Sacrifice and Bliss -why we live the lifestyle we do

“Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”                                                                                 –John Muir

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Often times our guides hear clients say with a sense of astonishment and a twinge of heartache, “you live such an amazing life!”. If you probe deeper you will find the backstory of many of our guides have  similar past choices as anyone else.

We simply just came to a point, in one way or another, that we couldn’t turn back from. What turned out to be weekend trips out in the mountains turned into every-vacation-in-the-mountain trips. That eventually grew into having-a-car-as-a-basecamp throughout the summer months and maybe just another week or two or three into Autumn.

The weekends turned into years, which turned into a lifestyle of being outside spending our time in the elements.

We heard the forewarnings from our peers and family. Of course we could make more money with the degrees we have and we want to apply what we academically learned. Of course we want paid sick days and to have our health insurance covered. Of course we’d rather not cook in a rainstorm and would love to sleep on a real pillow. Of course we want to secure our retirement plan and have our contributions matched. And, yes, a shower would be nice!

For me, the question at the end of each day is how much life did that cost me and was it worth the experience? The turning point, or as Kafka called it “the point of no return”, happened to be a lifestyle we could not live without no matter what the apparent cost was. How can  something chosen on such an innately internal level feel anything other than right?

We’ve decided to be continually schooled by the mountains not for the checklist of the summits but for the humility and diversity of the experiences. Imagine waking up with the sun and the sounds of the forest, drinking the best brew you could imagine while feeling the sun start to warm the ground, starting the morning commute hiking through aspen groves and along wildflowers and over granite talus fields, feeling your muscles warming you up as you go, sweating, resting when you’re ready to rest, eating when you’re hungry to eat, breathing that fresh sweet air, seeing pure beauty in between blinks, swimming in clear alpine lakes, laughing around a campfire far into the night with a friend, letting the conversations wonder, and falling into a deep sleep under the warm summer milky way sky.

Each day is different, each climb is different, yet you know the sun will rise without your assistance. There’s a sense of security in having an absolute each day and a flexibility within that. Sometimes there are things in life more persistent than one’s own heartbeat. I’ve always known to take heed to those things and have been met by life with some sublime generosities.  

So was the cost worth it? A man told me once that the thoughts and feelings we have when we first begin to awake are similar to the ones we encounter when we’re dying. Waking up to the sun at dawn feeling well and a somewhat empty lightness in my heart is worth the cost.

I hope to see you in the mountains for a day or a weekend or several weeks soon

by Amy Vevoda
IAG guide and office manager