He/She who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader in an adventure.
Because of my inner calling and curiosity, in most past adventures, I have enjoyed taking those adventures alone, but I do not feel lonely. I am always absorbed by something the journey gives me, thinking about the world and reflections of life. I enjoy the solitude. When someone, a new acquaintance, asked me recently “Can I meet you on your adventure?” I hesitated but finally allowed him to join me. In fact, I thought, taking adventures with others could be fun and lead to a meaningful exchange of learning, sharing valuable stories and lessons, providing a new perspective on life lessons learned along the way.
For this adventure, I had a “space” wish: to simulate an astronaut roaming on another planet with endless curiosity. I picked Utah and New Mexico for this spontaneous adventure destination because both states are wild, have amazing landscapes and strange textures, like a world in outer space. And this adventure would be different from my past adventures, as I would take it with another person along with me.
We traveled to Hanksville, Utah, to explore what looks like “Mars” and the “Moon”, both in remote areas. Thanks to my friend’s off-roading skills and experience, we had a whole new experience there. We drove the Jeep to experience the Moon with its gray landscape and unique texture and layers, endlessly moving up and down, a strong wind of fresh air blowing in my face and hair, feeling nature. I felt that it could be true: traveling with someone would be more fun than alone, as we can share experiences, and create and share stories together.
We continued our travels, arriving in New Mexico. A few weeks prior to our trip, a random photo of what looked like “alien eggs” caught my eye. I did an intense online search and found this place called “Bisti Badlands /De-Na-Zin Wilderness” in New Mexico. There is no marked trail, and the area is wild and isolated. You can create your own adventure there, and most attractive for me is that it is like a maze, as you could easily get lost there. I had a strong connection with it, feeling its enchantment fill my imagination and demand for the space.
We entered the “space” area around us, a wild desert with strong sun, and as we moved deeper into the area, everything looked the same, with a horizon everywhere. We really were in the middle of nowhere. We hiked without any sense of where we were, just followed one direction randomly, but we marked our location on our GPS, just in case we got too lost. We passed gray hills, then the light yellow landscape with wave texture appeared. We saw weird and unique sandstones and hoodoos, we simply wandered in this unusual place.
After we hiked a few miles, my friend’s pace had become much faster than mine, and to keep up was difficult. I felt a little frustrated and complained a bit. In previous adventure, I could control my own pace, but with a traveling companion I had someone else wanting to control the pace.
I got thirsty, so I stopped and drunk a lot water without fully considering how far we still needed to hike back, and my fellow traveler reminded me that I should keep some water for the return trip because we still had a long way to hike. Especially in the desert, it is important to know your body clearly. It was the first time I realized that I still need more experience at outdoor adventuring.
We kept exploring the “space” with curiosity. We got into the hills, got closer to the sandstones and hoodoos, and one area particularly impressed me, all the white, strange and unique sandstones around us. The hills were covered in every direction, it was like something out of Star Wars, an alien place, far away from the real world. We walked and passed different aspects of this alien terrain. We really got “lost” in this maze.
Suddenly we got into a deep hill, the distance going wide to narrow. I insisted we explore more deeply, however, my friend did not recommend doing so, explaining that when the distance of hills narrows, it is more difficult to hike, so to keep exploring further would not be a good idea. I trusted his judgment and listened, and decided to back and explore in another direction.
At that moment, I felt uncomfortable, again realizing that my outdoor experiences were not enough and that I still needed to improve my judgement. I knew my traveling friend had more outdoor experiences than me. I realized that in my past adventures, I was always the leader, as I had traveled alone, and I was always determined, decisive and felt accomplished in my own adventures, enough so to lead a good example and inspire others to follow. However, I had ignored that I needed to learn to be a good follower, too, especially when sharing an adventure with someone else. I cannot always be the leader; I needed to learn to switch a follower role at times, particularly in situations when someone else has more experience.
A leader and a follower are different roles. They are mutual partners, not in opposition, and when we switch roles we can discover ourselves more deeply and become better at the other role when we return to it. Now I am working to become a good follower because it will help me to become a better leader.
We continued exploring and hunting the “alien eggs”. Although the “alien eggs” ended up not being very impressive to me, their strange shapes still amazed me, and helped me again to appreciate nature’s power and creativity.
Although this “space” exploration did not exactly match my original idea of the space that I wanted to see, experiencing an adventure with another person gave me a valuable lesson and a new perspective: the mutual learning and importance of being able to switch between being a leader and a follower, because he/she who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.
We got back on the road again, sharing stories of travels and life experiences, and we discussed our own perspectives of life: was it better to travel alone or with a group or others? We discussed compromises in our lives; we discussed if we needed to go to a place immediately or wait?
I hope these questions inspire you to think about yourself and life, too.
All the discussions provided valuable life lessons to me and helped me to discover more about myself:
- I discovered about compromise, knowing that many people spend their whole lives never learning the benefits of it. Everyone has their priorities. For me, if something is not important to me, I can compromise, but if something is important to me, especially my dreams, I cannot compromise, but I can stay flexible on my path ahead, knowing that sometimes detours are necessary. Learning to say “NO” is also a choice, as time is precious and limited.
- Traveling alone or with others are definitely different experiences. For many people, traveling with someone else is more fun than going alone, but I prefer to take my most important adventures alone, because I enjoy the process of learning and discovering on my own, to be independent and creative in my thinking. I do not mind if someone joins me in the future if we share the same passion for what I am going to do, as companions can add to the enjoyment in sharing an adventure.
- I believe that the choice of traveling alone or with others is not the most important thing; the most important thing is that we know what is important to us. Sometimes traveling alone, sometimes traveling with others, life is a dance, sometimes I lead, sometimes I follow. I learn as I go.
- Even if I have different opinions that another person, there’s no right or wrong. Everyone has an opinion about how they lead their lives, but I think differences of opinions don’t have be threats and is not a relationship bug; rather, it is an opportunity to learn.
Adventure is my passion, and it always drives me. I find my true self when I am out in the far lands, and what I seek is not the sight of magnificent landscapes or the unique experiences from exotic cultures, but who I am. I am searching for my reflection on a still lake or in someone’s face. I may not do it always, but at least, I will inch closer to it, and in the process to see myself. This journey of mine, even though it takes place in the outer world, is a journey within!
Thank you, an alien adventure and a new person, for the most valuable life lessons!