Updated: May 17
Ralph Waldo Emerson is often credited for having said "it's about the journey, not the destination." What he really said was, "to finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom."
As an avid long distance hiker and backpacker, who has gone on some pretty extended journeys, I have both learned to savor moments within the journey and felt the drive toward and satisfaction at reaching the destination. I've heard and repeated this mantra myself a million or more times.
When I introduced this challenge to the Rugged Outdoors Women Write group, I thought everyone would jump immediately on "Journey" as the preferred topic. But my amazing writer friends surprised me! And then when I started thinking more about my split piece, I quickly realized how inseparable the journey is from the destination. One does not exist without the other-- a journey to nowhere is as meaningless as a destination you were born at.
This collection has inspired a line of merch that I'd love for you to check out! The Journey is her Destination includes a t-shirt, tank top, and sticker of the same design.
Use code DESTINATION for 10% off.
Journey V. Destination
by Christine Reed
I left home once.
Then turned around.
Came right back.
I needed to feel home again.
Then left again.
Then left again.
Then left again.
I lay alone among flowered meadows.
I watered the desert with my tears.
The ocean washed me away.
I drifted to and from beautiful locations that meant nothing.
My destination was never about a place.
So, I felt lost all the time.
When I realized that what I sought was myself.
The journey could finally begin.
Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman
Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.
The Point of it All
by Meaghan Martin
What happens when your journey doesn’t look the way you thought it would? When it begins with the childhood “what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up’s” and years later when you’re told “you can be whatever you want” you come to realize that you don’t have a vision for your future anymore. While your classmates imagine getting married and starting a family, you can’t see yourself in any of it, because even as a child, you don’t think you’ll be alive for that long.
But then, a broken-down racehorse gives you a reason to stay, and for nearly a decade she
shows you what it means to love, to trust, and to let go. Suddenly you’re somehow still alive in your early twenties and she’s teaching you what it means to die a good death. It was a crash course in how to shepherd someone to the edge of the plane, where she stepped over without you and all you were left with was an empty halter, a braided strand of tail hair, and a shattered heart. She was your anchor and without her you were unmoored in the waves of your grief.
In the wake of that loss, you found community, your people, some of your dearest friends. You began to discover who you are when you fell in love with your best friend. You survived nine years of college, through some of both your darkest and most joyful moments. You learned there are more ways to love than you’d been taught and began to build a family of lovers and partners, creating a structure of love and support that little you only could have imagined, and everything seems to be going to plan.
But what happens when over time, your focus changes, and the paths you thought you were
meant to be on, no longer call to you? You sensed other whispers on the wind, and sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of intuition, you decided to wander in other directions, eventually determining again, that you are on the right path.
You got married. It was something you couldn’t even dream of as a child, but then fought for the right to do as a young adult. On the drive to your wedding venue, you passed a favorite childhood spot by the river. You had a chat in your mind with the little girl version of yourself, and tears filled your eyes as she realized just how very loved she is now.
What happens when the capital P “Plan” you’d been clinging to like shreds of a map, has left you uncertain, paralyzed by indecision and terrified that either of the life-altering outcomes you have to choose between will be the wrong one. How do you know what the next right step in your journey is, when you stand at a fork, and stare into the face of insurmountable uncertainty?
What if instead, you made it your goal to try and live a life that little you would have been proud of? Could you live everyday trying to be the adult she needed – an adult who could see her, love her unconditionally, and show her what was possible for her? What if you realized that every time you appreciate the beauty of a sunrise, the magic of the northern lights, and the breathless beauty of a mountain summit, you are doing things beyond her own wildest dreams? And maybe that’s the point of it all. Maybe your journey isn’t about getting it all right, but instead about living the life you thought you never would.
Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures
The Destination is There
by Anne Whiting
Desires are the foundation stone of destinations. My desire that morning was to not force myself to leave my jacket in the van. I decided that weather changes quickly in the mountains, so it’s always good to carry a jacket, even if hangs around your waist all day long as the sun burns off the cool of the night.
