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Don’t call it Purpose – Call it Challenge

Don’t call it Purpose – Call it Challenge

By Luisana Mendez

The year 2022 is beginning. It is common for many people to spend the last and first days of a year reflecting, to look back, to visualize what they want to achieve in the new year and in the future. Many of us begin to write down our resolutions or purposes. Well, today I tell you, “don’t call it Purpose, call it Challenge”.

In my time of reflection I came to the conclusion that “purposes” are all those things that we want to achieve and that we have the firm intention of achieving, but many times they only remain intentions. In general, we tend to wander and give up easily. For its part, the establishment of a “challenge” allows us to visualize the objective with greater precision and, in addition, supposes a stimulus and a challenge, not a competition.

Last year I made the decision to start a challenge and today, I want to share with you a bit of my Journey doing the #52HikeChallenge2021. This challenge marked a before, a during and an after in my life.

2020, year prior to the Challenge

In March 2020 I faced a part of me that I did not know. I recognized myself as fragile and vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it uncertainty, ignorance, fears, and it developed into my “anxiety.” Like many of you, I too had to deal with loss, difficult days, days with emotional breakdowns, stress, and even depression. However, I found that when I walked outside, my attitude, emotions, and thoughts improved.

I discovered the benefits of being outdoors, breathing fresh air, and other ways to connect with myself and with nature. With each walk, I could feel how my body, mind, and spirit connected and awakened in me the motivation and curiosity for what I was doing. I didn’t want to stop walking, being outside and seeing new places.

Time passed and I kept walking. Sometimes I went alone and other times with a companion. It was the most anticipated moment of my days. I remember saying to my friends “I want to be a professional hiker” and I laughed, because it was my passion for something new talking about something I was completely unaware of.

However, I took on the task of researching #hiking and the #outdoor world, and learned that it really is a sport. Hiking has many levels of difficulty, it can be perfectly combined with other activities, it does not require complicated equipment, there are no rules about age and physical condition to practice it, and the benefits can be endless. In my search I found the #52HikeChallenge and signed up to challenge myself to try something different. This has been one of the best decisions of my life.

2021, year of the Challenge

When 2021 started I had a plan. I would be a more outdoor person and would do more #hiking. I had a challenge to meet, to walk at least once a week for a whole year.

The first few days of January I was on vacation and I had the opportunity to do my first Hikes in Arizona and Texas, it was really exciting and a great way to start the challenge. When I got back to Minnesota I found myself in the middle of winter. I felt a bit overwhelmed by the low temperatures. I wanted and wished with all my soul to be able to be outside. This motivated me to go deeper into learning the practice of hiking. I learned about how to hike in the different seasons of the year, to recreate responsibly, to navigate the trails and about the essential things that I should take on the hikes. I also researched the different park systems in Minnesota and even discovered new challenges that I also began to participate in.

I think that the key in everything we set out to do in life is motivation. I was really excited about my challenge. I told my friends and family about what I was doing. This allowed them to join the adventure and for me to feel their unconditional support. Each walk meant a great achievement in my life and I shared it on social media to motivate and spread it to others.

My attitude, my way of thinking and visualizing things were positively transformed. Each walk contributed to my physical, mental and emotional health. The experience of being outdoors gave me clarity about my life purpose, my dreams and the goals I wanted to achieve. It took me to great levels of concentration, productivity and creativity.

I started writing my journey about the experience I was having on the hikes. I decided to start a bilingual blog to share what I was experiencing. I know that my English is not perfect, but this decision represents a new challenge in my life. Thus materializing that idea that had been around in my head for several years called Huellas Latinas.

I walked whenever I could, I went to different parks, alone or with friends. My social media posts started to echo. I had the opportunity to design and create the #MujerLatina100Millas challenge in which more than 60 women from Mujeres Latinas Unidas MN participated, as part of my volunteering there. I started working with other organizations and leading group walks. During the spring and summer, I led and shared walks with Latino families, women, and youth. You can’t imagine how many great people I met and how much I learned from them.

During the journey I was feeling interested in other outdoor activities. So I started experimenting with different disciplines in search of developing new skills. I did snowshoeing, cross country skiing, bouldering, birding and paddleboarding for the first time, to mention a few examples.

On August 28, 2021, it was time to do my last Hike of the challenge and it was the most special hike of all. As if by magic, it turned out that this last hike coincided with the visit of my parents, who traveled from Venezuela to Minnesota for the first time. I had almost 2 years without seeing my mom and almost 4 years without seeing my dad. Completing this challenge in their company was something very special and wonderful. In addition, there was also my family, very close friends and even my little friend Ben Afquack (the duck in the photo), who joined in celebrating this achievement with me.

I completed the challenge in 8 months. I did 52 Hikes, walked 190.9 miles, visited over 30 different parks, and met hundreds of wonderful people.

After completing the 52 Hike Challenge

After completing the challenge I understood the importance of challenging ourselves to discover and achieve new things. In addition, it became clear to me that when we start something with such passion, we also give ourselves the opportunity for the experience to be transformative.

I feel very proud of myself for having completed the challenge and I am infinitely grateful to my family, my friends and my community for having been part of this achievement. However, beyond reaching the goal, the most significant thing for me was enjoying the process. I lived it with all my heart, I learned many things, I shared it with a large number of people and finally, it became my lifestyle.

I kept walking throughout the year 2021. I did 81 Hikes, walked a total of 285.6 miles and visited more than 75 different parks. I organized the #HuellasLatinasHikingClub to continue doing group hikes with the Latino community and friends. Also, I ended the year with a lot of excitement and expectations of new projects for 2022.

New Challenges for 2022

Of course!

I am so excited and motivated that this year I am also participating in the #52HikeChallenge2022. I will continue to be active with my projects, my bilingual outdoor blog and #HuellasLatinasHikingClub. I try to lead a more outdoor lifestyle, exploring new activities and also completing the MN Hiking Club and MN Passport Club. I also have other more personal, professional and family challenges that I am sure I will achieve. One of them will be the beginning of “Vida sin Tapujos,” a radio show & Podcast with my friend Tania. And the other will be reading 100 books this year #100BooksChallenge.

We all lead a different style and pace of life. Setting ourselves challenges should be a stimulation and not a problem. It is not a competition, but a path that you live and enjoy while you grow and learn. Perhaps there are more interesting or important challenges. However, I am convinced that this challenge, no matter how simple it may seem, can transform our lives “one step at a time”.

If you want to try something different and do a challenge, I 100% recommend the #52HikeChallenge. Dare, you may discover a passion for this or other outdoor activities. Put a number, a date, make a plan and go for it.

Luisana but, who is the duck?

Ben Afquack is my dear friend the duck (@minnesotaduck). He is the pet of other good friends and was one of my roommates in (2020). Ben is a Fitness Model, a Drumming Duck and a Guinness World Records winner to boot. In addition, Ben is an adventurous duck who shares our achievements and therefore, he also joined my last hike of the challenge.

Comment below what you thought of this article or if you have any questions

Join the adventure!

Dare to turn something ordinary into extraordinary.


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