Next week, Morag and I will embark on a journey we call La Carretera Alta – a 12 month South American climbing road trip fiesta. We’ll start by clipping bolts on Mexican limestone and finish by jamming granite cracks in windswept Patagonia. We’ll climb rock, snow and ice in 7 different countries and drive some 20,000 kilometres in our trusty Toyota Hiace named La Tortuga.
Or at least, we hope we will.
As famously quoted by some Prussian general whose name I can neither remember nor pronounce, “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. Yes, the best-laid plans of mice and men can, and often do, go awry. You can take that to the bank. Our trip could be cut short by a great number of things, including but not limited to injury, illness, theft, guerrilla warfare, volcanic/tectonic unpleasantness, meteorite impact and/or zombie apocalypse.
No, you can’t control chance, but you can control your choices. There are a googolplex of variables which may alter your journey, but the inherent fluidity of plans is a very poor reason for which to avoid making them. If you want to do big things, at some point you’re going to have to ditch the excuses and pull the trigger, come what may.
Ostensibly, our journey is just about to begin as we prepare to board a flight to Las Vegas where our van is stored. In reality, that journey began quite some time ago. The act of departure represents the culmination of a period of planning, researching, documenting, scrimping, saving and scrounging that seemed longer than a glacial epoch. For La Carretera Alta, the trigger was pulled some two years ago, if not earlier.
So, what exactly do I mean with all this “pulling the trigger” malarkey? For me, it is not a physical act. Rather, it is a decision point, a psychic crossroad with effects that are both unobservable and immeasurable, and yet powerful and consequential. It is the moment in which an expedition, a journey, or a project is truly born, the moment at which you’re committed to making it happen, come hell or high water.
Most people want to do a thing. A big thing. But too often, people like to tell themselves that it’s not “the right time” to do that thing. They hold off on pulling the trigger, waiting for some sort of sign from some sort of divinity. This sign, they believe, will herald the coming of a fabled event known as “the right time”.
Well, let me tell you a secret, folks – there is no such thing as “the right time”. You’ll probably never have as much money as you’d like. You won’t accrue as much leave from work as you would like. You probably won’t have any fewer dogs or children in the near future - in fact, there’s a greater statistical likelihood that you’ll actually have more. And none of us are getting any younger.
In short, “the right time” is as soon as possible. Forget perfect, it’s a myth. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. No, you can’t plan for every unforeseen circumstance which could throw many proverbial spanners into many proverbial works, but pulling the trigger is not a point-of-no-return, nor does it require dogged rigidity in executing the plan. We ourselves needed to delay La Carretera Alta by six months, as well as cancel a few other smaller trips, in response to sudden and dramatic changes in employment and income. Any good plan requires flexibility and compromise.
In my experience, the act of pulling the trigger very often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – where there’s a will, there’s a way and all that guff. Problems may arise, but few for which solutions cannot be devised. Pretty soon, despite the difficulties, the magic starts to happen: gear gets purchased, flights get booked, training plans are executed, research is compiled, money is saved. It can be genuinely pleasurable to find yourself engaged in such a deliberate and purposeful mental state, especially one which naturally propels you toward a worthy goal. Embrace the process. The road will not always be smooth, but it leads somewhere incredible.
To summarise, here’s an action plan:
- Identify the thing
- Decide to do the thing
- Plan the thing
- Do the thing
It’s not rocket surgery, but it’s amazing how many people will never make it beyond Step 2. Don’t be one of them. At the end of the day, the only sure-fire way to guarantee that your trip fails is if you never choose to leave in the first place.
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
Ryan Siacci, Esq.
Zen and the Art of Climbing
PS: If you are feeling the urge to pull the trigger on your next climbing adventure, check out Pinnacle Sports Vietnam Climbing Trip - 2018 dates just announced!
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