According to Wikipedia, “A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually only undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual Indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.” The article goes on to say, “Among Native American cultures who have this type of rite, it usually consists of a series of ceremonies led by Elders and supported by the young man’s community. The process includes a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. Some communities have used the same sites for many generations. During this time, the young person prays and cries out to the spirits that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.”
Now, obviously I am not an adolescent young man. And you may be asking, what does this have to do with anything?
Some months ago, I watched the movie “Wild.” While there are some very big differences between me & the main character, the movie really spoke to me. I was inspired by this true story of a woman who chose to hike the Pacific Crest Trail – alone and with no experience. For days, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. I literally woke up one day, and decided to do the same, but in my own area of the country. What if I hiked the Appalachian Trail, from start to finish? Immediately, I was hit with, “Are you crazy? Alone? You HATE camping!” I fell back to the movie – I replied with, “If she can do it, why can’t I?” So, yes, apparently I am crazy!
So I started researching. Now, I’m a homeschooling mother of 2; it is just not realistic or possible for me to take 6 months “off” to hike. Not to mention that I, like the main character in the movie, have NO experience hiking, with the exception of leisurely day hikes here and there. And, at that time, I was just coming off of a substantial knee injury that had me sidelined for 8 months. But, the more I thought about the idea, the more determined I became.
I would do this!
I decided to break it up over several years – 6, in fact. Why 6? I just turned 44. What an accomplishment I think it would be to complete the approximate 2,168 mile journey and climb Mt. Katahdin in my 50th year. A little over a month for the next six years is do-able. In fact, once my kids saw my enthusiasm, they decided they wanted to join in.
Since then, I’ve meticulously researched and focused mainly on the basic needs – shelter, food, safety/communication, etc. As this year comes to a close, and my physical and material needs are (mostly) met, I find myself starting to think more and more on the emotional/psychological preparation of this hike. This hike isn’t JUST about the destination. It’s also about doing something outside of my comfort zone. Why? Why on earth would I want to step outside the box and do something crazy like this? Or, crazy like earning my black belt at 44? Crazy like taking up jiu-jitsu? Crazy like deciding to hike 35 days with 2 kids? Because, my friends, that’s where real growth happens.
It’s the journey.
It’s knowing that the journey won’t be easy. There will be parts that, frankly, suck. It’s knowing that although it won’t be easy, quitting isn’t an option. Although there were some setbacks in getting the black belt, and yes – there were a couple times I wanted to quit. It got hard. It hurt – emotionally and physically. But, I did not quit! I’m sure there will be points along the way of this hike that I’ll want to quit. My kids will want to quit. But now, as I write and make this journey publicly known, I am now accountable to finish it.
What do I hope to learn? What do I hope to gain? At the time this “crazy idea” was hatched, it never occurred to me that this was my own Vision Quest, it was just something I wanted to challenge myself to do. It was a friend that brought the Vision Quest idea to my attention. And the more I thought about it, I thought, Yes…that’s exactly what this is. The past year has been a tremendous spiritual growth year; I’ve always been a believer but it wasn’t until earlier in the year that I finally trusted Christ. Since then, I’ve just been amazed at the things going on in my life (but that’s another story). To refer back to the definition, the vision quester will cry out to the spirits to find “their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.” While I’m not sure I will actually cry out to God, I do believe I this journey will bring me closer to self-discovery and additional growth.
Over the coming weeks and months, I will share more on how I’ve been preparing for this epic Vision Quest of mine.
Have you ever embarked on a Vision Quest, and how did you prepare?
©2015 Stacy De Smet