Traveling for a Good Cause: Miles that Matter
For as long as I can remember, I have been a bit of a scatterbug.
By that I mean I usually have a million things going on at once, but that is exactly how I like it. It is my purpose in life to use every moment of every day for something meaningful.
Sometimes that is as small as telling jokes to my teammates, giving extra hugs to my kids in preschool, or sneaking in a quick hike in the last few hours of daylight. I tend to be a busy bee from the moment I wake up to the time I crawl back in to bed. Friends and co-workers might tell you I am often “late,” or “forgetful,” but I like to think of myself as an, “optimist of time.” I mean, there’s always time to squeeze one more thing in, right?
Other times in life I like to multitask on a much larger scale.
A few years ago I was itching to do something purposeful and awesome, but I wasn’t sure what, where, or how. A friend of mine, or rather, the most badass woman I know, was busy getting ready for her second trip in a series of climbing the tallest peak on each continent.
I know, incredible.
In doing so, she was giving away a grant to someone who wanted to make a difference somewhere, somehow. Around this same time I had an aunt who was battling breast cancer, something that runs in my family. I decided to apply for the grant and intended to raise money for, and complete, the 3-Day for the Cure Breast Cancer Walk put on across America by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. I was lucky enough to have my wish granted, and the fundraising began.
Early on I thought to myself that if I was going to do this, I might as well do it somewhere I had never been before. There was going to be a walk in San Diego, California, around Thanksgiving time and I knew immediately that was to be my destination. Through fundraising at volleyball games for the teams I coached and donations by friends, family, and coworkers, I reached my goal of $2,300 in only four months.
The grant helped me pay for some of my plane ticket and a friend of mine who was stationed in the Navy close by set me up with a couch for a few days when I wasn’t snuggled up in a pink tent during the walk.
So, without knowing a single person and not knowing exactly what to expect, I set off for California. San Diego hadn’t seen rain in weeks (and barely ever does) but welcomed us with some showers on our first morning. As the opening ceremonies began, the ocean of pink men and women already filled my heart, and it overflowed as a rainbow peaked through the clouds in our first steps on our journey. I walked alone for a while, chatted with a few people here and there but otherwise soaked in not only the beautiful scenery around me but also the beautiful people who surrounded us as well.
Around every corner were tables with everything you could need; blister repair, snacks, water, candy, thank you signs, deodorant, ribbons, pins, and much to my surprise, drinks! I was overwhelmed with the gratitude of the community, which lasted throughout all three days, all SIXTY MILES.
I had a real appreciation that I was a healthy and capable young woman during these three days. Not only because I wasn’t battling cancer but because I took for granted that walking 60 miles in three days wasn’t going to be too tough on me, which wasn’t the case for many others. There were also many along the walk who wouldn’t have been able to participate, but were thankful for those of us who could.
On the second day, I met some people who were from New England, as made obvious by their Patriot’s pins on their backpacks. I hooked up with them for the remainder of the three days, as well as met other men and women from near my home and beyond. All joined together for one purpose, it was so easy to feel like lifelong friends, despite our age differences and lives outside of this weekend. It was so interesting that this weekend meant something different to each and every person, and I loved hearing each story, who they were walking for, what their pink shirts represented.
In the three days that followed, I packed in as much as I could. I dropped in at a few Crossfit gyms, hiked Cowles Mountain, went to the San Diego Zoo, and walked around Balboa Park, which is made up of 1,00 acres of museums, gardens and art. One night, I was sitting at Sunset Cliffs watching the sunset and decided it was time to get my first and only tattoo. It was certainly not in my plan for my trip, but it had been floating around as an idea for quite some time and this felt like the perfect moment. Anyone who knows me knows that this choice was incredibly out of character and totally wacky for someone who is very cautious when it comes to big life decisions. But there was something empowering about this adventure I had taken myself on. Traveling alone was originally a scary thought for me, but here I was now on a solo trip to a tattoo parlor to get a tattoo that, at the time being, was a doodle not set in stone.
As it turns out, that choice in that moment ended up being one of the most meaningful parts of my trip. As I mentioned, the design wasn’t definite, but I knew I wanted a compass and a feather. When I graduated college, my older sister gave me a compass bracelet and a card that simply said,
“Wherever you are, is exactly where you are supposed to be.”
That has stuck with me ever since, and has guided me in so many moments in life ever since. The feather represented my other sister, one of my thirds as I like to say because I am a triplet. She is a free spirit and I have always admired the way she lives without caring what anyone else thinks. I know now that being on that walk and raising money for that cause was more meaningful than I realized. Two years later my mother had to go through a round of chemotherapy and radiation to battle her own fight against breast cancer. So I guess, I was where I was supposed to be.
With that, I urge you to go do something YOU’VE never done before. Find a way to make a difference in other’s lives, and perhaps you could make a difference in your own. That’s why I joined the VRX crew.
Traveling can be so empowering, so eye opening, and such an adventure, and I want to share that with as many of you as I can!
Now, will you be joining me in Iceland to do something you've never done before?
Email me with any questions and I'll see ya out there, conquering things you never thought you'd be. :)
- Ashley Studer