The bucket list is a seemingly common practice or thing people do to help them layout all of the things that they want to do before they die or “kick or the bucket”, with the goal of crossing off all or majority of things.
A bucket lists can be a cool thing to do for it helps you track and plan your goals and build your desire for adventure and to experience all that life has to throw at you. When it comes to adventuring, it can help you keep a list of all the places you want to go to, helping you to plan out your travels.
I used to pay quite a bit of attention to bucket lists, carefully sculpting it and adding things to it and I convinced myself that it was helping me grab a fuller understanding of life. However, as the years passed I began to realize that a bucket list is kind of overrated and wasn’t giving me the satisfaction I was looking for.
As I kept adding things to it and the list grew I became overwhelmed of all of the things I hadn’t done and even though I was relatively young, I felt a pressure of time. I became saddened, if you will to view all of the things that I haven’t done. Then one night, when I was walking around a city with a friend and we were discussing bucket lists, I realized that instead of making a bucket list, I would do something a little different.
I decided that a bucket list was overrated and that to gain the perspective I was looking for I would ditch the bucket list and start a “What I Have Done” list. A list that would include all of the moments, small or big, that made me feel alive in a special way such as stood on a mountain above the clouds, experienced a first kiss, write a song,went to Ireland, spent a night exploring a city with friends, and played my ukulele on a beach under the Northern Lights.
With this list over a bucket list, I would focus on all of things I have done versus paying more attention to what I haven’t done, decreases regret and increasing a peace. This list also helped me to be more spontaneous with my adventures. Instead of trying to plan for certain ones, I was able to plan more freely, because I wasn’t focused on the all of the places I would like to go in the future. I was more focused and the journey’s that presented me with an opportunity to take.
I think that the coolest effect on me that this list had, was it helped me to really take in each and every moment and notice everything magic about each moment. I never knew when a moment would pop up that I would want to record so I found myself beginning to truly feel every moment more and more and appreciate each moment for what it was. The simplest moments became more special, and Life became more beautiful to me.
I was focused less on racing to accomplish everything in a bucket list and focused more on just being in the moment. It pushed me to journal more, learn more, Love more, and travel more.
Now I am not saying, don’t make a bucket list, because they are fun and help you to dream and make awesome goals. I guess what I am trying to say is instead of paying attention to all of things you haven’t done in life so far, all of the places you haven’t visited, focus on what you have done and where you have been. Feel every moment, draw closer, explore more, realize the miracle of a sunrise, cherish the moments that make you smile, notice everything, live like you are dreaming. It is kind of nice to look back on a journal of the things you have done or experienced and the people that have had an impact on your life.
When I venture out into the world, especially destinations where the wilderness is prevalent, I am often reminded of the patient pace and stubbornness of nature and Life to create miracles no matter what obstacles may present itself. While not giving up may be the more obvious analogy here, for me it is something else that I am drawn to about how nature works.
I have been to many different places over the last few years from Ireland all the way to the other side of the planet visiting the Big Island of Hawai’i. Upon my ventures I have come across so many wondrous geologic and botanic formations and sites. Places of unique beauty that took hundreds to millions and even billions of years to carefully sculpt and carve. Places where Life was once eradicated by the forces of nature, but had the stubbornness and resilience to bloom once again.
During one special expedition I was blessed with the opportunity to watch new land being formed right in front of my eyes with the heat of lava and cold of the oceans. From all of these explorations I was taught something that I try to live by, even though at times in the craziness of Life it may be difficult to grasp.
Nature Never Rushes
I came across this quote once that you may have seen before, and may appear cliche to some, but that does not hinder its value: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished,” said by Ancient Chinese Philosopher and Writer Lao Tzu.
When I went to the Big Island of Hawai’i in 2018 I was in awe of the amount of serenity and beauty that had been formed on this relatively small, 93 mile in diameter island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. An Island that was formed by something seen as destructive, a volcano or an ocean hotspot that over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, created a masterpiece of art too great for one human.
To this day the volcano, now called Kilauea, which is a shield volcano on the southeastern part of the island, continues to create new land and beaches with the help of the Pacific Ocean. From, vast marine life, caves, forests, to waterfalls, plains, beaches of green and black sand, and mountain peaks that rise above the clouds, this island is so full of beauty, beauty that took hundreds of thousand of years to carefully create.
