It was an invitation I simply couldn’t pass up. I handed over my one-way ticket and boarded a rickety public bus with only a meagerly filled backpack and burgeoning expectations of an impromptu excursion across the provinces of China with two of my teammates.
Shortly after stepping onto LiJiang’s enchanting cobblestone streets, our excitement mounted. An outside patio meal, an open agenda, and an enticing brochure kicked off a possibility for the next leg of our trip. The simplicity of the hand-drawn map was markedly convincing—adventurous and attainable.
We all agreed. The next day we’d hike the trail through the beautiful mountain ranges to the sightseeing destination of Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Eager anticipation glided our feet across the first few miles of the trail. Not far into the trek, however, it became painstakingly apparent that the gear we carried was not fitted for the terrain we were traveling.
The open skies of the summer afternoon released a relentless force of heat against our single bottles of water. And our out-of-shape bodies threw every tantrum imaginable.
After already traveling a grueling stretch of the journey, there was still a mountain to climb. We stood at the base, the same unspoken question blaring through each of our minds. Should we go on?
Motivated partly by determination to press forward and partly by fear of digressing backward, we began what we knew would inevitably be an arduous, make-or-break climb.
Exhausted. Dehydrated. Alone in unfamiliar territory without the necessary provisions. Disillusionment erupted.
How could the map have been this misleading? Had I set out on a journey marked for failure? The weight of my doubts seemed to compound the weight of my backpack.
The unbridled expectations that originally compelled my journey forward were now eclipsed by a disheartened resignation to settle for mere survival.
Can you relate?
No doubt, your journey looks quite different from mine; though, I’d venture to guess it has many similarities. Maybe it began with anticipated excitement of what awaited ahead. Hope stirred and expectation soared as you dared to step forward.
Yet after encountering unanticipated junctures along the path, you realized the backpack you’re carrying is under-equipped, the road doesn’t exactly follow the map you were given, and what started out as an adventure now resembles a fight for survival.
From one fellow sojourner to another, allow me to offer you this encouragement. The climb is worth it.
And breakthrough is often just on the other side for those daring enough to hold on to hope. (Tweet that.)
Though my teammates and I were tempted in every way to give up, we persevered to the top of that mountain. And you know what awaited us? Replenishment.
A lone truck came out of nowhere to provide us with water and transportation for the remainder of our journey. Our needs were met.
But there was more. Breathtaking scenery. Once-in-a-lifetime sights. Connections with fellow travelers we would’ve missed if we didn’t press on.
And perhaps best of all, our unmet expectations of the journey were transformed through the view from the mountaintop.
Have you experienced unmet expectations? What helped you get through a difficult journey?
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