Imagine trying a physically challenging sport for the first time with a group of people you don’t know, and getting lost for hours in the wilderness. Read Carrie’s story of endurance, courage, and trusting her own intuition…
Please share your story… what was your leap?
My leap is one I made when I was in my 20’s that has affected what happened after in many ways. I had just purchased my first mountain bike and I signed up to do a weekend cycling trip so I could learn how to ride in the woods. I was excited to get out in the country and tackle a new challenge, and very early in our outing we came to a literal fork in the road. Each of us had the option to ride on a wide, flat, gravel trail that would be an easy, gentle path, or we could take the single-track, technical trail that would be more advanced and challenging.
I watched the group break up and all of the other women in the group selected the easier trail, leaving me with the choice to head into the woods with a group of guys I didn’t know or to stay with the easier option but not get as deeply into the experience of mountain biking. Ultimately, the choice was to take the safe route or do what I really came there to do, so I chose to go with the nine guys onto the technical trail.
As a woman I knew I needed to take care, but I followed my intuition which told me I’d be safe. It was a fateful choice.
We got lost. Really, truly lost. We were supposed to be back by 4pm but we didn’t return to the camp until almost 10pm, many hours after dark.
At the beginning of the ride, as a newbie mountain biker, I started out towards the back of the pack but by lunch I was riding second from the front. I loved the experience of technical riding and picked it up very quickly. Sometime after lunch we realized we were lost, that we could hear the river and the road but we were no longer on the trail we were supposed to be on! This was the second fork in the road that day. As a group we knew we could turn around and retrace our steps, but we also knew that if we crossed the river we could get to the road and get home so that’s what we ultimately decided to do. What we didn’t know was how big the river was!
We hadn’t planned to be out as long as we were, so none of us had extra food or water, and this was before cellphones. We also had no flashlights to help us after it got dark. I had a power bar with me, which we all shared at some point in the afternoon. We bushwhacked and portaged our bikes for hours, trying to find a spot where the river was small enough to get across. At some point in the afternoon we realized we couldn’t turn around even if we wanted to, because we had no breadcrumbs to follow home. Our only choice was to keep moving forward.
By 7 pm we realized there was no option but to cross the river; it was getting dark already but thankfully a full moon came out . We found a spot where there were some big downed trees reaching across and into the river, so we formed a human chain to pass our bikes across. There was a spot where the two trees crossed below the water, which was very deep, but we all managed to get across safely. We still had a ways to go to get home, but we were finally on the right side of the river. When we finally found the highway, there was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment! We rode for another hour back to camp, where we were met by a search team who had been looking for us after our no-show hours before. We were all deeply grateful to be home safe at long last.
What inspired you to take this leap?
I knew what I wanted – to mountain bike in the woods; I knew I was going to love it. When I sat looking at the literal fork in the road that morning, I knew I would lose the opportunity to have what I said I wanted, if I took the safe route. I also tapped into my intuition. I have always relied on it, and when I’ve failed to listen to it, it has been to my detriment. At the time of my mountain biking adventure, I had just previously done a four-week road cycling trip in France on my own, which helped me attune my strength and intuition.
What is it that made this a leap for you?
It was a leap because I didn’t know the people I was with and I didn’t know if I’d be physically safe. I had never done any mountain biking before so it was something new to learn. The experience of the group dynamics during that day were fascinating to observe and taught me so much that I still use to this day.
How long would you say you thought about taking this leap before you did it?
I knew I wanted to do it so it was quick. My intuition informed my choice, so I went with it.
What was the hardest part before you took the leap? Was anything challenging after you did it?
I wasn’t making this decision with anyone’s help.
I had to rely on and trust myself.
I didn’t need to be a part of the pack by going with the other women.
In reflecting on this story I have asked myself where and when in my life today I am choosing the easy route. I was less challenged once I started to move on the path, it was clear that I liked it and that I could have fun. I learned that even where I might lose my way, I could always find a path. This has stayed with me since that day. You can always find a way through if you are clear on your destination.
How did you keep yourself motivated to stick with the change as it was happening?
Once we realized we were lost, there were several moments when I thought, “Oh boy, what did I sign up for!” The fact that we were a group, and that I was an accepted part of the group made a big difference. I wasn’t treated differently because I was the only woman. We were all committed to keep going, to get through it together. There was a lot of positive momentum in our group. It was stressful to have no food, to be running out of water, and to hear the highway but be unable to get to it. Our teamwork was key to our success.
What was the best part of the experience?
Finding the road and realizing we were going to make it! The teamwork was also a big highlight, especially when we crossed the river. It was a symbol of how well we worked together. We worked off each other to make it happen, and that camaraderie was new to me because I hadn’t done many team sports previously.
Looking back at the leap you made, is there anything you’d do differently if you were doing it again?
I prepare more for hiking or cycling as a result of this experience – I don’t go out into the woods without the basics like a compass, emergency food, a phone, etc. But I wouldn’t make a different decision about what I did that day if I had it to do over again, I would still take the path I chose.
What did you learn about yourself from taking this leap? About the world around you, if anything?
To trust myself. Trusting others and building relationships is key to success, but we have to trust ourselves first. Our collaboration was essential to our survival in the situation that day, but I now realize it is important for my thriving. My creativity and productivity thrives when I am in collaboration with others.
I am still using the lessons I learned that day. If I want to do something, there is a way and I can learn how to do it. We have to commit and then find the path. There are steps along the way and impediments will come up, but we have to get past them. I also learned that as much as I trust myself, I had to trust the others around me too.
If you had to describe what making this leap has done for you in one sentence, what would you say?
It is about knowing oneself, trusting oneself, and doing things for oneself. When I choose the path I am going to take, who am I doing it for? As women we often don’t do this, we often don’t take a moment to consider what we want ourselves, and then go for that choice.
Is there anything else you want to share about your experience?
Thank you for letting me share my experience because the process of articulating it has reminded me what I learned and how I can use it again in my life.