Last month I spent a week in Iceland backpacking the Laugavegur trail with my brother, Matt. This four-day, 54-km trek through the highlands of Iceland was an unbelievable adventure and a trip of a lifetime for me. As I have since reflected upon the trip, there are a few lessons I would like to share with you.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is strap on your pack and put one foot in front of the other.
The first day of the trek involved a 12-km hike through lava fields, windswept ridgelines, and seemingly endless snow fields (in August!) as we gained over 1500 feet in elevation! Even though I had been training for several months, it was still tough and I often found myself huffing and puffing up the vertical ascents with a 30-lb. pack strapped to my back. Needless to say, the first day wasn’t what most of us would normally call “fun”! Life is often like that, too. We start out doing something amazing, but quickly find there are greater short-term costs than we had counted on. In those moments, we have a choice. We can quit and wrestle with regrets of what might have been. Or we can strap on our pack, tighten our boot laces, and continue to put one foot in front of the other until we reach our goal. In my experience, both in Iceland and in every other challenge in life, the short-term pain is almost always more than worth it.
Most of the time, it’s not so much what you do but whom you do it with.
My younger brother, Matt, and I were born five years apart. When I graduated from high school and went off to college, he was in eighth grade. Since then life has always managed to get in the way and we’ve found ourselves slowly losing touch with the details of one another’s lives. Besides seeing the rugged beauty of Iceland, one of the main draws of taking this trip together was simply to have uninterrupted time to reconnect. Looking back at our trip, doing it solo just wouldn’t have been the same. No matter if it is slogging up a steep hill or gazing down over a breathtaking vista, what you remember most is who you experienced it with. In a world that sees relationships as disposable, this was a much-needed reminder.
When we keep it simple and cut out the distractions, we rediscover joy.
After hiking for 6-7 hours each day over constantly changing terrain, my knees were sore, my feet were tender, and I was wiped. But when I laid my head down each night, there was a lightness in my heart I haven’t felt for some time. It was pure, unfiltered joy. The only objective we had each morning was to keep walking and not stop until we reached the next waypoint. It was the most physically difficult trip I’ve taken in years, but by far the most relaxing. Thinking back on this, I can’t help but wonder whether we smother our joy beneath all of the unnecessary distractions we place in our lives. We occupy our thoughts and schedules with stuff that doesn’t ultimately matter and only steals our joy. When we keep it simple, however, we don’t have to manufacture joy. We find it lying there, just waiting to be rediscovered.
For His Glory,