Nature on the island never rushed, it simply bloomed. This is the case for more than Hawai’i.
Pictured Rocks, one of my favorite places on the planet took hundreds of millions of years to create along with the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, and the mountains of Glacier National Park, home to Hidden Lake, (the most beautiful place I have been, photo at top) took over a billion years.
So what does this teach us?
You are Right Where You Need to Be
Clearly humans don’t have the time scale that nature has, but that doesn’t stop the lesson it teaches us. Life is a crazy and at times beyond frustrating ride that we are all on together, yet on our own separate paths. Life is also so precious, so like nature don’t rush it. Enjoy every step, every chance to grow, every breath you take feel the magic of it, for it is a wonderful sound.
For example, I often wonder what my life might be like if I knew what I wanted to do right out of high school and graduated when I was 22 instead of 24. If I had done that though, I would have never re-connected with my best friend Bobby, never gone to Hawai’i or Glacier National Park, and then I don’t want to think about where I would be, for I was never really behind.
If Life throws a metaphorical volcano at you, know that it is okay to feel sad and down. When you have gathered the strength and time to heal, however long it may take, be ready to rise from the ashes again like the plants on Hawai’i that continue to sprout through the ancient solidified lava flows, grow strong to the stars like the Mountains of Glacier, and let your colors show like the Pictured Rocks because the world will Love them.
However tough it may be, and this is something that I to struggle with at times, don’t ever feel behind, for like flowers, humans don’t grow at the same speed and you are right where you need to be. There is no behind or ahead there is simply where you are and the time that has been given to you.
Don’t beat yourself up though, you feel like you are behind for this is normal, just take the time to remind yourself when you are ready that you are right on time and refocus.
Like trees, let your dreams grow, steadily, patiently, and beautifully as they reach for the stars. Trust that God has you and is constantly shaping you into the person you were born to become, He isn’t done with you yet. Trees never rush and look and the wonder and beauty they create.
The Universe and Nature find you significant. So grow with them, don’t rush, keep going forward, learn from the times of setbacks and progress, and always let your uniqueness show for it lights up the world. Recognize and get lost in each and every moment and cherish the times you find yourself smiling.
We all feel lost at times, we all hit moments where we feel behind, but you can always be found and you are never behind. Keep your eyes open for you never know the adventures Life and God might toss your way.
In August of 2020 two friends (Bobby and Landon) and me drove across the country for a week of camping and exploring in Glacier National Park in Montana. While the East side of the park was closed there was still more than enough to explore…here is a story from that great adventure.
Distance: ~ 12 miles
Elevation Gain: ~ 3,500 ft.
Top Elevation: ~6,500 ft.
Route Type: Out & Back
Scenery: Mountain & Forest
The Payoff: An incredibly peaceful place.
The Journey to the Chalet
On our third day in Glacier National Park Bobby and me decided to hike up to Sperry Chalet while Landon went mountain biking in a town just outside Glacier. This would turn out to be a hike that was so much better that anything we could have dreamt of.
A chalet is basically a mountain lodge and hiker resting point along trails that go up into the mountains and this particular one actually burned down in a forest fire a few years prior, but had recently been rebuilt.
So, before Landon headed off to mountain biking he dropped Bobby and me off at the trail head by Lake McDonald Lodge for the day and unfortunately we had a late start.
The first section of the trail was a lot of upward climbing, which brought quick changes of scenery from a section of dense forest with rivers, streams, ponds, and lakes on a dampened dirt path to a section of large evenly spread out conifers on a dry and rocky section of trail.
As Bobby and me trekked on reaching portions of long uphill climbs and much enjoyed flat sections, we got higher into the mountains and began to reach the area were the wildfire tore through the forest. The trunks of the trees where still there, but their needles and/or leaves had been stripped away and because of this we had a much clearer view of the surrounding area.
It wasn’t much longer before the Chalet came into view still miles away and the terrain became rockier and more cliff like, not to mention the 50 degree temp we started at turned into a near 80 degree day. We passed other fellow hikers (who had stayed at the Chalet) on their way down as we climbed up and even a horse-back tour that was making its way down the mountain.
