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Unforgettable Lessons from Vacation

By Regina Tate, MEd, LPC-S, LCDC

Unforgettable Lessons from Vacation

By Regina Tate, MEd, LPC-S, LCDC

Sometimes, personal growth happens when you least expect it. While on vacation, most of us are excited about adventures; we are not always looking for travel to teach us life lessons. However, that is precisely what happened! 

Recently, my husband and I began hiking as an outdoor hobby. We are not “avid” hikers, but we enjoy it and tend to plan our vacations around opportunities to hike for breath-taking views of nature. One trip in particular stands out in my mind as a lesson in personal growth, and I want to share these four lessons with you. 

Pushing the limits for experience

Several summers ago, we took a 10-day road trip to experience the natural beauty of northern California. After an adventure up the coast to the Redwood Forest and then back through the wine country, we decided to visit Yosemite National Park for some hiking. On our last day, with encouragement from a park ranger, we decided to hike the 8.5-mile Panorama trail that began at Glacier Point (7,200 feet elevation), down and around to Nevada Falls, and ended in the valley (4,000 feet elevation). The ranger said that the views are the best to be had in any of our National Parks. For the record, my husband is an adventure junkie, but looking down from the start of the trail across extreme mountainous terrain toward our final destination, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m not so sure I can make this hike.” I began to second guess myself and took a deep breath. Instead of focusing on what I could not do, I pushed back the negative thoughts to focus on the best views of this amazing natural wonder. It would mean hard work, but I was determined.  

Lesson #1: You must change your attitude and negative self-talk to reach any goal. 

Obstacles are Always Part of the Goal Journey.

About five miles into the hike, I realized that I was still feeling pretty good, and I might complete the trek with energy to spare. Well, NOT EXACTLY! The last 3.5 miles were a series of switchbacks going uphill over 1000 feet, then downhill on unstable terrain that finished with hundreds of steep granite steps that were often slick with moisture from the mist of a huge waterfall cascading from above. This final descent had my knees shaking and my heart pounding! I began to think, “I’m going to be that statistic, the one that park rangers talk about after they helicopter me off this mountain!” I took a moment and sat down to catch my breath and just let my legs rest. Then I had an epiphany when I remembered something I often tell my struggling clients.  

“For success to occur, your ‘have to’ thinking must become a ‘want to’ thinking.” 

I did not WANT to continue. I was overwhelmed. Maintaining this level of thinking would end in that undesired vision of a chopper flight. With the “have to” attitude, I acted with reluctance and misery, both physically and emotionally. When I changed my thinking to “want to,” I was able to get past my pain and keep moving!  

Lesson #2: Miraculously, when we think with “want to,” we have self-motivation and the desire to problem solve and move past internal and external obstacles.  


Here is where we look for it.

I did make it back to that valley floor at Yosemite National Park, about 2 hours behind the projected schedule. It took ONE STEP AT A TIME, with many rests every 100 – 200 feet and my husband’s constant encouragement with every step. He was extremely exhausted, but he never once wavered in cheering me forward. He sat with me, validated my feelings, and never ridiculed me. 

Lesson #3: Keep close to those that encourage and believe in you, especially when you doubt yourself. We all need a little help.  

Keep the rewards in focus.

The rewards of accomplishing this goal were minimal at first. We were beyond exhausted, and our legs were spent. Every part of our bodies ached. We ate a simple hot meal and rested the remainder of the day along the Merced River watching all the fantastic wildlife. Reflecting on this experience and looking at our incredible pictures, I realized that the long-term rewards of this adventure were beyond measure. We had accomplished something personally fulfilling, and it was based on a relatively simple vacation goal.   

Lesson #4: The most challenging moments in life reveal marvelous silver lining rewards to us. We just have to stop and reflect and soak it all in.  

Things can look complicated and almost impossible. Hopes and dreams can seem unachievable because of all the obstacles. At times, more skills and encouragement are needed. Rest assured, the reward in these growing pains will be worth it! Just take one step at a time. You never know when life will reveal a new lesson.