Some call it Bushwhacking. When I was doing it a few years ago, my crew called it ‘schwacking for short. In hiker terms, it means you are going off the trail to create your own path from point A to point B.
And it is terrifying! I started off very confident because I was quite experienced with a map and compass but, after less than five minutes of hiking I was already second-guessing myself. The features of the actual land didn’t quite look like they should have according to the map. Before long, my crew and I were saying things like “That tree looks familiar” and “That hill doesn’t look too tall, let’s hike up it to get our bearings.”
Any time you have to forge your own path, things are going to get scary. We often don’t realize how often we follow paths that are well-worn by years of people who have come before us. There is an infinity of difference between walking a predefined course and making your own. It is the difference between having a template to follow and starting from a blank slate; the difference between something and nothing. But both activities are equally important.
Trail blazing is ripe with opportunities to second-guess yourself and lose your confidence. My crew, while ‘schwacking, decided to turn around at one point, believing ourselves to be lost, and hiked almost back to where we had begun that day. After wandering for several hours, we discovered that, had we simply kept going on our initial trajectory, we would have arrived exactly where we had meant to. If we hadn’t lost our confidence, we could have been in camp, making dinner and playing cards instead of pushing our way through briers and stinging nettles.
BUT, when we did finally get the hang of ‘schwacking and found our confidence, we felt the most profound sense of accomplishment. Anything that is infinitely more difficult to do is also infinitely more rewarding to achieve.
When there is no path to follow, it is important not to be afraid of blazing a new one.