Life changing lessons from what I thought would be a simple vacation

Today is the last day of our epic vacation and I'm up early reflecting on the trip.  I look down at my legs and see scrapes, bruises and bug bites...all reminders of the adventure.  This post is long-ish but it pays homage to nature and it's awesome power and is a lot of self reflection.  I grew a lot as a person on this trip.  I didn't expect that - I thought it was going to be a fun vacation.  But I learned so much through many different experiences that I felt compelled to get it all on paper and share. 

After a 7 hour drive from LA, 5 hours of sleep, and another 60 miles into nowhere, we descended into the Grand Canyon bright and early on Saturday morning.  A long 10 mile hike towards the promise of the most incredible waterfalls at Havasu Falls.  Having never backpacked into anywhere this was a new adventure for me.  I was excited for the challenge.  

Over the course of 10 miles you have a lot of time to think and reflect on where you are in life, what you're doing and where you're going (especially as an entrepreneur in the midst of building your first product).  Many times the hike was grueling.  The heat, the sharp rocks under your feet and the weight of the pack on your shoulders.  But with each step we got closer to our destination.  I look at the journey over the last 10 days as a parallel to where I am as an entrepreneur.  My path isn't laid out for me.  I can take many different routes to get to where I want to go.  But it's up to me and only me to get there.  There is a lot of "weight" on my shoulders and sometimes it feels as though the rocks are sliding underneath each step.  The journey can be grueling and many times you want to turn back.  

But then you come around a corner and see new life.  You see the fruits of your labor starting to bloom and you're in awe of what you created.  

As we continued into the canyon there seemed to be something more beautiful to look at with each turn.  Many times I was speechless at the beauty that surrounded us.  The bright blue sky hitting the tops of deep red rocks with peppered greenery all around.  It was sensory overload. The endless quite was almost deafening.  When we took a break and the crunching of rocks stopped below our feet, there was only silence.  Going from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles to being surrounded, literally, by nature was incredible.  


During this 10 mile hike we found ourselves caught in a few flash rainstorms despite the weather report saying sunny and clear blue skies.  We reached the Havasupai Indian Reservation just as the first torrent of rain came through.  Three or four houses flanked the red dirt entrance and as the rain descended upon us with fury, cries went out from house to house as if to welcome the needed water.  We found shelter under a tree and rode out the first storm.  

It made me laugh to think of how intensely we had planned this trip, how we had mapped out the weather and were "fully prepared."  In life, you can never be fully prepared.  The rain was a reminder that we will always be thrown curve balls on our path.  How you handle it defines your character.  As the rain let up and the sun beat down on us once more we made the final 2 mile humid trek into camp.

Before we made camp we rounded the bend only to find this magical oasis.  Even though we were so close to the relief of dropping our packs we stopped to take in the beauty and the joy that it was bringing everyone in the water.  We could feel the excitement brewing!  When we reached camp we immediately hit the water.  Our camp was right above this little log and we gave our legs a much needed ice bath with the cool water flowing through our site.  I felt as though I had won a championship and my teammates just threw the Gatorade bucket of ice water over my head!  A sweet victory and reprieve from the heat!

What I love about these 2 photos back to back is the fact that they were only 2 hours apart.  Moments after our refreshing swim we were hit by storm after storm after storm.  The rain came so hard we ditched camp and found a cave to shelter us for hours.  As we watched the rain from our cave we saw many new streams and little rivers begin to form.  Maybe it was the wine we brought to the cave or maybe it was the brilliance of nature, but watching a river find it's way out of nothing was truly beautiful.  We came back to camp and saw a very different river.  Our sitting log washed away and the sediment from up in the canyon was rushing through.  Within a few hours the rains stopped and we were able to make a delicious meal, play dice games and sleep in dry tents.  The next morning the water was clear again and it was as if the storm never passed through.  

