It's a question I've asked myself a hundred times, every time I push myself past the physical and mental limits of comfort. Whether it be struggling under the weight of a pack with muscles that feel worn and unresponsive or paddling across open water into a stiff headwind, sweating under the burn of the sun or freezing in the dead of winter — the outdoor experience is not always one of enjoyment.
Why do we as humans attempt these challenges, seek these moments of questioning?
Many of us do it without ever thinking about the why. At the beginning of anything new, it is impossible to say if we will reach the moment of questioning. It is difficult to know what the human body is capable of until we reach that moment.
Many, if not most, of the things I have done in my life, I didn’t know if I could actually accomplish. How can one know until they try? Perhaps that is the reason I have reached the moment of why so often in my life.
I think it is likely that all people endure challenges at some point in their lives. Yet there are others who go out specifically searching for experiences that will test to the limits.
Whether it be marathon runners or mountain climbers, pioneers or explorers, athletes or the remarkably average, there is a brand of human that will travel through discomfort to reach the moment of why.
It is a question that many are never able to answer. Why do we push ourselves beyond what is comfortable, beyond what sometimes seems feasible? In an age of instant gratification with modern lives design to give constant comfort — from the heated seats in our cars to the clean water running from our taps to television remotes made so we don't need to stand up to change the channel — why is it that some of us feel the need to occasionally extract ourselves from such easy lives and experience something that puts our metal to the test?
For myself — who I would class in the category of remarkably average, being neither pioneer nor athlete — it is simply that there is more to be discovered by taking the route less traveled. The straightest path leads us exactly where it promised, on the terms that we agreed.
For a few years after starting my career, I began to fall into the routines and patterns that most people do. Get up when the alarm goes off. Get ready for work. Spend a day at the office. Go home. Do chores. Have a little adventure on the weekend.
I realized I wanted to do something more with my time, and so I went out and did it.
These days, I seek out these experiences to better understand myself, the world, and our place in it. I go because I am curious, because I want to reach the moment of questioning, and try to discover the answer.
I keep returning because the answer is never quite the same.