By Karolee Bulak
Being a Licensed Professional Counselor, I am always recommending that people move out of their comfort zone and take risks in life.
For many years, I have focused on my career and took little time off to travel or to explore with the exception of my one yearly trip to southern Florida.
I realized that my own life had become stagnant and that I needed to have more life adventurous.
I knew that in order for me to continue in my practice, I had to follow my own guidance and get out of my own comfort zone.
For years I wanted to hike the Grand Canyon with my son, but he had little to no interest. Finally, I asked a friend of mine to go, which she said yes, but every time we talked about dates, I had numerous reasons why I couldn’t go.
At the time, they all seemed valid, but when she told me one day that she had booked a trip to go with several other women, I knew that I could not wait any longer to follow one of my dreams, so I decided to travel solo and booked a four-day hiking tour to Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon.
Fear and Panic
After I booked my trip, I was bursting with excitement. I was traveling solo and meeting up with a group of strangers to spend four days hiking beautiful Havasu Falls. For several days the excitement continued to grow and then eventually fear and worry started to set in.
What was I thinking? What was I doing? I was traveling over a thousand miles to spend four days with complete strangers and sleep in a tent. I didn’t even like camping! I just wanted to hike, not thinking about all the other factors of a Grand Canyon trip.
Then I started to think of ways to back out of the trip. I still had time to get a partial refund. I could always go another time or wait until someone would travel with me. I could just not go, but I knew I had to move through the fear and do it.
This was after all, what I taught people to do. I knew that if you don’t take chances in life or have new experiences that you could be left with many regrets.
In the past, I had flown to Greece and backpacked throughout Europe. I had lived in England for 12 years. I had many great and wonderful travel experiences behind me but had not had any new travel experiences in over a decade.
What was I waiting for? I knew that there would always be a reason not to travel but I had to come up with reasons to go. I had to use my own guidance and ask myself the same questions that I ask my clients.
What if you don’t go? Will you regret it? What is the best and worst-case scenario? What will you gain from the experience? What will you learn? How will you grow as a person?
The positives outweighed the negatives. Fear can be a powerful energy field, but one that only gets bigger and stronger if not broken through.
At the time, I had no idea that hiking Havasu Falls was going to be one of the greatest adventures of my lifetime.
Second Thoughts and Sweet Surprises
On the morning of the flight, my friend took me to the airport. In the car, fear emerged I starting to have second thoughts. I started thinking, I could turn around at Minneapolis, I could fly to Phoenix and check it out.
I could actually travel to Flagstaff and spend the night and then fly back, but I knew that I wouldn’t return until the trip was done. I just kept taking one step at a time, one destination to the next. I focused on the journey itself, not the destination.
When I arrived in Phoenix, I waited for my shuttle to Flagstaff and met a Brazilian man who was also traveling solo on the same hiking trip as myself but going out the day before. We spent three wonderful hours together traveling, sharing travel photos and life stories. At
the hotel we parted ways and my own journey began.
Mindfulness and Nature
I met the travel guide and five other group members the night before the trip. Everyone seemed relatively in good spirits and the next morning we all piled into a small van and headed towards our destination.
Having never been to the Grand Canyon before, I was amazed at the beauty and vastness of this great place. I foolishly brought Nike sneakers to hike in and thought that my typical five-mile hiking excursions in Central Wisconsin would be comparable to the Grand Canyon.
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was too late. My journey had begun!
As we hiked down into the canyon, I couldn’t believe the beauty I saw around each corner. We spent seven hours hiking to the village of Supai where the only way out was by hiking, horseback or helicopter.
hgAfter another hour, we made it to our campsite and saw Havasu Falls, a magnificent aquamarine blue waterfall, set amidst the red canyon walls. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
After a long day of hiking on rocky and sandy trails, we had finally made it to our destination.
Once there, I had a moment of fear when I realized I couldn’t just get out of there, we were so remote, so far away and so cut off from civilization that it scared me, but after working through the fear, a sense of peace and serenity set in and I started to feel completely free and in the moment that everything, the life I knew and left behind was completely gone. I spent the next four days living completely in the moment, true mindfulness at its core.
Solo Traveler Finds Group Happiness
I knew immediately that I had met a really interesting and funny group of people. We laughed and hiked together and made shadow puppets on the walls of the canyon walls at night. We lead each other through rivers, up giant rock cliffs and down rock and ladder chains next to Mooney falls. We walked through fields of grapevines and ate picnic lunches next to beautiful green rivers.
We swam in five different waterfalls and met people from all over the country, all happy and hiking, making their own way through the trails. We helped each other climb, we rested together when tired.
We joked with each other and shared our life paths. Complete strangers conjoined deep within the canyon walls to forever share a wonderful life experience where spirit and nature joined forces.
Once I faced my fear and moved through it, I experienced one of the most wonderful trips and adventures of my life.
I would never again wait for Soulful seclusion and serenity at the Grand Canyon. someone to travel with. Fear of traveling alone or with strangers was gone.
I also learned that I could hike almost 40 miles in four days and climb down rock cliffs holding onto wet chains and ladders and I could test myself in a way that I had never done before.
A Soul’s Journey
When the day arrived to leave, I felt a deep sadness that I had never known before. I had visited and explored one of the most beautiful places on earth and may never again go back. I had experienced a soul connection to this beautiful and majestic place and grew as a person.
I became stronger emotionally, mentally and physically and came back with a greater appreciation for life and our short journey on earth. I also came back with a travel bug that I had never known before.
Now I continually seek destinations where I can again begin a new journey, not only a physical journey but a life journey.
Havasu Falls will always hold a special place in my soul.
Karolee Bulak is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor, Writer, and Artist. Karolee works with adults, adolescents and children in private practice helping clients with a diverse range of issues and/or problems using a combination of healing modalities including Positive Psychology, Energy Psychology, and Adventure Therapy. You can visit her website here.