Life is a journey, not a destination

Talia Bailes - Ecuador


September 15, 2015

Life is a journey, not a destination.

A mug I received on my birthday a few years ago currently sitting 2,739 miles away says just that; Life is a journey, not a destination.

But what does that really mean when our society is driven by goals and we are constantly racing on the treadmill of success? Well I am far from having that answer, but I know how happy I felt after spending just one morning living life as a journey.

I was furiously panting after walking up a hill that seemed equivalent to Mount Everest. Each step I took was another calf stretch; the hill was at maybe a 60 degree angle. The steepness mixed with the high altitude left for an exhausting morning. All of the fellows I was with were sore, tired, thirsty and ready for a long siesta. But our Spanish teacher pushed us forward through El Centro Historico on toward La Basillica, a historical church in Quito.

When we finally arrived it was pretty. Maybe a little more than pretty, but I really had to use the bathroom, so that took first priority.

Then we entered the church and walked up about 100 stairs into a vast, open area with stain-glass windows and beautiful ancient architecture. I was in awe of the colors and vibrant energy that surrounded me. I just sat and looked around.

We found a small staircase in the corner of La Basillica and continued up the tall church towers. Each step became even more unbearably exhausting and even more exhilarating and exciting. Haunting questions loomed in my mind. What we would find at the top? Would all of this walking be worth it? I hoped so as I continued forward.

Every few sets of stairs we passed windows. The warm wind rustled through the windows calling me to take a look out each one. Begging me to take time to just breathe. To just sit and observe.

We continued up the concrete stairs until we hit the next part of the journey. A spiral staircase leading WAY up. The slim, black, metal stairs creaked with each step we took as we began winding along the path already declared for us. But would it be worth it?

A fellow reached her hand out, helping me to the top. I stepped out onto a concrete slab and was immediately struck by how beautiful and serene the moment was. The warm breeze rustled my hair from all directions. I turned in a circle and could see all of Quito. I walked around the base of the top of the tower mesmerized by the beauty that surrounded me. I felt a sense of peace, calmness and fullness. I felt alive. I felt happy.

Just being present is difficult. I grew up always rushing to the next activity or competing with myself to finish the next math problem. Competing for a goal. Rushing time to reach the next success. I grew up asking myself “But would it be worth it?” But of course, each step of my journey up La Basicillica was worth it. The journey is what left me fulfilled. As the year ahead unfolds and becomes real in front of my eyes, I hope to have more patience and carry my experience at La Basillica with me. I hope to learn how to just BE.

**Update: I will be living in the Napo region of the Amazon rainforest this year working in a high school/middle school teaching English, Literature and possibly Mechanics as well as working in a primary/nursery school.

Talia Bailes