Unfortunately due to wildfires in Idaho, the sky was not as clear as it would have been, but the views were still breath taking nonetheless. We kept walking higher and further, reaching a sections where there were hardly any trees and then we came upon something we did not expect…an oasis like area in the mountains.
A Preview of Heaven
Unexpectedly the trail evened out to a large flat section tucked away in the mountain peak and to a path that gently snaked through a section of trees. It felt like we stepped through a portal, and this was just the beginning of it.
As we stopped for water on this bridge that ran over the river we saw a painter with his canvas set up in a grassy section by the river painting and behind the painter was the towering peak that led to Sperry Glacier (slideshow below).
It wasn’t much further up the trail that we reached the Chalet and the view of Glacier National Park that presented itself to us. We sat near the edge of a cliff in front of the lodging building of the Chalet over looking mountains and rivers and valleys to take a rest. While we enjoyed the view we met a worker at the Chalet who was from Minnesota and had been working there every summer for the past few years, even before the fire happened in 2017.
After we finished talking to her and taking in the view we headed over to the kitchen and dining building to grab a quick snack and a drink. We decided to chill on the deck of the facility to enjoy the view and just relax from the hike up. During this time we met an old, retired couple from Tennessee who were on a several week long vacation visiting the various National Parks in the country.
It was here that I snapped my favorite photo of the trip, the view from the deck of the kitchen/dining building.
The feeling though that I had here…all of my worries were gone, I felt no anxiety or pressure, no rush to be anywhere. I felt a subtle, overwhelming peace. It made me think that Heaven must be just like this.
The Journey Back
We wanted to make the trek up to Sperry Glacier, but due to the length of the rest of the trail, the difficulty, and the annoying fact the time kept going forward, we determined we would not have had enough time to make it there and back down the trail before the Sunset. We also didn’t want to keep Landon waiting in the parking lot for hours.
It was tough to finally leave this spot, because of the view, the awesome people we met and conversed with, and that feeling of serenity, but we finally mustered up the will to leave the Chalet and begin our hike back down the trail. The hike down went smoothly.
At around 7:00pm we made it back to Lake McDonald Lodge where we rendezvoused with Landon. It was kind of funny, because when we walked to the back hang out area of Lake McDonald Lodge, we were greeted with well groomed tourists enjoying the evening.
Then here comes Bobby and me, dusty, sweaty, and stumbling slightly because our legs don’t want to work how we would like them to, thanks to the hike and the hikes of the previous days (total of ~ 40 miles and ~ 8,000 + ft of elevation gain). We just looked unhinged.
This journey Bobby and me took to Sperry Chalet really resonated with us and the feeling we had, as if we stepped through a portal into a preview of Heaven. It didn’t take long before we both decided that one day we would like to head back to that Chalet and stay a couple of nights there.
If one day Life takes you to Glacier National Park, be sure to put Sperry Chalet on your list and get an earlier start then Bobby and me did. I felt so close to God here and I hope that if you one day make it to this beautiful place you feel the same peace and wonder that Bobby and me experienced.
Just make sure you have: good pair of hiking shoes and trekking poles, dress in layers, wear good athletic socks, bring money, plenty of water or a water filter, snacks, and a sturdy, roomy back pack.
Optional, but recommended gear: hat, sunglasses, buff, sunscreen.
Adventuring is something that my parents introduced me to when I was younger through family trips. Today, I have found that I have gained a better appreciation for going on adventures. There are many reasons why traveling and exploring the planet have become a passion and a hobby of mine over the years. As I continue to build my exploring resume and visit new places I begin to realize and discover what it is about exploring that captures me and gives me a desire to go to distant lands and into the wilderness.
Let’s face it. As spectacularly wonderful as Life can be, it can also be crazy, stressful, overwhelming, and pressuring, and a, at times, seemingly chaotic world home doesn’t help.
Sometimes the best way to help deal with the struggles of reality, whether they are big or small, and give your mind some time to regroup, is too escape reality all together. I find that travelling and exploring the planet, near or far from home, can help you do just that and find peace in the wild of Life.
Getting out into the world and breaking from your normal routine can be a medicine for your soul and mind unlike any other for it allows you to take a break from the stressors of daily life. Therefore freeing yourself and help you to learn and grow as a person and feel Life in a unique way.
