About the Author, Angela Dale: “I am an avid outdoors woman. I kayak, hike, trail run and cycle. I live in North Vancouver, BC. I work in the film industry as a decorator/buyer. Nature and its elements nurture me. I hike and run my local mountains frequently, but I am now interested in long multi-day treks all over the world. I plan to hike the Haute Route this July and take my 24 year old son to Patagonia next February 2020.”
“Ok, I really need to go for a very long walk”….my first thought as I lay in bed the morning of June 23rd, 2018 having just woken up to the realization that my marriage was over and my future uncertain.
Our lives are so fragile, circumstances change and you’re left wondering what to do. Life changes in a heartbeat. I’m a proud mother of 2 adult boys who are living their lives. I live alone in a large house, a newly separated menopausal woman in my 50s. I’m facing a new reality, a new life, a new me. What the hell am I going to do?
When faced with difficult times, I always head to my trails in the forest. They’ve always calmed me. I decided to Google “hiking in Switzerland”….I’ve travelled through the country a couple of times but never stayed long enough. I came across the TMB. The Tour du Mont Blanc – a 6–10 day circumnavigation of Mont Blanc (the highest peak in western Europe). It circles the Mont Blanc massif, covering a distance of roughly 170 kilometres with 10 kilometres of ascent/descent and passes through parts of Switzerland, Italy and France. Wow. Sounds like my kind of walk! After limited research, I contacted a company in the UK who offered “self guided” tours. I really wanted to walk alone. I felt the self guided would be my ideal solution. I contacted the tour operators and they informed me that the TMB is the only trek that they don’t offer as self guided packages to singles, let alone a single woman. It took me 2 days, numerous emails to convince them that I was fully capable of doing the hike alone. Of course I didn’t tell them how terrified I really was.
I knew this tour typically booked at least 6 months to a year in advance, so taking time to decide whether I was going or not was not an option. Before I could change my mind, I sent the money. Booked. Now that I had time to do more research into the hike, I read that most people hike it in 8-10 days. I realized after paying my fee and receiving my itinerary that I had signed up for the 6 day hike!! 170km in 6 days! I then started to panic. I WAS NOT A MULTI DAY HIKER!! I frantically emailed my UK contact, asked him to extend my trek to 8 days…or…to at least give me a rest day somewhere in the middle of the trek. Ironically it took him about 2 days to convince me that I’d be fully capable of completing the tour. How tables had turned.
I had one month to train. I work in the film industry here in Vancouver, BC. It’s a busy job, long hours and there’s no such thing as weekends in this business. I needed to get into reasonable shape in a month. Luckily here in Canada, in July, it stays light out till 10pm ! I climbed my backyard mountains after work. I took every opportunity to fill my backpack with anything heavy and dive into the forest. I am fortunate to live minutes from some of the most famous hiking trails this city has to offer and the mountains tower over me.
August 5th I flew to Geneva. Once I arrived, an hour and half on numerous modes of transportation, I was dropped off in front of a small hotel in a village far above the valley floor. Les Contamines, France. After dropping my gear in my tiny simple little room, I sat alone in the small dining room eating a homemade stew which they had kept warm and waiting for me. I asked my server, who I believe was the chef, concierge and waitress all in one, if her hotel catered to the hikers of the TMB. She replied that it was pretty much the only clientele they had. I then asked if she saw many solo women do the tour. “None”, she said. “You’re the first for me and I’ve been here forever.” I thought, “what have I gotten myself into?”
I had one day to get over my jet lag before I began the tour. Is this going to be way more than I could handle? I’m a fit woman, an occasional trail runner, a hiker at home, but I’m climbing and descending a peak each & every day for 6 days! There’s no way I can answer this simple question. All I know is my nature, who I am, how I tackle life. I’ve been known to take on anything new, especially when challenged. So bring it on. I adjusted my attitude, took on a new perspective and on the 7th, I began to climb.
Wow!!!!!! I was on top of the world!!
Interesting, on my first day I thought I would start to hash out my future, my past and everything in between. I’d go into problem solving mode.
But no way.
The second and the third day, still no desire. I thought “you’re going to be walking for hours, what better opportunity?”. It was THE reason I was there right???
Well, I didn’t think of home for 6 days. 6 long beautiful days. Those majestic mountains took my breath away. The climbing took my breath away!! Why would I ruin this amazing high I was on? As I walked I realized what was important. Life. Just living, breathing fresh air, depending on no one but myself, challenging my fears, sitting in my discomfort, being an introvert in a room full of hikers and being ok with it. Being alone in large spaces. I realized that I had all the time in the world to work out my life, but this wasn’t one of them.
“The past has no power over the present moment.”
― Eckhart Tolle
This was a gift.
I hiked for 6 days, and each and every day through sun, heat, blowing cold wind and rain, I realized that I can take that gift with me everyday. I can take it back home. I can use it whenever I need to. My problems and their solutions do not need to be scheduled when more important things are calling like the present moment. Like listening to the cow bells across the valley. Like hearing the river run off of the glacier high above my head. Like the sound of complete silence when you’re standing high above a valley below.
Prioritize yourself. Your “stuff” can wait. Put yourself and what truly makes you smile first. It will calm you. It will put everything into perspective so that when the opportunity comes, you’ll be surprised how little time you’ll need to fix your future, your past and everything in between.
I am calmer now, I am no longer afraid. I have my next trek booked already. I’ll take my time, now that I know how amazing this is going to be. I’ll savor every moment. I am a different woman now going back to the same magical place that healed the other.
This time I’m going to play. I’m going to sing and dance on top of those mountains. I’m going to run and skip across that long suspension bridge I’m terrified to cross. I’m going to make friends this time and laugh with people….walk with people. I’m going to embrace this life I’ve built in the past year….and I have that magical 6 day walk in the summer of 2018 to thank for all of it.