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When the path is closed... Find another way!

Posted 11/12/2018

My beautiful wife Laura, has always said to me, just as I was about to dissolve into a pity-party tantrum because something didn’t go the way I wanted, that things don’t happen to me, they happen for me. It used to annoy me, but now it inspires me, because, I truly believe it. Every obstacle, challenge and adversity comes for a reason. It’s our job, if we really want a successful outcome, to; negotiate it, find another way and keep going.

One of the places, on this Italian adventure, I’ve been most looking forward to visiting is the Cinque Terre. In my last blog I touched on this beautiful place a little, and the wonderful achievement of my father-in-law Paul to stretch his comfort zone and believe more in his potential, especially with his challenging walk from Corniglia to Manarola. Well, this week, I want to talk about my own Cinque Terre experience of being challenged.

Just to backtrack a little, in my research of Cinque Terre over many months, I have discovered that there are several ways to move between each of the five towns. There is a very efficient train system, a reliable shuttle bus service, a beautifully scenic ferry journey and finally, your own two legs. Many people have walked between all five towns and whilst it’s not a casual Sunday afternoon stroll, it is very doable. So in my mind, many months and even years before this trip, I decided that I would walk between all five towns. On the day Paul and I walked from Corniglia to Manarola, I also continued walking alone to the next town, Riomaggiore. So, after the first full day in Cinque Terre I had done two legs of the journey, with only two to go!

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that there had been a lot of rain over the previous few weeks and some of the tracks had been affected, even closed. Since we had arrived the weather was amazing and so I thought everything would be okay. On day two, I set off for leg three, to Vernazza and then, from there the final leg to Monterosso, and, complete this long-term goal. It was about 9am, on another beautiful day, and I got to the start of the track to Vernazza. As I approached, I was a little worried. There was a tape blocking entrance to the path, and a man in an official looking uniform standing there. I had heard this track was closed, but hoped the conditions had improved enough. Despite being marginally worried, I smiled, said ‘Buongiorno’, stepped over the tape and kept walking. I waited for him to yell, ‘stop’, but he didn’t, so I kept walking to Vernazza. It was an easy and beautiful walk.

I spent a short time looking around Vernazza, a beautiful town, but really had only one thing left to do. I had to get to Monterosso to finish my last leg of the journey. It should have been an enjoyable and scenic 60 minute walk, but as I arrived at the start of the walking track to get there, I realised it was going to be something very different.

There is always another plan!

There was another official looking man at the start of the track to Monterosso, this time he was not a passive observer, but a serious protector of the path and the lives of people who wanted to walk that path. He was stopping and turning people away, telling them that the track is closed and there is no possible way to walk to Monterosso on that particular day. That’s what he thought. I didn’t know how, but I knew there had to be another way.

Another couple, just in front of me, was having an almost heated discussion in Italian with the official. All to no avail, they turned, walked to the side to discuss their options. I wandered over to stand near them and listen to their conversation, and, ask them what was happening. They confirmed that the path was closed, and that there may be one other way that would require taking a different track, number 508, up the mountain. They didn’t know exactly where it would lead, but I didn’t care. All I heard was, ‘there is a possibility that it can be done.’ So, off I went.

I found track 508 and I started walking, and yes, it was up the mountain… way way up the mountain. I walked up a very steep hill for about an hour with no sign that I was actually heading to Monterosso. One thing I had learned about the Cinque Terre tracks is that they were regularly marked with red and white painted stripes, to indicate to walkers that they were not lost. Whilst I saw no signs to Monterosso, I did see this red and white indicator regularly, which meant one thing; I may be heading in the wrong direction, but I was not lost!

From that point and with; a determined goal, faith that I would get there and my two legs, I just kept walking. I walked up mountains, through valleys, across logs, under trees, across creeks and, even though I had no idea if I was heading in the right direction, I soon saw Monterosso in the distance. It was a long way away, but I was encouraged to keep going. So, I just kept walking, and each time I saw Monterosso, I hoped it would but it somehow didn’t seem to be getting any closer. I just kept going, one step at a time with faith that I would have to eventually make it, or die in the process. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme!

Interestingly, as I was walking, in pain, I was planning this blog, a chapter in my next book and a talk about this experience. I truly believe there is always a way around any obstacle, barrier or challenge, and, I knew I would get to Monterosso if I just kept going. Well, I did and after two and a half seriously challenging hours I finally came across the sign to Monterosso. I stumbled into town and I had made it. Success! I can tell you, I really enjoyed the gelato and train ride back to Corniglia.

I think my main message in this blog is pretty clear. There is always another way to success if the path to what you want to achieve or where you want to go is blocked. However, there is one critical condition, and that is, you need to believe it and expect you’ll find it. You see, the moment I found out that that track to Monterosso was closed, and because I was so determined to finish the final leg of my Cinque Terre challenge, I knew there would be another way, so I was looking for it. That’s when I overheard the couple talking about track 508. The problem for many people is that when they hit a roadblock or obstacle they incorrectly assume success is not possible.

A rejection from publishers does not mean your book is no good, just ask J.K Rowling. A failed sales call doesn’t mean your product or service is no good, just keep going. An unsuccessful attempt to get in shape only means you have not found the right way. Success is always at the other end of many failures, obstacles, challenges and adversity, so always know and believe that; when one path is closed, there is always another way.