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November 2016 Issue
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Life lessons

Crossing Waiau Pass is a highlight of the Te Araroa Trail and a great personal achievement. Photo: Marlene Coutret

I think the biggest ‘life lesson’ tramping has taught me is that no matter how awful and stressful things might be, I can get through.

I found that out on Stewart Island’s Southern Circuit, cold and tired, up to my thighs in mud, rain driven horizontal by a bitter wind and cursing ever coming on the trip. But shortly after I was in the shelter of the bush, the winds forgotten, the mud easier to avoid. Later, in the hut, I laughed about the misery with others who had also experienced it.

There was that time I was freezing my backside off camping in the snow, woefully unprepared with a three-quarter length mattress and an old, damp sleeping bag. I still consider it, many years later, as my worst night’s sleep ever. But I would go through a dozen such nights for the experience we had the following morning of cramponing down a glacier, bathed in sunlight and with views of snow-covered peaks stretching out in the distance.

That tramping has made me more resilient, more positive and a believer in myself is not something I consciously think about. But these are characteristics I use everyday and are just as important for my work or navigating a gridlocked city as they are in the outdoors.

When you read Marylene Coutret’s story ‘7 life lessons from the trail’, I think you’ll see a bit of yourself in her words, because every person who has done any kind of tramping or spent even a short time outdoors can relate to how it has, consciously or not, prepared them to overcome challenges, big and small, in life.

So while we tramp for the joy of being outside, to accomplish something difficult, to tick off huts and to just be amongst nature, we also come home changed; an ever-so-slightly improved version of ourselves.

And that’s just one more reason, as if we needed more, to get out there.