“Go to the mountains,” I heard one day, now three years ago, as I was clawing my way back from the edge of intellectual and emotional burnout. Academia is not for the faint of heart, especially if one has a conscience and any hopes of some form of emo- tional normalcy or balance and I was completely caught off guard by the level of am- bivalence, loneliness, and fear I found there. With a creeping insistency, it had worked its way into my bones, leaving me floating aimlessly on a lazy river of self-doubt, ex- haustion, and apathy. This couldn’t be how my life would play out: burned out and sad.
Go to the mountains.
Now, I’m not in any way a mountain girl. I’ve lived in the Great Lakes region of the US my entire life. Chicago lies 597 feet above sea level, Cleveland, OH, at 653’. But as natural as the fully-oxygenated air I’ve always breathed, I heard the call and said, “Ok.” No questions, no looking back, no doubt. That was Easter Day, 2019. I put down more cash on one purchase than I ever had in my entire life, to a tour company I had heard about on Instagram to go to, of all places, Peru. We have mountains in the US; I set my sights on the Andes, specifically the Salkantay pass, at elevation 15,200’. Why? I can’t really say.
Go to the mountains
And then COVID-19 introduced itself to the world. As I was packing up my bags and dog, heading to Cleveland to secure doggy sitting and getting my mountain journey started, March 15, 2020, the world shut down. Two days before my scheduled flight to Lima, every flight anywhere was canceled. Refunds were given. Plans hung in the balance as the world waited. Hunkered down, masked and scared, we passed on March 2021. The mountains would be there.
Go to the mountains
And then it was March of 2022. Again my bags were packed. Flights were bought. Training at home came and went. The time had come, finally. Was I ready? It depends in what way we mean. I was as ready as I could be.
And then it happened. In every single way I could not anticipate.
I was gone to the mountains.
And it’s possible my life will never be the same.