Interview With A Champion: Post Inca Trail Thoughts Of My Dad

If you have not yet read about my father-son, Inca Trail experience, you can find it here.

Completing the 4-day Inca Trail with my father was an experience that I’m sure will stick with me for the rest of my life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be by my fathers side, as he overcame the most difficult challenge of his life. I was so inspired by what I witnessed that I was compelled to hear my Dad’s side of the story. I wanted to know what was going through his head, while he rode one of the wildest emotional roller coasters of his life.

I sent him several questions for him to answer. Below, my Dad shares his thoughts, starting from when he failed to complete a 45 minute warm-up hike in Cusco, to when he finally arrived to Machu Picchu, after overcoming 4 days of pain and perseverance. I share my thoughts at the end.

What was going through your head regarding the Inca Trail, after being unable to climb to the White Jesus in Cusco?

I had a lot of negative thoughts going through my mind after I failed to make it to the statue. We probably only hiked up the stairs, towards the statue, for 15-20 minutes, before I had to stop and turn back.   I was gasping for air and my body could not climb another step and I think we had only made it about a quarter of the way up to the top!

My first thought was, “there was no way I will be able to complete the 4 day, 45km Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu. If I can’t even make it to the White Jesus, how was I going to complete the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?”

Cusco - White Jesus

On the White Jesus hike

What was going through your head while you struggled to climb to the top of dead woman’s pass? How did you feel when you finally reached the top?

Climbing up Dead Women’s Pass on Day 2 of the Inca Trail was by far, the hardest thing I have done in my life.  This tested me both physically and mentally.  Day 2 was a 10 hour hike, covering two mountain passes and Dead Women’s Pass was the first mountain peak I had to climb. It was 4 hours, straight up hill. I remember telling our guide, David from Llama Path, that I was going to make it to the top, no matter what.

I had to stop and catch my breath every few minutes, but nothing was going to stop me from making it to the top of Dead Women’s Pass!   At this stage, I had already changed my mindset and I had nothing but positive thoughts throughout the entire Inca Trail.  As I came closer to the top, I could finally hear people talking and cheering others on, as each hiker made it to the top of the mountain pass.

Inca Trail

My Dad nearing the top of Dead Woman’s Pass

When I finally made it to the top of Dead Women’s Pass, it was one of the best feelings in the world.  I had pushed myself mentally and physically to make it to the top.  The views on top of the mountain were amazing and I felt so lucky and privileged to be standing there and enjoying the scenic views with the other hikers.

How did you feel when you finally made it to Machu Picchu?

Best feeling in the world.  I had just completed the intense 4 day trek.  Even though I was totally exhausted, I was excited to be able to walk up to these ancient ruins with Jared by my side.

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How did positive thinking help you to finish the Inca Trail Trek?

The positive thoughts kept me focused and motivated.   I wasn’t concerned about keeping up with all the younger hikers on the Inca Trail.  I was probably one of the slowest hikers, however, I was very comfortable and confident with my pace.  When I needed to stop to catch my breath, David (the guide) was always by my side.

Whenever I stopped to rest on the trail,  I would look over at David and I kept on telling him that I was going to make it to the end!   If I had any negative thoughts, it would have been much more difficult to complete.  With my positive attitude, I was able to push past my mental and physical pains and keep moving!

Describe the overall experience in one or two sentences?

Doing the Inca Trail was one of the best experiences in my life.  I was so proud of myself that I was able to complete the trek and I was so privileged to do the trek with my son, Jared!

Now looking back, what do you remember most clearly about the Inca Trail Trek?

What I remember?  Lots. I remember the beautiful ruins that we saw along the trail each day.  I remember the llama that was walking past me down those steep stairs on Day 3.   Everyone above me and below me were yelling for me to be careful, as the llama was quickly coming towards me.  I’m glad Jared got a great picture as the llama passed me on the stairs!

