Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The trip that changed my life

When I was 17 years old, I went on a hiking trip in Wales with my best friend. I’m not sure why I agreed to go with her. I was completely uninterested in endless fields full of sheep, and time has not changed this.

We were planning to hike every day for about 20 miles, or however far it was to the next camping site. This would not have been too bad, except for the fact that Wales was experiencing a heat wave for the first time in 15 years.

On top of that, the camping sites were a little more “basic” than I had anticipated; often it was just a field near a farm, without so much as running water. Before long, I started to complain, blaming my friend for suggesting the trip in the first place.

After a few days of hiking, we visited some of her friends. They had a lovely little house at the end of a narrow, winding road. Next to the road was an abyss, about 70 feet deep.

While we were there, my friend decided she wanted to learn to drive a car, and that she would learn under the guidance of her 17-year-old friend, who did not have her driver’s license. And stupid me got in the back of the car. To this day, I still don’t know what made me get in the car.

My friend was driving slowly along the little winding road. She was doing well; she paid attention to what she was doing, and did a fine job avoiding some sheep. All of a sudden she accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the clutch, and the car raced forward.

Both girls in the front panicked, started to scream, and if things weren’t bad enough already, my friend let go of the steering wheel. I can picture myself sitting in that car so vividly. I grew very quiet, and watched as the car sped faster and out of control off the road, heading straight for the abyss.

I remember thinking, “I cannot believe this is happening”, and “I am going to die.” I was waiting for my life to flash before my eyes, but nothing happened. Then again, at 17 I hadn’t accumulated very much life.

Instead of falling down into the abyss, we crashed into the one lone tree standing on the side of the little winding road. In fact, we wrapped the entire car around the tree. Lucky for us, the tree did not break, and even luckier that none of us were hurt, besides my friend needing four stitches in her chin. But that was the extent of the damage to us.

I had never been so scared before in my life, and I had never been so glad to be alive. I can honestly say that this hiking trip in Wales changed my life. Not only did it teach me to never again do something so stupid, but it also made me value being alive in a completely new way. It has been 14 years since that hiking trip, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

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