I was in awe of how fast nature reset itself.  We as humans are not that fast to reset.  When a rain storm comes through and muddies our waters we hold on to that dirt for far too long. Watching this river go from muddy red to clear blue within a few hours demonstrated the power of mother nature.  It washed away the dirt as quickly as it came through.  

What if we were able to take a lesson from mother nature and let go of the dirt that comes into our lives as quickly as it arrives?  What if we were able to wash away any hurt, fear, pain or worry and let our vibrant colors shine through?  I venture to say we'd live in a much different world. 

The next morning we set out to explore the surrounding waterfalls.  What we thought would be a 2 mile little jaunt turned into an all day, 8+ mile adventure.  In a word, this area of our country is truly dynamic.  We would go from cool refreshing waterfalls and rivers to lush green thick foliage where you could barely see the earth and the heat hit you smack in the face.  

And then there was this....  "DESCEND AT OWN RISK" warned the sign.  When doing research before the trip we had learned about Mooney Falls.  The largest and arguably the most beautiful of the 5 waterfalls and the most challenging to reach, naturally.  The description on the internet echoed our sentiments when we gazed down into the cave staircase: "To reach the bottom of Monney, you'll have to descend the chains, ladders and bolts down a 200-feet tall travertine cliff.  This is a potentially dangerous descent... A fall would likely be fatal."  Well lets get to climbing then!  HA!

Slow and steady we all made it to the bottom and basked in the power of this incredible waterfall.  I have been to many places around the world yet in the state next door is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  I'm going to press pause in the chronology of this post because something happened while were were experiencing this beautiful and magical place that was dark and ugly and I can't let it pass without expressing my sadness. 

While we were hiking through these waterfalls and camping under the stars, the largest mass shooting in the United States took place in Orlando, Florida.  An absolute tragedy and nightmare. When we finally were in cell range and started checking emails we learned of what happened.  I felt so many things: disgust, rage, disappointment and guilt.  Guilt for having this incredible experience while others were dying at the hands of a terrorist.  It took me a while to process the gravity and I am grateful to a mentor of mine who said, "We have to have the courage to stay in the joy when bad things happen to good people."  When I remember back to this waterfall I will stay in the joy of that moment but also honor those who were lost and let it be a reminder to hold the ones I love so much closer. 

After 4 miles into the canyon we finally reached our destination, Beaver Falls.  Admittedly I didn't know if it would live up to they hype.  There were so many beautiful waterfalls and pools along the way they all started looking a bit the same!  But we had gone that far, we might as well get to the end.  

I am so grateful we didn't turn back because I had a wake up call in life that I needed. Floating on my back, looking up at an enormous red rock wall, so high it blocked out the sun, made me dizzy with perspective and was as thrilling as a roller coaster ride (nauseating as well).  It was the jolt and perspective I needed to get me out of my own head.  I've been caught up in the "busy" that doesn't matter.  I've been working towards my goals but allowing distractions to slow me down.  Getting back into nature and looking up at that view was as if I was let in on a secret and God or the universe or whatever you believe in was saying "Let go and trust."   I haven't always trusted that I am doing enough or what I put out there will BE enough for people.  Looking up and seeing this huge wall created by forces beyond my scope made me ask myself "What am I building?"  And when was I truly going to build it?   Not a rickety structure but a solid masterpiece like the one I was floating beneath.  The answer that I found within was Now!

I'll leave you with 3 other profound thoughts I had over this epic trip.  And the first began on the second leg of our journey, in Telluride, CO.  After yet another 7 hour drive we decided to hike up to Silver Lake high above Bridal Veil Falls.  After about 30 miles through the Grand Canyon this 3-4 mile loop almost killed us.  The hike was STRAIGHT up and at 10,000 feet of elevation my lungs felt like they were in a vice grip. We were constantly taking breaks to catch our breath and slow our spinning heads. 

