So far during my experiences travelling abroad I have had sort of a spiritual experience and I think there’s a lesson in it. Let me clarify what I mean when I say spiritual experience. I don’t necessarily meaning something to do with religion or a higher power. I mean I had a moment of transcendent wonder. I was in a state of existential bliss. It was moment where I had faith in the universe. This was the day I climbed a mountain.
What happened was my professor and two other students decided to take a trip to the Lake District. This trip was optional and a little unorthodox for most tourists from outside of the UK. The trip was to an area called the Lake District which is actually a pretty big tourist area, but not in the sense that people from all over the world are they’re trying to see famous monuments. It’s touristy in the sense like going to the New Jersey shore for a week in the summer or down to the Florida Keys or up to the Poconos. People who are from the UK go there to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. It’s really a weird stop for a people who aren’t from the country. Most people just go to the Palaces, Castles, Trafalgar Square, Stonehenge, and Big Ben. That sort of stuff. This is part of the point i want to make though. This is a road less taken.
But I digress. The Lake District is a beautiful area covered in rolling green mountains and deep, lush valleys. They’re are several lakes, hence the name, and sheep. Lots and lots of sheep. If you were outside and there wasn’t at least one sheep in sight or one “baaaaah” in ear shot, you probably weren’t in the Lake District. When we got there after a very long and sleepy train ride, we drove down to the little town of Grasmere. Now Grasmere is famous for two things: Being the home of William Wordsworth and it’s gingerbread. I can say for certain that the gingerbread was quite delicious and probably the best I’ve ever had, but we didn’t drive all the way out there for snacks. Of course, as students currently studying English literature we had to make it to Wordsworth’s home and the museum dedicated to him. Walking through that piece of literary history was amazing in its own right. In the museum we saw pieces of his work written in firsthand by the poet himself. We were filled with awe. It was also pretty cool to see our professor geeking out. Enthusiasm like laughter and fear is often contagious and I couldn’t help geeking out a bit about myself.
That was just the beginning though. The next big thing on our agenda was following the path laid out in Wordsworth’s timeless pastoral poem, Michael. The beginning of this poem tells us that there’s a trail to follow to find a hidden valley in the mountains. It goes:
"IF from the public way you turn your steps Up the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll, You will suppose that with an upright path Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent The pastoral mountains front you, face to face. But, courage! for around that boisterous brook The mountains have all opened out themselves, And made a hidden valley of their own."
So that’s what we did. We turned away from the public path again taking the road less taken. We climbed and climbed the mountainside. Now this mountain is nothing like Mount Everest or the Rockies. It might look like hill compared to those bad boys, but for the average person this was no easy climb. It was a steep hike up the mountainside, but the higher we went the clearer it became that this trip was worth the struggle. Each time I stopped on our upward hike to take a look at the view it only became more breathtaking. It was as if the mountain was rewarding our efforts. It was showing me the more work I put into it the more beauty it would reveal. This mountain was not harsh though. Halfway though our climb we found the flowing brook Wordsworth identified as Greenhead Ghyll. According to our professor, the waters of this brook were supposed to be quite sweet and have revitalizing qualities. I would have to agree with whoever made these observations. When I tasted the waters of this stream it was truly a sweet sensation. Filtered by the movement through the rocks and green of the mountain and untouched by man. The water was cool, refreshing, and delicious. I splashed some in my face for good measure and we carried on.
When we reached the top I was beholden to such a breathtaking view I wanted to weep. All my efforts had been worth it to see the spectacle laid before me. Rolling mountainous greens, the sun shining down onto a piercing blue lake which rested in the valley bellow, the little town of Grasmere by the lake waiting to welcome us from our journey. This is what I saw and I wanted to share it with everyone. It was in that moment of bliss that I knew life was worth living and not only to experience these moments, but to experience them with those you care about. I knew I wanted to live largely and tell the world my story.
So why am I telling you this other than the fact that’s its a neat little story? I’m writing this because I want you to know what happens when you take the road less traveled. Often times it is a tougher path. It’s full of hardship and many obstacles, but when you reach the end you find yourself in a wonderful place often with wonderful people. You sit there on your metaphorical mountain’s peak and look back on your journey and realized that all those hardships made you strong enough to make it here.
So the next time you’re travelling stray from the public path. You may find something better than you could ever imagined.