Have you ever started on a path that had only one way out? You had to make a choice about going forward or going back? When there was no other way out but through? How did you decide that it was worth the effort to move forward? What did it take to keep going when the path got difficult?
Here’s what I learned on a walking path in Ireland.
I had a business trip to Dublin last week. I took the opportunity to see some of the sights with my cousin on Sunday. She had a late-afternoon appointment, so suggested I take the train down the coast to Greystones and walk around there for a bit. She said it was a cute town. She also told me there was a cliff walk along the ocean.
I took the train without a real plan. I thought I might walk around the town and then get back on the train and go to the hotel. Or check out the cliff walk. I figured I would decide when I got there.
When I reached the town, I didn't really feel like walking around. Greystones was cute, but touristy and crowded. I just wasn’t in the mood. I decided to see where the cliff walk was. And then I saw the sign. 8 km (5 miles) walk all the way to Bray. Since I had taken the train out, I knew there wasn't a stop in between. I knew if I took this walk, it was either for a very short distance or the entire way.
The town brochure said the walk had scenic cliff views. Oooo! I love the cliff walk in Newport, RI. And whenever you mention scenic cliff views and ocean is involved, I’m there, baby.
I started in, lured by the description of the scenic views. I hadn’t gotten far when I realized it wasn’t going to be an easy jaunt.
- I wasn't wearing the right shoes, or even close.
- I wasn't dressed for exercise. I was wearing my church clothes.
- I was carrying a relatively heavy bag.
- I only got 3 hours sleep the night before.
The path was fine, if you had the right shoes. A lot of loose gravel. Because the soles of my shoes were thin, I could feel the rocks stabbing my feet.
I walked about a half mile, and realized this was do or die time. Either keep going or turn back and take the train. There was no other train stop. Not only that, there was no other place to get off the trail and onto a road. It was time to decide and then make the best of it.
I decided to keep going to Bray no matter what.
Here’s what I encountered on the trail.
- Some smooth pavement
- People out with their dogs who greeted me warmly
- Slippery mud
- More gravel stabbing my feet
- A beautiful pasture with the greenest grass you’ve ever seen
- Weeds growing near the path obscuring the view
And where were the scenic cliff views? Not along the early part of the trail. I thought they had over-hyped the walk. All I saw were weeds growing off to the side. Should I turn back or keep going? I knew I couldn’t get off where I was.
Then I saw my first view of the town I had left. It was spectacular.
As I went farther the view was even more spectacular. Wildflowers, flox, heather, goldenrod. Rugged cliffs. Craggy castle ruins. It was stunning.
This walk wasn't an easy stroll in the park. Some was flat, but some was hilly. My feet were hurting. And I walked a very long way on little sleep.
And every amount of pain was worth it. The sore feet, exhaustion, and wondering how much longer. And it wasn’t just worth it at the end. It was worth it even in the middle of the walk. In the midst of the pain. Not only were the views spectacular, but there was also something about rising to the challenge that was worthwhile.
What can we learn from my cliff walk experience?
- It’s okay to let our emotions start us on a path. Just don’t let them control us.
- It is wise to evaluate our decisions with the information we have before we fully commit to a path with no exit.
- When possible, play and experiment before committing. Going back is a viable option.
- Once we commit, focus on what it takes to get through, rather than fantasize about a way out. And enjoy the journey.
Imagine if there was another way out. Would I have succumbed to the comfort and forgone the breathtaking beauty of the rest of the walk? It's possible. It would have saved time, energy and foot pain. Yet think of what I would have missed.
Are you about to embark on a path with no way out? Are you in the middle of one right now? Is it worth it? Please share in the comments below and share with a friend who could use this message.