Because of the recent snow thaw the trail was very hard to find.  There were knee high patches of snow pack we had to walk through, fallen trees to shimmy over or under and 2 false summits that were pretty soul crushing.  This hike taught me to harness my inner strength.  I have doubted my abilities for so long and this trip taught me that I am so much stronger than I think I am.  That the challenges I face will be many and will be difficult.  But I will learn, grow and be stronger because of them at the end.  I will have cuts all over from the branches and twigs that line my path...but the awe inspiring beauty that is waiting for me at the end will be worth it.  I have to trust in my abilities.  We all have to trust in our abilities. 

Two days later my husband and I decided to "tube" down the river.  The snow melt that I shared about earlier had created some nice rapids but we thought it would be similar to 2 years before when we enjoyed a fun little lazy river with Quinny on our stomach!

This picture below was our "before." My head is blocking it but right past that rock wall on the right was a series of boulders that had my name written all over them.  We set our tubes in the water, sat down and pushed off with the intent to hold on to each other's tubes and just float...  Now, just in case you're thinking we were ready for what was to come...we weren't!  I had a rotten stick that I grabbed as I was flying down the river to "steer" in anyway.  We were essentially in industrial pool floaties made for a lazy river going down class 3 rapids.  No shoes, no paddles, just us and the river.

After about 30 feet of chaos, I hit a boulder.  I was stuck there for a minute before a rush of water flipped me face first into the frigid water.  What came next I can only describe as feeling like I was in a washing machine.  I was pulled under, knocked against rocks, flipped up only to be pulled down again.  I can only imagine this was 30 seconds to a minute but it felt like a lifetime.  I was able to grab onto a passing rock as my tube floated down river and climb to safety.  I sat there on this little rock in panic, shock and relief. 

During my climb up the rock I saw Charlie float by and get tossed over just moments later.  Then nothing for 10-15 minutes.  I sat there alone with no idea where he was with a knee and foot that throbbed in pain.  I cried. I cried on that rock with fear and anger.  How stupid were we to put our lives at risk like that.  I don't know if I've ever felt more vulnerable.  Alone on a rock with a busted up leg and foot, no idea if my husband is still floating or if he's just gone through the same, and no way to contact him.  In a word, terrifying.  

Eventually I saw him making his way up the bank to me.  The relief that I felt I truly can't put into words.  

Our "tubing" experience might have only lasted a few minutes.  But it changed me.  I have been in control of everything I've done and never truly at the mercy of my environment.  Being tossed around like a rag doll, hitting rocks and sucking in water showed me how precious life really is.  How lucky I was to find safety on a rock. 

On that rock I wondered why I had waited so long to fully pursue my passion and dreams.  What was I waiting for? A sign? A florescent blinking arrow pointing to my dreams saying "HERE IT IS!"?  Well if I was waiting for something - this was it.  Life is too damn short to not live your life the way you want.  Life is too short to be fearful of what others might say.  Life is too short to play small to please the masses.  That is what I learned on that rock.

And that was solidified 2 days later. 

Two days later we were sitting at a bluegrass concert when we received a message that my husband's client and friend had died at 27 in a freak accident.  He was the kindest, passionate, joyful person.  To have his life cut short in such a tragic way rocked us to the core.  Without going into all the details he was doing the most average thing that every single one of us does on a daily basis. 

It solidified that life is outrageously precious. 

We go through life and get wrapped up in "busy."  We try to "kill time" before something more exciting.  We hold back because we don't think we're good enough, important enough or smart enough.  We let what we "think" others think of us or will think of us to dictate our actions and we play small because of it.  We stress about things that don't ultimately matter.  We stay in relationships, jobs, circumstances that don't bring us joy because we are scared of the unknown. 

Never again.

Life is too precious, too short, and too fragile to let anything hold you back from being you.  I learned a lot, felt a lot and cried a lot on this trip.  Nature has always had a way of southing my soul and replenishing me.  This time, it woke me up.  Woke me up to what I need to do in my life. Woke me up and said "NOW, not later!"  

We have one life.  My wish for you is that you live it to the fullest, embrace each and every moment and that you no longer play small.  That you step into you and truly live the life that you desire.