More than two weeks have gone by since completing my Alptitude experience in the French Alps. None of these statements were true a few weeks ago, but they are now:
- I accomplished some physical goals that I considered impossibilities.
- My world of options has greatly expanded.
- I see clear paths to happiness.
- I enjoy hiking up mountains.
I’m a different person than before Alptitude and have met some of the most amazing people in the world. Sound interesting? Keep reading.
Through my professional development fund at work, I’m able to take classes, buy books, attend conferences, etc. This year I wanted to do something a little outside of the box, or in this case, the country.
Last November, a coworker introduced me to The Happy Startup School events. Alptitude is marketed as a week of dreaming. “It’s not a retreat, nor a training camp. It’s not a vacation, nor an unconference. It’s all of those things, yet none of them.” Okay, you have my attention. I applied immediately.
The Downhill Fall
Not only was this was my first trip to Europe, but I was also traveling solo. The journey alone was a mile outside of my comfort zone. Thinking back, I’m trying to remember what my expectations were prior to the trip. I had so much stress about traveling alone to a place where English wasn’t the first language, I never even got to thinking about what I’d do once I got there.
It wasn’t all amazing times and aha moments. When I first walked into the teepee (yes, there was a teepee) on day one, I quickly got a feeling of dread that I didn’t belong amongst this amazing group of people. There were entrepreneurs that were running successful startups, and a few who were selling their companies and looking for something new, brilliant people who found ways to turn their passions into careers…and me. I felt beneath them. My self-consciousness came in full force and I turned into a shy, introverted shell. I felt there was no way I could be on their level.
While we were introducing ourselves, Manuel made a comment that really captured how the rest of my week went, “You have to deplete your physical battery to recharge your mental one.”
On the second day, I hit my low point. We went mountain biking, but not the type of mountain biking this city girl was used to. We rode e-bikes, which have a motor that kicks in as you pedal. The motor helped to propel us up steep and rocky terrain. I was uncomfortable from the moment we set out because the seat was way too high for me, and I basically had to mount my bike like I was horseback riding every time we stopped. I remained in a state of panic as we climbed higher and higher, bouncing all over treacherous rocks. We finally started to make our descent, which I had hoped would be a bit easier, but it was equally, or perhaps more, terrifying to bounce down at higher speeds. I concentrated hard on staying upright and not getting left behind. Near the end I was feeling pretty good about my progress and perhaps got a little too confident. We went over a rocky downhill patch and I hit my breaks a little too hard. I toppled straight forward over my handlebars and landed hard on my elbow. There was blood and pain followed by tears. After a moment’s rest and a check that nothing was seriously hurt, I very shakily got back on my bike and made it to our destination. This solidified my fears that I couldn’t hang with this group.
That was the night I called home to my husband and with tears running down my face, told him I couldn’t do this and needed to come home.
Reaching New Heights
The very next day, I hit my high point. We set out on a hike up a similar mountain path, but this time on foot. We trudged upward through rain, thunder and lightening, hail, sleet and snow. As I planted each foot on the muddy path, I realized that this climb was much different from the previous day’s bike ride. I compare it to marathon training; this was a test of endurance. The sense of fear I had with bike riding was nonexistent, and I was more focused on working my way to our destination. I also noticed something else happening. I had started the morning doubting that I was capable I could make it. As we climbed higher I realized I was actually enjoying myself. My energy and excitement seemed to increase as we worked our way from rain to snow. By the time the refuge we were staying at was in sight I was practically skipping and catching snowflakes on my tongue!
My physical battery was depleted and my mental one was finally ready to be recharged. I had been carrying this overwhelming feeling that I needed to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up by the end of the week. I have a whole page in my notebook listing drastically different career options. Reading it over and over literally made my heart beat faster. While we rested at the refuge, sipping mulled wine and waiting for our clothes to dry, I chatted with Tom. He assured me that I didn’t have to figure out my entire future right then…or ever! My focus needed to shift to small steps leading towards things I’m interested in. No massive leaps needed. They don’t have to be career-related. Just lean into the things that bring me joy, and I’ll naturally move in a direction that makes me happy. The best part is that I’m already doing this! Queue the fireworks in a thought bubble over my head. It sounded so easy, but it was the clarity I was craving. As the feeling of relief washed over me, I already started to plan additional, not so scary next steps that could lead in several directions once I got home.
Recharging My Battery
My work here is done, right? After I had my aha moment, I felt myself relax. The pressure had been lifted. I started to feel like myself again and open up. I thought I completed my self-love mission, but I was just getting started. I also wanted to focus on how I can help the other 25 people on this journey the same way they helped me, but I didn’t know what I had to offer.
Throughout the rest of the week, I continued my process of physical depletion and mental refreshing.
- I jumped off a mountain attached to a man with a parachute and landed on the ground.
- I zip-lined across a massive lake of the most beautiful shade of turquoise…twice!
- I jumped off of a bridge, not attached to anything (landing in water).
- I whitewater rafted through a narrow canyon with massive cliffs on each side.
I also began to recognize my self-consciousness and was able to adjust to fight against it when it flared up. It felt like I was wearing a thick coat for the last 31 years and I’ve just started to peek out from under it. There were small victories throughout the week that had a huge impact. Even as a hardcore night owl, I popped out of bed before 7am ready to jump into that day’s activities. My routine to get ready consisted of throwing on a baseball cap and some hiking boots, rather than layers of makeup and beauty products. I jumped into conversations with gusto and shared my thoughts. They may have seemed minor, but they were steps to a major shift in perspective.
