycheck at the end of the week, I don’t think we feel it’s necessary to have a sense of accomplishment or pride when we should. While these things are what we are supposed to do and need to do to be successful or progress to another milestone in life, some people can’t do it or don’t have the desire to try. Which is why, the next time I will try to be proud of myself for once, whether it’s hiking 4,055 ft. above sea level or getting the grades in college; if I’m making a difference for others or for myself, I’ve accomplished something.