I’m reflecting on what we saw (everything), what we did (everything), and how it all felt (incredible).
It’s been about a week since we returned from Chile. Now, I’m sitting here typing. When the snow came through sideways in a gust of wind, it took the breath out of me. When I went charging full speed down a mountainside on a Criollo horse with a pack of gauchos, the adrenaline pumped through me as fast as my heart could carry it. When we crested over a rocky cliff to see the three towers presiding resolutely over a lake the color of a Tiffany’s box, I couldn’t stop dancing across the rocks out of sheer happiness. There is plenty of photo evidence to confirm my skills.
SEE ALSO: Tested Tough: Guiding in Chile
Sitting here reflecting—seeing the photos, typing out the memories—I can’t help but get a little bit of travel withdrawal. No amount of recollecting can recreate those scenes. What we saw and what we did are preserved by pixels on my computer screen, and how it felt is a liability left to memory. Only being there, in Patagonia, can exhibit how hard the gusts of wind—and the scale of the sights—can hit you. It makes me think of that melancholy motto, “You can’t take it with you when you go.” I can’t take the awe of seeing the Towers with me. I can’t take the feeling of shuffling my feet across the dirt at the edge of Lake Peho with me. I can’t take the smell of the Criollo horse’s breath mixed with the gaucho’s cigarette with me.
But what I can take with me is the strength that trekking 30 miles through Torres del Paine built into my body. Wherever I trek next, my legs and my lungs will be better for it. I can take the bit of mud that somehow got smudged onto the front of this laptop and be inspired to write about how it might’ve got there every time I see it. My stories will be better for it. I can take the memories of seeing something for the first time and book a plane, train, or boat to get me to another far-off corner of the earth that I’ve yet to gaze upon. My experience of life will be better for it.
What I’ve realized is that no, you can’t take a place with you when you go. But the lessons you learn and the sentiments you hold onto, those you are the takeaways you can hold onto no matter where you go or when you leave.
Follow Columbia Sportswear’s Directors of Toughness, Lauren Steele and Zach Doleac, as they journey around the world and put our latest gear through the harshest conditions on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Instagram, and Snapchat (columbia1938).
Lauren Steele is a Midwestern farm girl turned migrant. She is a writer who knows that the unknowns in life make for the best stories—and for the most amazing adventures. Chasing those stories from Chile to Switzerland have prepared her to become Columbia Sportswear’s Director of Toughness. You can follow Lauren’s journey as Director of Toughness here and social channels including: Twitter | Instagram
Zach Doleac is an adventure travel and sports photographer (and full-time outdoor junkie) born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Traveling through places such as Central America, Canada, and the mountain ranges of the U.S., he only pauses long enough to make photographs of the people and places that he encounters along the way. You can follow Zach’s journey as Director of Toughness and social channels including: Instagram | Twitter