This was especially apparent during the recent and current COVID-19 pandemic, even though there were tight travel restrictions. On the rare occasion in the last few months I was able to get to somewhere else, of course following guidelines. Getting out of dodge was huge in helping myself deal with all of the fears, stress, and panic, brought on by the pandemic and the poor way it was handled by the news media.
It led me to really appreciate and cherish exploring even more than I already did, due to the peace it brought me and to experience how easily it can be taken away.
Into the Wilderness…
For me the kinds of trips that bring the most peace are the ones that take me out into nature and away from bigger cities. The trips were I find comfort and enjoyment in sleeping on the ground in a tent or in my car.
There is something special and tranquil about the wilderness and being in nature that helps one recharge themselves and relax their mind and learn. It was the exact type of trip I was looking for to help give my mind break from all of the stressors brought on by the pandemic and to escape reality.
So, when restrictions to travel in Michigan became rolled back a buddy of mine named Landon and me took this opportunity to head into the wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to get out of dodge for a bit. Of course doing it safely and following social distancing and COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
It was a spontaneous trip where we left on a Friday night after we both got out of work and drove into the night, heading for a rest stop about 30 minutes outside of Munising and Pictured Rocks, where we would get a few hours of rest. The highlight of this drive definitely came when we crossed the bridge at sunset and drove west along Highway 2 on the shores of Lake Michigan.
I only wish we would have stopped to take a picture, but a picture would not have done the sight justice.
As we drove along 2 separated from the water by a few yards of sand, the Sun had almost completely disappeared on the horizon lighting up the sky in a layers of vibrant color. From the horizon up it was yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, and finishing of with a shade of dark blue.
To make the sight more majestic, the brightest of the stars in our sky were coming out and Venus and the Moon were seemingly dancing with each other in the orange layer of the sky. I couldn’t help but smile in the sight as I listened to the perfect tunes to match the view.
While we would only be spending Saturday up there we made the most it. By 7:30am where we already hitting the road to our first and only hike of the day.
The 10 to 12 mile stretch of the North Country Scenic trail the runs through the forests along the shoreline of Pictured Rocks called Lakeshore Trail. It is a trail I had done once before about two years ago, and ever since I have had this itch to trek it again. Out of all of the trails I have hiked, this one is my favorite.
To see the colors of the forest, cliffs, and Lake Superior in the spring Sun, was nothing short of breathtaking and worth the wait. It felt freeing to walk this trail once again, a trail that provides you with views that make you feel like you are on the edge of the world. Walking along the mighty and naturally painted cliffs that stand guard over the pristine turquoise waters of Lake Superior.
In the sections away from the shore and deeper into the forest we were greeted with young, spring forest floor growth and flowers making their way into the world. Because of this, I feel as if this hike is better made in the spring, for the temperature is perfect and the forest is brilliant with color. Just make sure you go early enough in the spring to beat the bugs.
After our hike we then headed to the mountain bike course on top of a large hill that over looked Lake Superior in Munising. We tore up the trail and its obstacles and features for a few hours before we decided to head back home.
Take Time to Journey
The relief that this short and spontaneous trip brought to my mind in the face of the stressors and anxiety that life was throwing my way, throwing all of our ways, was a reminder that nature and traveling is such a fascinating part of Life. It was also a reminder of the wonders of the wilderness, the lessons it can teach you, and peace it can bring.
Showing me once again how precious this planet is and that it truly is the perfect place to experience the gift we call Life. We need to ensure it stays that way for future generations to come.
My message to you though is that if Life ever begins to overwhelm you know that it is okay to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and/or anxious and then know that this world is so full of adventure and fun. So take time for yourself to explore it.
Let your batteries recharge, find answers to your stressors, connect with yourself, nature, and those you come in contact with on your journeys, and just take time to breathe. The world is here for us to enjoy and explore it, so take time to do just that.
Those little moments of pure magic, excitement, adventure, and happiness in Life that things like exploring can bring you, make getting through the times of stress and anxiety that much easier and remind you just how special Life is. The world is a stellar place to be because you’re here.
In the light of what is going on in the world today regarding the pandemic I have decided to take a step away from writing posts on exploring the planet to discuss the matters at hand.