From the parking lot, we couldn’t see our destination of the day. All we could see were trees, the sign for Umbrella Falls, and more trees.
When you have a desire unto a destination, you don’t have to see it to know the destination is there.
We rock-hopped over Newton Creek to see even more trees. The creek is famous for its floods in 2006, which carried truck-sized boulders downstream, taking out (more) trees and blocking the nearby highway. But it was here that we also glimpsed our destination for the day: Mt. Hood.
It’s strange how devastation can create the way to see the destination clearly.
Up through still more trees to Elk Meadows, most popular as an overnight destination for backpackers. We tiptoed by their tents and skirted around blooming lupines in the forest. But oddly, despite knowing our destination – what it looked like, where it was, and how we’d get there via a trail – we couldn’t see it. Why? More trees, of course.
I inched myself along the trunk of a dead tree out into the grass of the meadow, hoping for a glimpse of the big mountain. It was there, all right, though you couldn’t see it from the path.
Sometimes, you have to get off the right path to be able to see where you’re going.
By the time we broke the treeline, some two hours later, our destination wasn’t any closer to being in sight. Besides a few more trees, roots staunchly entwined in the ridge’s crumbling dirt and rocks, Mt. Hood had vanished entirely within a hazy mist of a cloudbank.
“It’s out there,” I said. “It’s that-a-way-some-way-somewhere.”
Pass the ruins of the CCC hut in the lingering remains of the forest. Crest the ridge. Peer around the stunted, windswept branches of a fir tree standing loftily at the place where the Timberline Trail turns to avoid crashing down the mountainside into Newton Canyon, the moraine of Mt. Hood’s largest glacier. We ate lunch on a boulder, staring at the clouds.
The destination was out there, somewhere. Instead of being distant, now it was close, but it was no less a nebulous somewhere than when we had seen it from the fringe of trees around the meadow.
You can shoot for a bullseye and follow the light in the darkness, but when you get near, the destination may still not be in full view.
I pressed on up the ridge. The views were amazing – trees, of course, and wildflowers on the ridge, the canyon far below, the green of the sunbaked plains far away. But the clouds shifted and swirled, and I could only catch a glimpse of snow – sometimes. We turned around at the waterfall. The trail was about to plunge back into the trees, and all hope of reaching the real destination – whatever that might be – would be swept downhill with the trail.
Sometimes, when you can’t find the destination, you have to make it up as you go.
I knew we hadn’t actually made it. We had come to the right place, but the destination wasn’t where I thought it would be. I had followed the destination on the hope that it would be there – on the trust that those who told me about it were speaking the truth – on the faith that it would be even better than I had dreamed.
Back down the backbone of the ridge. I had been so sure – so sure – that the partially-formed, yet certain, destination was there. It had to be. But I hadn’t found it. Or maybe I had found it, and it hadn’t lived up to my expectations.
Destinations can be like that. Too good to be true. Blown out of proportion. A figment of my imagination.
Pause one more time at the point where I would leave the ridge. Give the destination one last chance. Allow the blood and sweat and tears of the last season to bleed over to underline the beauty of the next step of the journey. That’s what destinations are all about – not so much “arriving” as a pause to rejoice in how far you’ve come, to heal the wounds of what it took to get here, to know the next is possible, and to plot the path that’s to come.
And in the moment of quietness, as the seasons turn, sometimes the clouds part.
The splendor of Mt. Hood shone in the afternoon sun, the glaciers sparkling and deeply cut with blue beneath, the crags gray and majestic and offset by blinding white snow. I gaped. I fumbled for my camera. I cried. The destination was there, bold and awesome, right before my eyes.
Far beyond my wildest dreams, better than my best hope, more astonishing than I could have dared to believe – the destination was there. We’re here! We did it! Seeing it with our own eyes, feeling it with everything in us, arriving at the perfect time – the destination that was always there was finally here, with us.
The destination is there!
Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne
tuesday morning haikus : written in the company of [rugged, outdoors] women :
by Bronwyn Preece
journeying, i am
to unfold process : verbing
compass, map in hand
still ... moving in place
declinations of rhythm
point south north east west
i am [a] process
journey of destinations
i am journeying
verb : to unfold [a] process
without map, compass
an east west north south
rhythm of declination
moving in place ... still
processing, i am
destinations of journeys
holding directions ...
Bronwyn Preece is honoured and privileged to live on the unceded Traditional Territories of
the Lil’wat # and Squamish Peoples in Whistler, BC. This awareness brings with it many levels of responsibility, humbleness, transparency, and collaborative possibilities. She is a site-sensitive poetic-pirate and multi-disciplinary, community-engaged arts practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance, along with an MA and BFA in Applied Theatre. She has taught, facilitated workshops and performed internationally. She is the author of Gulf Islands Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2012); and the forthcoming knee deep in high water: riding the Muskwa-Kechika, expedition poems (Caitlin Press, 2023) and Sea to Sky Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2023); along with multiple academic and artistic publications. She is an avid solo, backcountry-backpacker who writes on the trail, with the word gratitude tattooed on her arm. Find her on instagram @poetichiker and Facebook at Bronwyn Preece.
A Childhood Journey Forms a Woman’s Life
by Sierra Eberly
My childhood was spent exploring the wilderness surrounding our little cabin in the woods of Northeastern Washington. We didn’t have electricity, and we pulled water from our well by hand daily. We had a garden and chickens and goats. Our driveway was two miles long, off the gravel county road that was questionably maintained.
I was homeschooled after the second grade and was an only child. When I wasn’t learning
about proper grammar or trying to understand what hell the alphabet has to do with math
problems, I would be outside, so long as mother nature gave me survivable weather conditions. Yes, I said survivable.
Every day was a new journey. I never had a destination in mind other than being back home for dinner.
I had an entire network of trails out my backdoor, but these weren’t the trails we are accustomed to now. These were game trails carved through the forest with the sharp, cloven hooves of whitetail deer. Paths followed by coyotes chasing the scent of a snowshoe hare, black bears eating thimbleberries, and other creatures of the night hunting for their meals.
Their journeys were also mine in a sense.
I explored the trails daily, bringing plaster of Paris in my fanny pack with me to take impressions of the wild animal tracks I came across. I’d mix the chalky substance with puddle water to make a paste, and gingerly pour it into the cavity that various mammals left behind. It takes some time to harden, so sometimes I’d have to return the next day to pull my prize from the earth and proudly bring it home to show my parents.
I imagined their journeys frozen in time. Sometimes I would name the animal and tell myself a story about its journey along the trails, often mere minutes before me.
These trails are where my love for trail running began. I would name every trail, using yarn to tie note cards on the branches that hung over them. Some days I would run along the trails as fast as possible, using my hands to whip myself around trees that lined the twisted paths.
Some days I would sit quietly for hours, waiting for the deer to walk by, and see how close they would come towards me before they caught my scent. When they ran away with their tails raised, showing white flags to warn others of possible danger, I would move to the next spot and continue my journey for the day.
I never cared where I ended up. It all was exciting and beautiful and new. The journey fed my
Often I wonder if this is why I’m never really focused on a specific destination in my life as an
adult. The journey is always more interesting. More times than not, if I do have a destination in mind, it doesn’t end up as I expected, so I just move along once I get there.
As a grown woman, my core still is constantly being drawn to the journey. I often don’t know
where I’ll be or what I’m doing tomorrow. I don’t have a retirement plan or a vision board. I’m
here to experience life the best I can while I have the means to do so. I’m on a journey for
myself, with no destination other than happiness.
Cliché, I know, but it’s my truth that has been ingrained in my identity for as long as I can
remember. The journey is my destination, the catalyst to my happiness, and what ignites my
desire to continue traversing life.
