How to Turn Around Successfully


Some wandering days turn out just as I envisioned. And, a very, very few are far beyond what I could imagine. And then, there are some wandering days that just don’t work how I’d planned at all. For a million reasons. Swarms of mosquitoes, log jams, snow storms, leaking ceilings. . . lots of things have turned us around in our adventures over the years.

What I’m trying to say is this: what happened on a mountain in southern Poland was not unique. But, how it happened was. Because, while I have plenty of experience having to turn around and go back, I do not have much experience doing it well.

On a mountain headed to Dolina Pięciu Stawów was the first time I did it gracefully.

At first, I think it was only because of my children. I knew they felt the same sting of disappointment at not reaching the lodge. It was important to me that no one feel they had failed. Everyone was there, giving everything they had to that mountain. I wanted to celebrate that.

So, it was mostly for them that I turned around cheerily and pulled my cheap rain suit proudly around my shoulders. I sat down in the snow, and let myself careen down its slope. It was exhilarating. It was controlled chaos. It was, in short, the best sledding of my life.

And, just like that. Everything changed. We weren’t retreating in defeat, but were descending as conquerors. On that mountain, my heart softened because of my husband’s love. But, it soared because I got out of its way.

Hiking down the mountain, exhilarated from our “sledding” and giddy with our surroundings, I was already asking myself “What made the difference?”. What made this turning around work, when the others feel like failures? The difference, of course, was entirely in my own attitude. Thinking through it, there were three shifts that made the difference for me.


I shifted objectives.

I began walking up that mountain in order to reach the lodge. That was the goal, and it was straightforward enough. But, coming down the mountain, I realize that I can decide what my goal is. I could choose to stay stuck on my original goal, or I could shift it.

The great thing about wandering is that I get to decide what’s a failure because I get to decide what’s a success. I could choose to feel that we failed because we didn’t make it where we meant to go. Or, I can choose to call this a success because we had a beautiful hike, excellent sledding, and everyone was safe and sound.

I didn’t have to ask any facts to rearrange themselves. All truths remained the same. But, what those truths meant had changed entirely.

I shifted my perspective.

I had to let go of the experience I came for in order to be open to the experience I was having. This shift actually started inside me before we’d even decided to turn around. After our encounter with the cranky naysayer, I began to wrestle with the reality that we may not make it to the lodge. As I did a bit of mourning over this fact, the mountain vistas finally hit me over the head with their majesty. I realized what an opportunity we were already having. Once I stopped grasping so hard for what I thought would be, I could recognize the gift of what was.

I shifted from an attitude of scarcity to abundance.

I always struggle with this one. The reason I write about scarcity mentality in travel is that I see it in myself. It is so easy to believe that this this is the only time I’ll get to stay in the lodge at Dolina Pięciu Stawów. Maybe it will be. But, maybe I will get to come back. Either way, now I’ve had a preview that’s whet my appetite for more. I can walk away disappointed, and believe that was our one shot at this experience. Or, I can walk away thrilled to know why I want to come back.

It’s not always easy to make those shifts. The easy thing is to stay stubborn and rigid. I do stubborn really well. But, this hike taught me that rigidity is a thief. It steals from me the very experience that’s before me. It flattens my possibilities and narrows my vistas. It’s worth the work to shift into a better way of thinking.