Today, a certain darkness has fallen on us, one that is shrouded in shadowed mystery that is seemingly dimming the light of hope. Not one nation, separated from others by a made up border, but the entirety of the human population. While we are all in this together I feel that we are all experiencing and emotionally reacting to this ordeal differently.
Some of us have left our places of work and begun to work from home and some of us are facing the storm head on by continuing to go to work to help keep society going. Some of us are now without out work and trying to make ends meet and some of us are staying at home as much as possible in a comfortable shelter with loved ones.
Some of us are staying connected to friends and family and hanging out in small groups when safe and possible, and some of us are alone unable to see or haven’t seen friends and family.
Some of us are sick, know someone who is sick, or has lost someone to the disease.
Some are scared, angry, confused, sad, lonely, content, thankful for what we have, depressed, missing friends and family, stressed, optimistic, stir crazy, and some, like my three year old Goddaughter, have no clue that anything crazy is even happening.
During times like these it is okay to feel like all of these things for we are all only human, unique and perfectly imperfect. We shouldn’t be upset with or call out someone who is handling this different than the next. What we each need to have for one another is patience, empathy, sympathy, respect, and understanding.
We need to know that for ourselves it is okay to feel or be burdened by all or any mix of emotions like the ones listed above, but know that you are not alone in this world and you are so strong.
For majority of us on this wonderful planet, the events that are taking place are new andcomes as a storm we have never sailed through. This includes our political, business, and medical leaders and while it may be tough, we also need to have patience and respect for them as well, no matter what side or political party you align yourself with. They are in charge of leading hundreds, to thousands, to hundreds of millions of people and through this storm of unprecedentedness, uncertainty, and unknown.
I feel it is patience and hope that will be our best defense against the storm. No matter how dark the storm may get we will always have hope for we have each other and it is in each one of us that the light of hope lies. One day, I do not know when it will come, the darkness will subside and we will be able to dance in the light again.
Until then though we need to become a little softer and Love a little harder, we need to move past our religious, societal, and global divisions and unite in togetherness, for we are stronger when all 8 billion of us work together. We must each take moments for ourselves to look up to the stars, breathe, wonder, and dream, and know that hope is always there.
It is through togetherness and Love that our true power lies as we are being watched over from a closely far away place beyond the stars. For Freddie Mercury said it best when he sang powerfully: “Why can’t we give Love, give Love, give Love, give Love, give Love, give Love, give Love, give Love, give Love?”
This storm too shall pass and things will return to normal one day again, know that and hold onto that, for you have a light the world cherishes and you need to keep it shining, no matter how understandably scared you may find yourself feeling.
We are all in this together, but each one of us faces our own unique journey through this darkness shrouded in mystery. We are here now, and have the wonderful gift of choosing what to do with the time we have, our most precious resource, which begs the awesome question…What shall we do with it? I pray passionately and deeply for all.
I have debated about writing this blog post for quite some time, but a recent short conversation I had with someone gave me the push, reason, or inspiration I needed to actually write. Mainly because I began to view this post more as a way to help those who have the same mental disorder(s) that I have or a similar one.
Traveling and exploring the planet, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is one of my favorite things to do in life and I would consider it to be a passion of mine. I may not be the world explorer that others are, but I don’t feel you need to go far or often for traveling and exploring to be a passion of yours. You just have to truly have a Love for it and go about it with Love.
While I have a passion for exploring, I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), something I was diagnosed with when I was eight years old (I am 25 going on 26 today). As a side effect, if you will, of GAD I also on a regular basis deal with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, and depression, you know…all that fun stuff.
All of these things can at times make traveling tough and/or very difficult for me, despite my passion for it. Granted there are times when exploring brings me a certain peace from it all, but for majority of the time they always linger like a dark cloud. Providing me with irrational fears and worry or making rational ones seem much worse or like there is no escape from them. Sometimes the irrational ones are so overpowering that rational fears flee from my mind.
For example, during my first true camping trip with friends we stayed at a site that I picked out, roughly 25 minutes to the South of the town of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It was basically in the middle of nowhere, but it was a great campground, although it didn’t have showers like we thought it did (We thought the water fountain symbol on the website was the shower symbol, not our best moment).