This — and likely some wine — somehow led me to teaching my entire tribe a dance routine completely by accident. Throughout my childhood and college, dance played a major role in my life. Since I graduated nine years ago, I more or less stopped dancing completely. My second aha moment came when someone else pointed out that I appeared so happy when teaching dance. It was what made me light up and completely comfortable and most like myself. So there it is. What I offered to the rest of the group was dance. Dance can be a break from discussing tough topics. It can help pull others out of their own self consciousness. Dance can bring joy. I absolutely loved sharing this with the group.
Now that I’m back home, I recognize that my world has grown immensely and I frequently remind myself of both the physical and mental limits I broke through in the French Alps. I’m slowly working through my list of small steps towards things that bring me joy. Some days it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life. When that happens, I pull out my notebook filled with tidbits from the 25 amazing friends I met in the Alps and take a few deep breaths. Next step on my list: teach some dance.
- January 2019
- Dec 30, 2018 A Celebration of 2018's Power Outfits Dec 30, 2018
- November 2018
- Oct 23, 2018 Season Transition is Hard. Seven Reasons it Doesn't Have to Be Oct 23, 2018
- Oct 8, 2018 Five Reasons Why I'm Choosing Jumpsuits Over Dresses (And One Where Dresses Will Always Win) Oct 8, 2018
- Sep 12, 2018 Cape May 2018: Humidity + Wine Sep 12, 2018
- August 2018
- July 2018
- Jun 28, 2018 I Manage My Closet from My Phone Jun 28, 2018
- Jun 13, 2018 A Tropical Vacation to Set my Wardrobe Tone for Summer Jun 13, 2018
- Jun 7, 2018 Sneaker addictions make for good sneaker reviews Jun 7, 2018
- May 25, 2018 A case for finding a forever seamstress May 25, 2018
- May 15, 2018 Monochromatic Style Experiment Turned Love Affair May 15, 2018
- May 9, 2018 Calling all shorties: DYIing your jeans length is so easy! May 9, 2018
- May 1, 2018 When watching TV turns into a shopping habit May 1, 2018
- April 2018
- Mar 20, 2018 White boots: yes or no? Mar 20, 2018
- Feb 21, 2018 Olympic training in Colorado...JK! Annual Sister Ski Trip Feb 21, 2018
- Jan 25, 2018 Seven Unique Ways to Layer Through Winter Jan 25, 2018
- Dec 30, 2017 My 2017 Style Dec 30, 2017
- Nov 5, 2017 The Perfect Leather Jacket Nov 5, 2017
- Oct 18, 2017 I accidentally bought a new wardrobe at Target...again (fall edition) Oct 18, 2017
- Oct 1, 2017 Caring For Your Red Bottoms Oct 1, 2017
- September 2017
- Aug 18, 2017 An outfit tour of London (Part Five) Aug 18, 2017
- Aug 17, 2017 An outfit tour of London (Part Four) Aug 17, 2017
- Aug 16, 2017 A Very Parisian Evening (Part Trois) Aug 16, 2017
- Aug 15, 2017 An outfit tour of Paris (Part Deux) Aug 15, 2017
- Aug 13, 2017 An outfit tour of Paris (Part Une) Aug 13, 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- February 2017
- Jan 27, 2017 Love what you wear Jan 27, 2017
- Jan 19, 2017 You can wear leather leggings and these are the ones Jan 19, 2017
- Jan 11, 2017 I wore a sweatshirt to work Jan 11, 2017
- Jan 2, 2017 Winter essential: black tights Jan 2, 2017
- December 2016
- November 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- Jun 29, 2016 I accidentally bought a new summer wardrobe at Target Jun 29, 2016
- Jun 20, 2016 Summer in the City Jun 20, 2016
- Jun 15, 2016 What I bought after a month of no shopping Jun 15, 2016
- Jun 9, 2016 My favorite pencil skirt Jun 9, 2016
- Jun 6, 2016 My take on the sleeveless trench Jun 6, 2016
- May 30, 2016 You can never have too many stripes May 30, 2016
- May 23, 2016 Embracing the sneaker trend May 23, 2016
- May 16, 2016 Getting creative May 16, 2016
- May 13, 2016 Bare leg dress weather is here May 13, 2016
- May 10, 2016 Ode to the day-saving peplum May 10, 2016
- May 5, 2016 A vow to not shop May 5, 2016
- May 3, 2016 Let's talk color May 3, 2016
- Apr 29, 2016 Business trip: the next level of planning Apr 29, 2016
- Apr 27, 2016 The great trench adventure Apr 27, 2016
- Apr 26, 2016 This rule is meant to be broken Apr 26, 2016
- Apr 22, 2016 The outfit-making necklace Apr 22, 2016
- Apr 19, 2016 The all-seasons dress Apr 19, 2016
- Apr 15, 2016 Casual Friday Apr 15, 2016
- Apr 13, 2016 The power outfit Apr 13, 2016
- Apr 11, 2016 One shirt, two ways Apr 11, 2016
- Apr 9, 2016 Winter in April Apr 9, 2016
- Apr 4, 2016 Just another Manic Monday Apr 4, 2016
- March 2016