Sierra is a trail runner and backpacker who lives full-time in her campervan with her dog, Snow. She started her own copywriting business, Boondock Consulting, and when not working, she explores trails less traveled every chance she gets. You can find her on Instagram at @sierrastraverse and read her personal blog at www.sierrastraverse.com
The Journey Before the Journey
by Marty Cowan
The bomb dropped on a beautiful May morning.
When she told me my boy could be cured
of the reason he had to take so much medication
The dangling carrot of a cure came with a double edge sword.
Death on one end.
Antidote on the other.
Upon his conception, his soul contract came with the card
that only one in 250,000 people receive, a genetic shit show*.
They told us, all the smart people gathered in the room
that he was a good candidate.
They told us without saying it, that we should roll the dice.
His prognosis otherwise very uncertain, at best.
Tick, tick, tick.
I retreated to the woods to be comforted
by all the mother trees who would understand me
because they knew my desperation.
And because I already knew before saying so
that my fragile boy was going to have the fight of his life.
What a dark place in my psyche.
I wondered around it, peeking into corners that I never wanted to see,
visualizing the tubes inserted near his heart carrying the poison.
My body getting thinner.
My fears starting to show, my internal dread exposed.
Fate was the match of our younger son
who would provide his marrow
the only weapon in our arsenal
our only chance
to keep our family of four together.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
The Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Oncology Clinic
Pediatric nurses, the most loving and compassionate of all.
Helping us prepare for the unimaginable.
Pre-transplant needles, pokes, and sometimes tears.
Witnessing my friend’s children thriving, living normally.
Back to the woods I went.
An interesting moment happened
when I realized I was abusing my body
because I needed something that would hurt worse
than the thought of losing my child.
It makes me think of cutting as coping, just in a different way.
What a slow journey before the journey
that arrived before I was ready.
Looking back, I was preparing in the only way
I could for my son’s bone marrow transplant.
No manual, no wise sage to guide me.
A few years later, in a deep meditation,
I slowly walked towards my younger and terrified self,
and gave her a long and comforting hug.
And with that, the heavy burden was released to be
transmuted back into the universe.
*thank god for insurance
After spending 3 months in the hospital, Clayton was cured via bone marrow transplant of Chronic Granulomatous Disease (life threatening primary immune deficiency) in the summer of 2015. He is currently a sophomore in college, 7 years out of transplant. He loves skiing, hiking, mountain biking, camping, and fishing. He is majoring in Political Science and Economics and is also in their pre-law program at The University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His younger brother, Graham, our hero, gave his older brother a new lease on life, and is attending Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton in the fall.
Marty Cowan is the author of Table To Trail a collection of plant-based recipes for day hikers. You can find her on Instagram @tabletotrail
A still-aspiring journey: a thru-hiking quest from infertility to motherhood
by Lauren Jones
The desire is in your heart because it was meant for you
Shots to the vulnerable parts
Pain on the surface, deep down full and achy
Swollen. Bloated, sore and throbbing
Unanswerable. Unknown. Undetermined.
Infertile versus Fertile.
Bad News equals just more information
Meandering. Flow. Surrender. Let go
Anticipation isn’t necessary
Each moment is the present, an actual present, an fucking gift.
The motto of those in the Trying To Conceive Club
Period starts equals just change the fucking date. Edit the aspiring destination.
And there’s my mom’s voice…..yup, there’s she is saying the only response she had to
hearing my news that I was about to embark on this trek from the get-go: “40 days! That’s two menstrual cycles!” Yup, there she is, not proud of my aspirations, not proud of what I’ve already been through and triumphed over. More disappointed, immediate disappointment, that I may be missing out of conceiving for two whole cycles.
Breathing stops for a quick moment.
I’m 386 miles away from home, 100 miles from finishing the entire Colorado Trail and I’m bleeding. Now, not only will I be climbing upwards of 13,000ft every day, up and over boulders and stumps, carrying my weight in water because it’s so dang hot AND be pumping out blood from my vagina. Womb, for reals?! What are you trying to tell me?
