Lately, I’ve come up with a theory. It’s a theory I use when I want to talk myself into doing something that doesn’t feel very comfortable, but that I know will help me grow.
If I pretend to be brave, I will eventually become brave.
As I’ve discovered in my travels, bravery is a beast that feeds on itself. Every brave thing you do, leads you to do another brave thing, leads you to do another brave thing… Until eventually, you become a person who is thought of as courageous and adventurous. Even though most of the time, you still feel like that little kid who sat at the dining table with mum while the others kids swam because she was scared of the water.
At first, I wondered if this was the right approach. Shouldn’t I only be saying yes to things that felt right in my gut? Things that were in my comfort zone, and that would feed who I am right now, not some future version of myself who doesn’t even exist yet?
But then I realised that if I never challenge myself, I will never grow. And I’ll miss out on so many wonderful adventures along the way.
And so, when I was asked to head off on the Long Range Traverse in Canada’s Newfoundland, that little island off the east coast that only became part of the country in 1949, I said yes. I said yes even when I knew I’d be required to scale rock walls (I’m scared of heights), to carry a 14 kilogram pack on my back the entire way (I haven’t carried a pack that size since 2005), and to push my body harder than I have in a very long time.
Thank god I did. Because this trek through UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gros Morne National Park was one of the most visually captivating, and most personally rewarding, things I’ve ever done.
I did the four-day trek with World Expeditions, which meant our group of five trekkers was accompanied by two excellent wilderness guides, Andy and Steve. They not only navigated the completely unmarked trail for us, but also carried double what we did in their packs, to make sure we had little luxuries like hot meals every morning and night, and extra walking poles and other equipment if we needed it.
Don’t get me wrong – even with Andy and Steve it was still a huge challenge. Trekking for about 14 kilometres each day for four days straight, jumping over countless peat bogs, battling groves of tightly wound tuckamore, and scrambling up rock walls for hours.
But in amongst the painful tumbles, the mud baths and the burning thighs, there was great beauty. There were the spruce groves tucked between knolls of heather and ancient, bare granite. There were the soaring vistas that felt like they led to the end of the world.
There were the fields of wispy Arctic cotton, of thick purple pitcher flowers (the floral emblem of the Newfoundland province), and of amber-coloured cloudberries that we plucked from the earth to snack on as we walk. There were our wild campsites, on mountaintops and beside crystalline lakes, and that feeling of being miles from anywhere in a secret lost world.
Best of all, though, there was that feeling at the end of it all, that I was a little more capable of taking life on than I was before I left home.