“Find what is for you a river of infinite, meaningful fascination. Dive into it, and keep swimming.”
That thought came to me today, while hiking in Parc National des Ecrins, in the Hautes Alpes of southeast France. It struck me as an apt summary of how to make life as rewarding an experience as possible. It also summarizes why Kath and I are now in the French Alps instead of the Canadian Rockies.
For us, the the river of infinite, meaningful fascination is hiking the Earth. We dove into that river in 1989, when we moved to Calgary, Alberta—ostensibly because of a job offer but really so we could devote weekends and vacation time to hiking the nearby Canadian Rocky Mountain National Parks. From then on, where and when we would hike has been a central consideration in every major decision we’ve made. As a result, hiking soon became—and still remains—not just our passion but the basis for our livelihood.
And when your passion and livelihood are aligned, you’re no longer swimming upstream through life. You’re going in the right direction: pulled along by a strong, if often unseen, current, because you had the foresight, courage, or just good fortune to dive into your river of infinite, meaningful fascination.
This is where “opportunities” arise that to others might appear to be pure luck but are in fact the result of the life-changing decision you made to dive in. You’re looking for these opportunities and are able to recognize them because your attention is focused rather than fractured as it is for most people. You’re not just seeking these opportunities, you’re instinctively—and sometimes laboriously—doing what’s necessary to create them.
So, while it was logical for us to return to the Canadian Rockies this summer after working all winter in Utah canyon country, what we really wanted to do was spend this summer hiking the Alps. We assumed we were heading back to Canada for the summer, and that’s what we told friends, but we’d long been sleuthing out ways to comfortably yet affordably resume exploring the Alps, researching a future book.
We were prepared. To make it possible, we’d even gone so far as to sell our home in Canmore, Alberta, before heading south to Utah for the winter. We loved that home. But we knew we could rent an apartment, or live in our trailer, upon returning to Canada. Moreover, we knew that the freedom to hike when and where we wanted required complete—particularly financial—flexibility. That’s how committed we are to our river of infinite, meaningful fascination. Swimming downstream isn’t necessarily easy. Staying in the current sometimes requires extraordinary devotion.
Our sleuthing focused on buying a used campervan in Europe. On our last trip to the Alps, we rented a car and camped in our tent for months. Occasionally we abandoned the car and backpacked, or hiked hut to hut. Prior to that, we’d hiked in the Alps while relying solely on public transport. This time, we wanted to be more comfortable, particularly because we’d be working: writing, managing photography, and conducting business when not hiking.
We eventually learned, however, that non-E.U. residents cannot legally register and insure a vehicle in Europe. Yes, there are companies—mostly in Holland—that sell used campervans to non E.U. residents. They do it by registering and insuring the van for you, in their company’s name. They even promise you a “guaranteed buy-back.” But insurance companies are expert at finding reasons not to pay claims. A wrecked campervan owned by a non-E.U. resident but insured by a Dutch auto dealership is sure to spark suspicion. It’s easy to see how you could end up impoverished, slogging through debt the rest of your life if you had a major collision while driving a campervan purchased from a sly, Dutch salesman.
Next we looked into renting a campervan. We were unable to find one we could afford that was big enough to comfortably live and work in for months. So, we were off to Canada… until we connected with France Motorhome Hire (www.francemotorhomehire.com). We’ll tell you more about them in a future blog post, but within a few days of corresponding with Hannah—who owns and runs France Motorhome Hire along with her husband, Phil—we made a u-turn and were on our way to France. Hannah understood and appreciated our hiking/writing project and offered us a long-term rental that was within reach for us.
I’m writing this blog while sitting comfortably at the table inside our “Sky 20” motorhome, parked next to a roaring, glacial stream, in Parc National des Ecrins, in the Hautes Alpes of France. We summitted a minor peak here today: Tete le Maye. The culminating panorama was dazzling. We stayed up there for a couple hours, gazing at massive peaks and glaciers in every direction.
So most of our blog posts for the next few months will be about hiking in the Alps. We hope they inspire you to hike here. When that time comes, we hope you’ll find our suggestions helpful.
And… if you haven’t yet found your river of infinite, meaningful fascination, we hope you do.