Obviously my uterus wanted to remind me of my feminine-ness despite how badass strong I felt. Wait, I guess I’m even more of a badass strong feminine since now not only am I hiking close to 500 miles, I’m doing it while bleeding from my fucking vagina!
Broken. I’m broken.
Fear into Fearless
Worried into Warrior
Multiple chapters. New beginnings. Head trip. Heart opening. Soul validating. Spirit healing
We can do hard things
Third 11,000ft climb today
Turn around and look from where you’ve come
Trust yourself, trust your body, trust the process, the path, trust the trail.
The trail provides.
What’s up ahead doesn’t need to live in your head.
News is just more information. The map showing the trail ahead is just more information.
You have no real idea until you actually get there.
Breathe. Keep breathing. Breathe deep and often.
Lighten that load your carrying.
The climbs are temporary. The pain is temporary. What’s trying you is temporary.
Relief comes in the decline, the down. When the shots stop.
Wait. The wait game is real.
Not broken, not one bit.
Feet grounded. Feet aching. Feet destroyed. Feet enable us to soar. Keep brave in your footing.
Stay planted in your belief that This. Can. Fucking. Happen. To. You. Fucking. For. You.
In fact, this journey is indeed happening FOR you.
This journey is an invitation for growth. It is here for you.
There is no lack and scarcity. No sense of urgency either.
Return to you, the basics, the base. Return to what really matters.
Fucking Fertile. There’s nothing wrong with you
You are not broken, not one bit.
Living in joy
Gratitude expressions constantly
What can you do to make this easy?
Play. Play hard and often.
Smiles not miles
You are doing your best so you can release the rest
What's up ahead doesn’t need to live in your head
Relax your jaw, drop your shoulders and smirk a little
Did you wake up this morning? Awesome.
Were you in the woods yesterday? Awesome, it wasn’t the weeds
Did you get outside today? Awesome
You are not broken.
You are more than what you are told you are.
You are not your age
You are SO much more
You are worthy
You are fearlessly fertile and fucking forty-three
Journey on, you aspiring mama-to-be
Lauren ‘Yardsale’ Jones works professionally as a Colorado state employee and School Counselor. For a living, she hikes, strolls and saunters with her pup Journey on the daily; meanders with her three chickens and nurtures her mini-urban farm with a newly acquired 1956 Canned Ham named Xanadu parked in the backyard. Her husband joined her for many parts of the Colorado Trail serving as the BEST trail angel on the planet and they now have adopted 5 miles of the CT in Segment 9 and are still aspiring parents-to-be. Yardsale’s chosen footware includes crocs, Altra Lonepeaks and ExtraTuf boots. She is also an aspiring author writing casually with the Rugged Outdoors Women Group aspiring to eventually finish her infertility, thru-hike memoir-like sort of self-help/inspiration mini-book. You can follow her ventures on Insta @stillaspiringjourney and @sol_y_luna_soilpluslove
by Bianca Salazar
This hike has been beautiful
The views, the sounds, the smells.
I take my final steps alone.
I share a kiss with the summit sign.
I'm here, I've made it.
There's a sense of longing,
A sense of desire.
Is this it?
I thought I'd feel more.
What was I looking for?
This can't be over.
I'm not ready for an end.
And, if it is, I have to make my next plan.
I don't know where to go.
I don't know what I long for.
I turn around, step back on trail, and I keep hiking.
I won't let an arbitrary sign halt my beautiful journey.
I'll keep moving forward, unsure of my final destination.
I don't know what will fulfill the feelings I seek.
I do know, a sign isn't it.
Bianca is a lover of the outdoors; she shares her experiences with others knowing that not everyone is able to see and do all the things she gets to. She enjoys the little things on hikes: smelling the trees, listening to the leaves whistle in the wind and watching the flowing sunlight on the water. Capturing photographs of her journeys helps her convey the beauty that surrounds her. You can find her on instagram @adventuresofbink , facebook at Bianca Marie Salazar and her personal blog Adventures of Bink
by Belinda Arndt
Fuck that, I say that under my breath each time someone says, "Life is about the
journey, not the destination."
