Chasing Waterfalls and Finding Myself

By Leah W. Hasse

When we moved from Hawaii to Germany five months ago, I knew big changes were to come. Most I was excited for, some I was nervous about. I had spent almost a year preparing for this move. I studied German everyday for months, hoping that each word learned would make my family’s transition just a little bit easier. When I pictured settling into our new life, I thought the hardest adjustments would be the language barrier and the cultural differences. I was wrong. For me, the hardest part of this move is the fear that I have lost hiking.

Yes, as ridiculous as it sounds, the thing that gets me the most worked up at the end of a stressful day is that I haven’t really been able to hike since leaving my beloved island home. There are definitely bigger problems in the world, but hiking was more than just a hobby. It was everything. It showed me who I was and it kept me grounded. It demanded I be strong, and courageous, and willing to take chances. It gave me stability when I needed it the most, and grappling with what feels like a loss has shaken me in ways I did not expect.

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The mountains that once breathed life into my lungs are gone. The valleys full of waterfalls, whose cold water revived my soul, are no longer nearby. I became an outdoors woman in Hawaii, but I don’t live there anymore. And the ache in my heart is more than I could have predicted. I always knew my time there was temporary, but I’m still not ready to let go.

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Yes, I can still hike here, but the trails in our immediate area are less than mild, and driving hours to get to the good stuff every weekend just isn’t realistic. I live in a beautiful place with rolling hills and endless forests, but I think that wherever you fall in love with the outdoors will always have a profound impact on you. It will become your idea of what “the outdoors” is. For me, that’s the mountains on the island of Oahu, and to move feels like I’m a character from a movie who was pulled from my story and thrust into some strange parallel plot.

And man, I miss those jagged cliffs.

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When I close my eyes I can replay entire hikes. I can feel the way that the Hawaiian sun felt like it shined straight through to my bones. The way the wind would almost knock me off my feet and instantly chill my sweat soaked shirt as I crested a ridge. I miss triple checking the forecast to make sure there’d be no rain, only to be blinded in a sudden downpour, hoping I could keep hold of the rocks that were preventing me from literally falling off a mountain.

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I miss my hiking buddies – my badass fellow mamas who could keep up a pace that felt like a sprint for 10+ hours, all while comparing potty training tactics. What I wouldn’t give for one more hike with you ladies.

I think of hiking in Hawaii often and I am thankful for the way it shaped me. Each hike was a reckoning, a revival, and a lesson.

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I think of trails like Poamoho, where each step of that unmaintained path was a huge pain – literally. I was hot, hungry and way too pregnant for those 7.5 miles. All I wanted was to turn back. Just when I thought the relaxin in my body might make me dislocate a hip, I saw that view – the most breathtaking I’d ever seen. I sat and stared, then ate and stared some more. If I had enough food I might still be sitting on that ridge, soaking in the magic.

I know that once I adjust, I can feel the same way here, but I am surprised by how much trouble I am having accepting that I may need to find a new hobby. Maybe I’ll get a mountain bike or join a rock gym – both things I’ve always wanted to do. I have grand plans of one day participating in a triathlon, and what better time to start training? But I can’t help but wonder if anything will thrill me as much as chasing waterfalls and scaling ridges. That is where I found myself.

 

 

Leah currently lives in Germany with her family. She loves everything related to the outdoors, and can often be found hiking or camping with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, studying languages, and taking random classes online to learn new skills. She hopes to use her writing to bring people together and to challenge biases surrounding motherhood.

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