Nature always teaches me, at least. I think the same is true for most of us.
On a recent trip to Yellowstone - specifically an off-trail hike with incredible guides, I was reminded to focus on the journey.
The hike was maybe 6 or so miles, and we could have done it in a far shorter amount of time... if the purpose was to get to the finish line.
But the goal is never the finish line (outside of actual races). Because the finish line always moves. There’s always a new adventure planned or a new challenge to beat.
So I was reminded on this hike, of the importance of appreciating the beauty along the way, and of being present - where we are and in what we are doing, right now.
If the goal had been just to finish the hike, we wouldn’t have seen a pair of bears in the distance that our guide spotted from a mile (Not sure of the actual distance, but it was far enough to need a scope!) away with his expert and seasoned eyes and senses.
We wouldn’t have experienced the majesty and power of a group of buffalo in the wild just feet from us. All other sightings in Yellowstone had been from the road, with 10-20 other onlookers crowding into pull-offs and pointing lenses and iPhones at seemingly unbothered beasts. Unbothered, at least until they weren't. In the wild, with our guides, we learned and felt what it meant to truly respect these thousand-pound giants. If they felt threatened or startled (or just decided they were over our bullshit), they could have easily killed us on the spot.
When we see them on the side of the road, they are ready for us. They know that humans will be in these locations, so we typically aren't catching them off guard. The danger here, is that they can still decide enough is enough. You may come along after little bobby just finished taunting and throwing rocks at a large male, trying to get his attention. The click of your camera could just be the last straw.
When we saw them in the back country, 3 times in a row it was right as we came up over the peak of a hill to accidentally startle these majestic bearded bulls. Their athletic yet massive bodies would spring up and trot around and then come to a stop breathing heavily and staring at us through glassy eyes, blowing tuffs of air through their flaring nostrils. Tails would raise - our guide let us know that either meant it was time to relieve the bowels or a sign of a standoff. Neither of which, we wanted to stick around for. So we’d alter the route a bit to give them the space they deserved and make our wandering trip a bit longer, but we didn’t mind. Wandering was the point that day.
Without wandering, and if finish-lines were top of mind, we’d not have taken in the sprawling and magical landscapes, and changing geology and terrain. Our guides hit us with new knowledge at every turn. Facts about flowers and other flora, wildlife and their quirks and patterns, and endless geological facts. We stopped to watch larvae squiggle and squirm out of shells in a stagnant pool of water. We admired a buffalo skull, laid poetically among geraniums as we stopped to munch on our packed sandwiches and fruit, and listened to stories of Emil's adventures with wolves and mountain lions over his years of study.
Without enjoying the journey, we wouldn’t have felt the sun on our skin and the breeze tickling our hair and gently lifting the sweat-wicking fabric just off of our backs. We wouldn’t have seen the pinks and purples and bright blues and yellows of the flowers that sprinkled the grasses and woods.
So Be present. Appreciate where you are, what you see, learn and feel in a given moment - as you are experiencing those senses.
Stop focusing on the finish line and start enjoying the run.