When we got our camp set up, my buddy was concerned about bears, which was very logical because we were in the backwoods and one was just hit by a car less than a mile from our site. I wasn’t worried about bears at all though; instead my mind was filled with intense fears of ticks, not showering for the three day trip, my friends not liking the site, my friends not ever wanting to camp with me again, getting dehydrated, not being closer to Munising, and so on.
Of course I didn’t physically or verbally express my fears, but they were there causing turmoil in my head. Things that aren’t really a big deal become huge deals, as my mind spirals. Whenever I jump on a trip, I expect fears to come and I know they are waiting for me and it can make traveling difficult and more exhausting then it should be.
Discovering a Light in Travel Companions
One of the big things that helps me get past anxiety that occurs when I travel is those who I travel with. Sometimes they help me indirectly and don’t even realize they are helping me find a peace.
There are times that I travel with friends who know about my anxiety and help me get through it, by providing encouragement and reassurance that things are going to be okay. When anxiety comes calling, they talk me through it and help me to take my mind off of it and focus on the journey ahead.
For example, my friend Allie, who I have gone on many adventures with in the past, also has similar anxiety issues that I face and so we were able to help each other through anxious thoughts. Odds were that if one of us was getting an anxious thought, so was the other. For me, this bond that I shared with a friend helped me to get past my fearful feelings when we would go on explorations with one another.
Majority of the times that I find my friends provide a light in the storm clouds of anxiety and depression during journeys is indirectly and without them even realizing the impact they are having. Just by being there and seeing how much fun they are having takes my mind away from the fear and into the moment at hand.
This is common throughout my life outside of exploring, there is something about being with friends and family and sharing special moments with them that frees my mind.
My friend Bobby who I have gone on pretty much all of my trips with the past few years, except for Ireland and Scotland, has played such a huge role in helping me deal with anxiety. Simply because of his fearless and take life as it comes at you spirit. It pushes me to keep up with him and do things my fears tell me not to do or ditch my fears altogether.
During that camping trip I mentioned earlier he was one of the friends I was with and seeing how he took the situation with confident stride, no worry, and viewed it as just part of the story, helped me to push away those fears and jump on the same outlook as him. Today, after all of our trips together, I am finding myself being pushed more and more toward this outlook and the outlook becoming more predominant than my anxieties.
The human connection is a powerful one and my anxieties have taught me that it is one to cherish, for the impact one person can have on another simply by being there and sharing the moment is pretty stellar.
Pushing Past and Finding Peace
Exploring with GAD can be difficult and make moments of expeditions less enjoyable as your brain betrays you and feeds you fears and darkness, but the important thing to remember is that you are not your anxiety, your anxiety is part of who you are.
In the past there have been moments for me on trips where anxiety has benefited me, such as by helping me solve problems, like when I had to reschedule a flight to Hawaii the day we were supposed to leave because our original one got cancelled. It helps me to be more empathetic and understanding to the world around me and those that I travel with.
Granted, there have been so many times where I have just wished for it to go away so I could enjoy the fullness of a trip, but I find that the more time I spend wishing it would go away the worse it becomes.
So, I try to accept that it is a part of who I am and that I am not going to let it stop me from going on great adventures and live like I am dreaming, but this isn’t always easy and I am not saying that it is. What I am saying is that if anxiety or depression is something that haunts you, you can overcome it and truly enjoy and feel every moment for what it is.
I know it is not easy, trust me, for the thoughts feel so real like daggers in the night.
I want to tell you though that when I travel and I get past my fears and get past my anxious thoughts and get into the expedition of an area of the planet away from home I reach a peace and a feeling of being alive unlike any other. Simply, viewing each experience as a story to tell.
I also want to tell you that you can feel this same feeling, just start by focusing on where you are, the people you are with, and have faith and I swear to you, you will feel this peace I am describing. There is a great big world out there waiting for you to explore.
When you push past the anxiety, depression, or feeling of doubt you will realize that you are so much stronger than your anxiety says you are. It won’t be easy and it may take time, but keep your head up and keep your feet moving, for you are not alone and I know you can do this. You are strong and awesome, and the world is waiting for you.
Song for thought: “Everything’s Magic” by Angels & Airwaves