These Boots Are Made For Hiking…

I’m the poster child for late bloomers…but I like to think of myself as a perennial. I go through cycles of blooming and live to bloom another day. I bloomed a couple of years ago with my long-distance running. That’s not to say I won any awards (ok, ok, I did come in second in a small 10k), but I did run four half-marathons and live to tell the tale.

My latest blooming, or rather struggling to dig my roots in and raise my leaves to the sun, is to go back to school at night for a masters in environmental science. If I were going to college now, I would pick it as an undergraduate, but back when I went to college it really wasn’t an option. No worries…I believe in reinventing myself at every age.

I started my new degree a little over a year ago. I took a groundwater modeling class just because it was the only class offered in my degree. Last Fall, I took a course in restoration ecology and fulfilled one of two prerequisites, geology. Now I’m taking environmental communications and environmental chemistry. It’s more of a struggle than I would like to admit…

In all of this, though, is a wonderful adventure…the other prerequisite that I need is a field course. So, I’m going to Iceland. Yes, pity poor me, I “have” to go to Iceland! I will study the geology of volcanoes and glaciers in the place where the earth is visibly tearing apart. I will hike up volcanoes, ford streams, swim in geothermal pools, and sketch land forms into a notebook as the wind and sleet assail me.

The first thing I’ve done to prepare myself physically, is to buy my first pair of hiking boots. Off I went to REI…I joined the team as a member…which means $20 to be used to support local trail systems. I bought my first pair of hiking boots, and a pair of water shoes…for those times when I need to ford a stream. I bought hiking socks too. My premise is that if my feet are happy, I will do well.

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Back home, I put on my socks and boots and went for a “hike” around the neighborhood to break in my boots. Three miles later, I felt as if I’d made little progress in breaking in my boots. The next morning, however, I felt differently. I had shin splints. My calves, and various and sundry other muscles, were inexplicably sore. I had expected to get blisters as part of the breaking-in process, but apparently it wasn’t really the boots that needed to “break in”, but my own body that needs to prepare for my trip.

I woke up sore today, but after work I put my hiking boots on and headed out for a walk. This time I only went two miles, but I felt as if I were wearing ski boots. Each step felt heavy and filled with import.

Now my boots are five miles into breaking in…and so is my body! I can easily walk, or even run a few miles with no negative effects, but hiking must be a different experience all together. Good thing I am starting two months in advance to prepare my body for my next, big adventure!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and never stop finding new journeys!

 

Finding My Language Learning Match

Right from the start, I’ve wanted to learn a language for my 50-by-50…but I couldn’t pick between French (my high school language and the language that held my heart) or Spanish, the more practical language for an American. I went back and forth…and back and forth. Now that I’ve decided it is time to get started, I stopped waffling and chose Spanish. Next up is to choose a method.

I am not opposed to classes, but fitting a class into my schedule would be tough. I’d rather fit a software program into my daily life in short bursts. First I did some research on the most popular programs, Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, and Language101.com. Of the three, I far preferred Language101.com. It seems a good match for my learning style and what I am hoping to accomplish, which is learning the language fast enough to see progress in just a few months. I tried out their free trial lesson, and found it appealing.

You are given a phrase in English and a literal translation in English of the Spanish phrase. You are supposed to speak the correspondDuolingoing Spanish phrase. If you don’t know it, you request the phrase first. After saying, or repeating the phrase, you grade yourself on how well you did. Phrases are added and the program circles back to the earlier phrases, giving you a lot of practice and the chance to really learn the phrase before moving on. I especially like that it is using my feedback on how well I’m learning to either re-do the lesson later, or to move me on to more complicated phrases.

The biggest impediment to starting any of these programs is the cost. All are expensive, and Language101.com is the priciest. I decided that before spending any money on a program I should research free options. I soon discovered that there are several free language learning apps, and the highest rated is Duolingo. It is available online and also as an iPhone and iPad app. I decided to try it first on my iPhone. I often find myself playing games on my phone when I am waiting or when I’m killing time. Why not learn a language at the same time?

Within a few minutes I was able to download the free app and take the first lesson. I set myself a goal of spending 15 minutes per day learning Spanish, but I plan to do more than that. The app uses my phone’s microphone to assess my speaking capability and its speaker to give me the correct pronunciations for words and phrases. The biggest drawback on the phone is that I cannot add accent marks in the written portions. This app is well organized into lessons though, and highlights weak areas so that I can redo lessons as desired. I think it’s a good place to start.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and take advantage of what technology can offer to help you meet your goals!