“I couldn’t have gone in the right direction if I hadn’t gone in the wrong direction.”
—Cheryl Stayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
In 2012, Cheryl Strayed set off on a 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Coast Trail. In her book Wild, she begins the trip after the recent death of her mother, a time when she wasn’t making the best life life choices.
With little more than a compass and a backpack she dubbed “Monster,” Cheryl submitted to the elements, but most of all her need to control every aspect of her journey, including wrong turns.
“I couldn’t have gone in the right direction if I hadn’t gone in the wrong direction,” she has said of what led her to the hike.
Wild has since been published in 30 languages and was adapted to a film that won international accolades. Seven years later, her memoir still resonates. To navigate a journey and find our X, we must tune-in to the compass of our heart—and maybe even design a new map.
Creating a map puts us in the company of a long line of cartographers that begins with the ancient people who mapped out parts of the night sky in the caves of Lascaux. Rather than depicting the land they inhabited, the constellations they drew connected them in place and time, and we can speculate, gave them meaning, too.
Early maps are beautiful. Ablaze with fiery dragons and deadly whirlpools, as well as tranquil gardens of Eden, they were shaped by the style and culture of the time. How would your map look shaped by your new locale and every day challenges? What are the dragons and whirlpools you face? What are your oases?
To begin your own mapmaking, all you need is the compass of your heart.
Next, spend time observing and researching. Just as you’ve probably designed the map that supports the journey of your partner’s career abroad by identifying the best schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods to live in, you need to apply this same level of detective work and dedication to the person you are becoming.
Finally, with your map complete, you can begin the adventure of navigating a world of your own design.