“The mountains are calling and I must go.”
— John Muir, 1873
Have you ever felt called to a place? Like unexplainably pulled in a certain direction, grabbed by a memory or an emotion, by the physical feeling of sand or dirt or an arm draped across your shoulders? Have you ever felt like you’re standing somewhere and your heart knows before your head that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be?
That’s a beautiful feeling—to be pulled or to feel grounded, steady. To know, beyond a doubt that something important is happening, even if you can’t quite explain it.
I felt like that a few weeks ago, while wandering in the mountains.
See, when I travel, I find little bits of myself in every place. In Italy, I discovered my resilience somewhere between a climb to the top of Florence’s highest tower and the laughter shared in St. Mark’s Square, mending back my broken heart. In New York, I found my calling in the city lights and rush of traffic. In California, I connected with the independent part of my head and heart and started to chase what I truly wanted.
And in the mountains, I found strength.
Wherever I’ve gone, I’ve learned things about myself that a normal day couldn’t teach me—my passions, my fears, my biggest, most under-the-surface dreams.
I’ve learned that wandering means letting go, means embracing a new life, a new culture, a new schedule, a new experience. It means learning to be unafraid of what’s around you, or even what’s coming next.
At the beginning of this month I wandered to the mountains with some friends. I thought it would be a good change, a good break from the routine. I thought the altitude would give me some clarity; I thought that being somewhere new was exactly what I needed.
I was right.
The trip messed with my head—in more ways than one. I learned, not only that altitude sickness is very real and you must drink lots of water, but that the true measure of your strength comes from your mind, from your mind telling you that you can, and you will overcome the obstacles that you’re facing.
And so I gave in to the mountains. To their breathtaking beauty, to their adventurous spirit, to the way they made me feel so excited for my future, so alive.
The trip wasn’t anything profound. I didn’t climb to the top of the highest peak or change my entire life around. I didn’t make a future-altering decision or decide to pack my bags and move on a whim. It was subtle, really. A hug shared with my girlfriends, discovering that we were all in similar places in our lives and gathering strength from one another. And a shift in my heart, realizing, once again, that I must truly listen to what it’s telling me.
I went home at the end of the week, but I left a piece of my heart behind me. A promise to return, just to be reminded of how strong I could be. How strong I am right now.
Traveling hasn’t given me all the answers, but it’s taught me to be unafraid when those answers are given to me, to accept them as they come—even if it’s not exactly what I want to hear.
Visiting the mountains made me realize that my heart is calling to me, that my head is trying to get through to me, that my body and my life are pulling me in a new direction. A direction I need to take.
And so, like Muir said, ‘The mountains are calling and I must go.’
I will go wherever my heart leads me. Faithfully. Fearlessly.