Empower Me To
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Empower Me To

Does nature provide the ultimate escape? Yosemite Series

What’s life, if not meant to be challenged? A journey I never would have taken had I been left to my own devices.

Yosemite National Park

I got the taste for traveling solo on my little adventure to Lake Tahoe and I am hungry for more. Back in San Francisco, I am making a list of all the places I want to visit and the things I want to do there. I want to travel full time now but I need a structured approach to make it happen. I am thinking fabulous cities, access to transportation, and places to live. But is that what I am in search for?

The Search

The locations I am looking at, these cities, offer a lot activities but not experiences that I can cherish years from now. How do I know this? I have visited cities before and unless a certain architectural element caught my eye, I haven’t been able to recall very much at all. I have been to restaurants, and I remember the food. I have visited museums and remember that I went there because I bought a souvenir at the gift shop. These are fond memories, don’t get me wrong, but doing these things again is not going to give me what I need right now.

Hmm, that’s a good question; what do I need right now?

I need downtime, I decide. This past year has gotten to me and I am feeling stressed out. I feel the need to reconnect with myself; to find out who I am when removed from the societal pressure and familial obligation. I have lost my conviction about everything, I feel. I have been losing myself in trying to please others and silencing my thoughts in order to listen to others.

I need an escape from my life.

Coming across hobby hikers was not something I had planned for. I have heard my friends talk about their adventures in the woods and heard them describe life-altering experiences. For me, personally, nature sounds scary. I only remember crying because I either fell down or was too scared that I was going to fall down. NOT A NATURE LOVER. But I keep hearing from them that the views are indescribable, and that nature is calming. I say I need an escape and doing something that’s completely out of my comfort zone is the only way to do it. And I am in California. It offers nature in full and lite versions. Though reluctantly, I decide to do this.

The Place

It’s like swimming. You have to just jump in the water and take it from there. That’s my attitude towards nature. Naturally, I am talking about going to Yosemite National Park. A little bit of camping, a lot of hiking options and views for days. Even if I end up sitting on a rock every day there, I will still end up relaxing. A win-win.

My go-to move is to open Airbnb and look at nearby places to stay. I wasn’t aware that I could stay inside the park. I am urged highly by my friends to stay at the park. It just isn’t the same, they tell me. So I look for stay options within the park. I don’t know if you know this but Yosemite is pretty famous. You have to book these reservations months in advance. I don’t have many options but to piece together an itinerary a couple of days at a time. The availability for these places is also a lot sooner than I had expected. I am able to plan for the upcoming week by staying three days in a tent, a couple of days in a lodge and a couple more in an RV. I have a week to prepare for this trip.

Cool. I am an action-taker. I get things done.

The Thoughts

Or so I think.

As I sit there listening to my friends describe the place and what are must-dos for me, I start getting overwhelmed by my decision. What was I thinking? I haven’t EVER gone on a hike. Forget camping. I have never been without cell reception. And I am going alone. The feeling of being scared and alone is taking over my thought process and I break down.

I find that I have difficulty breathing and I start crying. My friends realize that they have been going about it the wrong way. It’s time to highlight that I will, in fact, be in civilization and not be stranded in the woods alone. There will be people around me which is why I had a hard time finding a reservation. I can take battery packs with me and I can buy camping gear which will make me comfortable in unforeseen situations. There are restaurants inside the park which will feed me in exchange for money. The lodge even has TV!

It’s silly but it does calm me down. And the last resort is to drive back to San Francisco which is only about 4 hours away.

I have spent the money already. So I can give it a chance, at the very least. I sleep that night nervously, but decidedly.

The Prep

Did I mention that I have never been outdoors before? Here’s that reminder again.

The weather at Yosemite is going to drop sub-zero at night even though it’s June. I will need something to keep me warm at night when I am staying in the tent. Sleeping bag, thermals, sweaters, the works. My friends are generous enough to lend me theirs.

I am determined to hike though I have no shoes that will help me on a rocky terrain. We decide to go to REI, the mecca for hikers. Having never been inside one, this is one of those stores that blew my mind. I never knew all the modern amenities that are available for camping. Freeze dried food, apparel, shoes and everything under the sun that will make your outdoor adventure comfortable. We head towards the shoes section.

I would have never thought I would be out of my element buying shoes. This helpful salesperson is asking me questions that I have no way of answering. Luckily, I have my friend with me who knows her hiking gear and guides me into how to go about buying for my hiking needs. We decide that since I am a beginner, I will need boots to provide more stability.

I try my first pair on. These are some really sturdy shoes and are hard to put on. My friend shows me how to put them on and how to tie the laces. She sees the panic in my eyes and I am so thankful for her being there with me. I am thankful for other things as well but, in this moment, I am thanking her for putting shoes on me.

I walk in them and I climb the mock terrain. We repeat this with a couple of other shoes and I know which ones I want to buy. We buy other supplies and head home.

Back home, my friend teaches me how to use a portable stove so that I can heat up water. It’s a trick to keep you warm in your sleeping bag and well, to use hot water. We practice it a couple of times in the backyard and I finish packing.

I want to have my type 2 fun. The most I had at Tahoe was maybe 1.5

Will I come out alive? I mean, yeah. But that night I am not so sure. Adventure awaits me but I am not at all ready.

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