A Trek To Empowerment

In the Fall of 2016 I began an empowerment journey. This journey began on a plane ride to Europe, and it is nowhere near over. Honestly, it may never end. However, there have been poignant moments of growth, healing, and empowerment along the way. One of these moments unfolded early on, as I walked the coast from Fira to Oia in Santorini, Greece.

By December 2016 I had trekked my way through cityscape after cityscape. I had successfully lived out of a backpack -- 80L, but a pack nonetheless. I had stuffed my body full of all the free hostel food I could find. And, I had hardly been alone.

Looking back, my first two months of traveling were filled with beautiful connections, incredible walking tours, and quite frankly, a lot of overstimulation. This was never my mission.

My mission was to rediscover myself after years of feeling lost; to find a way to empowerment once again.

To wander in a way that fed my soul, rather than depleted it. So, when I stepped foot on the island of Santorini in December and saw streets free of cars, restaurants entirely abandoned, and a clear blue sea calling to me, I knew it was time. Time to wander wildly, and this time, in solitude.

When I checked in to my hotel my host described a hike from Fira to Oia. Oia is known for iconic sunsets and the path between the two cities follows the coastline. As the host described the hike, a man standing next to me looked over and smiled. He was going to ask me to hike with him, I could feel it. Sure enough, his invitation came moments later, “I was thinking about hiking to Oia tonight, come with me?” I responded with a word a hadn’t used in months, I had said yes to every invitation, every opportunity, but this time, I said, “No” and promptly walked to my room, alone.

By declining his invitation I gained a trek to empowerment. A trek filled with dirt paths, red arrows to guide me, steep accents to challenge me, and endless sea breeze. A trek filled with songs sung aloud, feet that bounced off the ground, and little greek girls who yelled “you are BEAUTIFUL” as I passed by.

I was not distracted by a stranger’s words, or agenda. Instead, my only companion was mother nature. While she did indeed have a clock, sunset inched closer and closer, she did not rush me. She provided the most incredible view of the Aegean Sea, beyond any cityscape I had encountered. She sent wind to dry my sweat and sun to warm my skin. She gifted me with perfect patches of grass to cozy up and write. And mostly, she gave me a space to come totally undone.

During my trek I cried out of joy, loss and utter disbelief. I sang aloud (a practice reserved only for my car). I spun around in circles, dancing with the wind. And I discovered my ability to thrive in my independence.

On my trek, I came undone and put myself back together. I healed, grew and learned an important lesson about empowerment as I looked upon the Aegean sea.

And the lesson is this: mother nature challenges us. She provides us opportunities to prove our own strength, our own capability, our own independence.

I have achieved feats I never believed possible, simply because in December 2016 I chose to follow my wild wandering heart directly onto the path from Fira to Oia. That night I sat watching the most beautiful sunset I have witnessed in my entire life, truly knowing (and I mean k-n-o-w-i-n-g) the power of mother nature and the power within myself.

I spent hours hiking the 10K from Fira to Oia. Even when I reached Oia for sunset, I didn’t want it to end, and in so many ways it hasn’t.

My trek along the coastline brought me back to my empowerment mission. For the rest of my trip I left crowded cities behind. I chased sunrises and sunsets, with my journal in hand. I spent mornings on rocky beaches, afternoons hiking up grassy hills and evenings perched on cliff sides. I found radical self love and wrote words I could never seem to put down on paper.

Two years later, my trek is not over. I still wander to the Ocean and dive into the salt water on the days where I feel lost. I smell my salty hair and remember the sea-breeze from my hike and I know, I am powerful, I am worthy and I must follow my wild wandering soul.

And believe me, I am following it.

Annalise is the author of the blog Empowered Wanderer and writes to help other women feel empowered to travel solo. She currently resides in the Pacific Northwest.

Keep up with her adventures on Instagram