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I remember so many times, looking way up in the mountains and seeing hikers in front of me ascending the trail.  I would simply look at David and say to him, so I guess I have to climb all the way up there, as I pointed way up into the mountains.  Before I knew it, I had climbed and reached the same spot.

Burning The Boats

My Dad was able to turn this experience around once he decided that he was going to make it, no matter what. When we attempted to climb to White Jesus, he still had doubts. He still wasn’t 100% committed to his goal of completing the Inca Trail. He seemed to be questioning his decision to attempt the trek all together.

We had conversations where it almost seemed like he was trying to talk himself out of it. After turning back from the White Jesus hike, I remember him asking me if there was a way he could meet me at Machu Picchu, without having to hike, because he didn’t think he could do it.

“There is no reason to have a Plan B because it distracts from Plan A” – Will Smith

In his mind he still had a plan B. He still had an exit strategy. When we go at a goal, without 100% commitment, our minds will do everything they can to talk us into giving up. Obstacles are made to look impossible. Our thoughts tend to stray to the negative when things get tough. Every excuse imaginable runs through our head. It’s much easier to get knocked off course. Our mind’s job is to make sure we survive. It doesn’t like when we challenge ourselves.

However, as soon as we sell out 100% to a goal, everything changes. It’s only when we have unwavering committed and our minds realize that there is nothing they can do to turn us back, that they will go to work towards helping us succeed. When we are fully committed, obstacles and challenges don’t even phase us. There’s no time for excuses. Our thoughts remain positive no matter what’s happening around us, because we know it’s only a matter of time before we will achieve our dream.

Cortez understood this when he invaded Mexico and ordered his men to burn the boats. He was removing their exit strategy. He was committing his army to victory. His men now had two choices; Die or succeed. His 600 men became the first to conquer Mexico in 600 years.

Embrace Challenges… It’s Worth The Struggle

My Dad went through one of the most difficult struggles of his life. However, when I asked him what he remembers most, looking back, it’s not the tough times that immediately come to mind. He describes it as one of the best experiences of his life. He remembers the little memories, such as the Llama chasing him down the stairs. He remembers spending time with his son.

I find that when we look back on the most challenging things we’ve ever accomplished, it’s the positive things that we remember. I wrote, in a previous post, reflecting on my first 3 years as an entrepreneur (One of the most difficult challenges of my life), that “It’s the friendships I made, the good times I had and the people I had the opportunity to help that I will never forget.” I think that it’s useful to remember this, to help us get through the tough times.

“It’s the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth” – Sarah Dessen

I find that it’s usually the act of persevering through the most difficult challenges, that leads to the greatest emotions we ever feel in life. The Inca Trail was a life changing experience for my Dad because it was so difficult for him. If he was in better shape and wasn’t challenged, I’m sure he wouldn’t be saying, “This was one of the best experiences of my life.”  We as humans, put much more value on things that we have earned.

So don’t wish to win the lottery. You won’t appreciate the money you have and will most likely lose it. Instead, build a business that you are passionate about and earn your millions, making a difference in the world. Don’t wish you were in better shape. Go to the gym and work on your body. Don’t wish you were someone else. Go out and become that person.

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The Inca Trail: Nothing Is Impossible (Part 2)
Interview With A Champion - My Dad's Thoughts On Escaping The Rat Race

Comments

  1. Mary Chu says

    Your dad’s transformation was obvious when we saw him in July in Richmond, B.C. He looks great! Victor and I think your next father son challenge should be the Path of St. James in France and Spain ending at Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We traveled there not as pilgrims on this trek, but as tourists this spring. What a fascinating journey to experience the Pyrenees Mountains and the Spanish countryside.
    We are enjoying your posts. You are a good writer and wise beyond your years.

    • Mary Chu says

      Your dad’s transformation was obvious when we saw him in July in B. C. He looks great. Victor and I think your next father son challenge should be the Path of St. James in France and Spain. Ending in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We were there this spring, not as pilgrims but as tourists. What a fascinating journey to experience the Pyrenees Mountains and countryside.
      We enjoy your posts. You are wise beyond your years.

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