Throughout my life, I can't get away from this saying. Even as a yogi, they say your
dharma or your purpose is a journey, not a destination.
I rush through the airport like I am about to miss my plane, though I won't
I rush to the top of the mountain just to see the view
I rush to end one job to start another for a "better life."
I rush through the process of relationships to be in a relationship.
I rush to leave PA for DC to rush to leave for CO
I rush to get to the destination.
I rush to get to my purpose.
I am a destination girl.
And I wish the fuck I wasn't because I know it would make my life easier to let go and
enjoy life's journey. But I do not know what easy is like because I am allergic to easy.
I was taught If I didn't get to my destination, I was a failure. If I was a failure, am I even
worth it? It is demotivating when you fail to reach your destination.
Therefore, I don't like the journey, and it takes too long to reach the destination, and I
tend to disengage because I don't like committing to impossible things. I am attached to
the outcome and the outcome I want vs. what the universe wants.
Not sure which is worse, the journey or the outcome I didn't want.
It's probably because of my fight and flight response for the last 34 years. Throughout
my life, I have struggled with resentment with the journey I was put on. I have always
been that stubborn girl with a chip on her shoulder because I had to reach my
destination, and I had no choice but to charge on even if I broke china.
It was instilled in me that I had to reach my goals or I would suffer more judgment.
That's because people didn't think I could be successful or a productive member of
society just because life decided to give me a more arduous journey than others.
I was taught that saying "what is your goal is what is your intent?" No one ever showed
me how to navigate the journey between A to B. If so, I was met with even more
judgment. So, I made my own prolonged pain-in-the-ass journey to reach my goals on
my own terms. This had been a priority of mine for as long as I can remember. Goals
are like destinations; checkered flag finish lines prove the destination is the journey.
I did about anything to reach my destination, even if it almost killed me.
Maybe my destination is the journey.
Belinda Arndt is a solo traveler and adventurer based outside of Washington DC. Her tagged line is "It's always an adventure with me!" Catch her adventures on her website WanderingBel.com which aims to build a community of solo travelers to share their travel stories. You can find her on instagram @wandering_bel and Facebook at Wandering Bel Blog
by Tatiana Corbitt
I’ve Summited the Mount - I’m here
Breathing in the thin atmosphere
I glow, dripping, luminescent
Yet no one sees me at present
Am I real?
States away from my birthplace, my home
Further still from my ancestors
Who built temples of blood and stone
My throne - a reclaimed dumpster chair
My sash - a plushy warm blanket
And of course, most importantly,
A strong, stable, roof above me
I’ve made it, finally!
So why, then, do my lungs still burn?
And WHY do I FEEL so GODDAMN uncertain?
Parchment leaves linger from Autumn,
They flow in streams, over oily cement
In the light’s glare, a rainbow lament
I live in a grey city full of grey strangers
Whose grey eyes slide past me
They don’t know I’m here, you see?
Am I real? Beats me…
According to modern physics
A particle is in a state of flux until it’s observed
If I fall alone in the forest, let no one be perturbed
I won’t make a sound, because I won’t be heard
Ferns dance for me though, and in doing so
They bid me their friendly hello
With stately trees and stinging bees
But humans don’t live alone in that wild,
So in the city I’ll stay - a scared little child
And maybe one day I’ll be brave enough, tame enough,
To accept the rain on my face, let it stain
It may very well take years to gain
Those permanent Portland tears -
Let it rain.
Tatiana is a writer and artist living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She graduated with her M.S. in Applied Biological Sciences in 2019 and is currently working on her debut novel. Her writing is frequently published on narcolepsy.sleep-disorders.net
I Made It
by Leslie Neidermeyer
Exhale, relief, a sigh
Dead weight dropping off my back
Beauty, I am here
Leslie lives in Denver, she owns a women's guided backpacking business; Strange Trails Women's Adventures. Find her on Instagram @strangetrailsco
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