I was fortunate enough to spend four months in one of the most beautiful regions in the world, Southern France. While on this adventure, I was able to create amazing memories while shaping myself into a better person. The beginning of this transformation happened when I climbed my first mountain. With a national park practically in our backyard, I was able to balance my life with nature on a regular basis. This was when I first began to discover that for me, living a healthy and balanced life, started with exploring areas of the world seen by very few. Upon my adventures, I climbed various mountains surrounding the beautiful city of Marseille. With a lively city buzz just a few bus stops away from my residence, it became imperative for me to get away from the commotion of a city comprised of over 800,000 inhabitants.
I have found few activities that have given me more satisfaction in life than hiking the region of mountains surrounding Marseille and Cassis, France. I learned more about myself exploring those often deserted mountains than ever before in my life. I learned to follow trails marked solely with a streak of paint on random rocks. I learned what it means to find peace in solitude, and I learned how to push through a struggle to get to what I wanted most: to conquer that mountain and be rewarded with a view so pristine and breathtaking it would leave you speechless. With waters so crystal clear and skies of the bluest color, the Mediterranean became my perfect place.
What I found to be most important from these long journeys (often 8-10 hour hikes) was the ability to let go of all the worries in my life. On a mountain, with no cell phone service, and few people in sight who speak English, it’s easier not to let your troubles consume your thoughts. It was the most freeing experience of my life. It was the only time I’ve ever been so disconnected from society. It was there that I learned what is most important to me. A career, money, nice things, all started to feel obsolete in making my life worthwhile. I learned what is most important is finding what makes you happy and chasing that no matter how difficult the struggle. Sometimes it becomes too easy to get wrapped up in the routine of life in the U.S. (college, grad school, life-long career) that we forget that what matters most is leaving the world just a little better than it was before and surrounding ourselves only with people who will lift us higher. In the end we can’t forget, life isn’t about finding ourselves, it’s about creating ourselves.