Frequently ranked as one of the world’s premiere hikes and vacation destinations; the Tour du Mont Blanc Trail nestled within the Alps is a 103-mile trail that circles the Mont Blanc going in a loop through France, Italy, and Switzerland. Its reputation is well founded as the full length of the trail is comprised of endless wildflower fields in all manner of colors and sprawling glacier covered mountain vistas. This venture marked my first dive into international travel and provided both a life-altering experience and reaffirmation that any goal can be accomplished once its broken down into a series of steps and persistently worked on. This week I would like to share the first article in a series that will cover both the importance of goals and my trek through the Alps.
To begin, I would like to share a goal-oriented exercise I started several years ago. I sat down and create a list of 100 items I wanted to accomplish within the upcoming years. These items covered everything from travel goals (which did make up a large portion of the list), to life experiences, to career goals, to personal aspirations. By sitting down and writing everything down, I was able to determine what my priorities were and gave me specific items to focus on. If an item was not important enough to be put on this list, then I viewed it as not currently worth my energy.
Each goal I had listed, can be easily accomplished by breaking it down into a series of steps and ensuring to work on those steps on a persistent level until the end goal is reached. For the example of international travel: While taking a 100-mile hike through Europe is an initially daunting task. Many smaller steps were taken day by day to reach this goal. These steps included things as simple as choosing to go to the gym on a given day to ensure I was physically able to complete this trek, spending a few hours researching guide services, setting a bit of funds to the side each month to pay for this, among many other small steps. Whether your goal is world travel, building a corporation, or early/comfortable retirement; any goal is within reach and can be made far less daunting by breaking the goal down into a series of very small tasks.
A final note on the topic is the importance of putting a time frame to these goals. In my example, I have set a goal of accomplishing a minimum of ten items on my bucket list each year and I am happy to say I am currently on pace to exceed that this year. By putting a defined time frame to your goals and holding yourself accountable to those deadlines; you will prevent yourself from consistently kicking down the can down the road. I hope this has provided encouragement and motivation for my friends who are looking to accomplish their own goals and I wish everyone the best of luck in doing so.
This brings us to this hike; not only was the hike itself a bucket list items on its own, it allowed me check off 3 additional items from my list: sample cheeses in France, enjoying a pizza in Italy, and hiking on top of a glacier. I began my journey by flying into the city of Geneva, Switzerland. Although I was initially nervous about arriving in a location where I was unfamiliar with the systems and language, this proved to be an unwarranted fear. Once I got off the plane and made it through customs, I was quickly able to find all the help I would need with a well labeled information desk. From my communication with the tour company prior to my trip; I knew that I would be responsible for finding my way to the meetup point in the town of Chamonix, France and that the most efficient way to do this would be the bus. The information desk was easily able to not only direct me in the right direction but sold me a ticket at the desk itself. A few minutes later, I was boarding the bus and getting ready to take off towards this adventure. The initial bus ride brought me through the outskirts of Geneva. Although I would have liked to see more of the historic sections of the city, this minor disappointment was quickly overshadowed by being able to see the Alps rising in the distance and getting closer and closer. I eventually arrived in Chamonix and was blown away by the town. It was a quintessential European town filled with Swiss architecture and located at the very base of Mont Blanc. I entered the name of the hotel in my GPS and began my trek through the town. Most of the buildings in town were around 3 to 4 stories and featured a variety of shops in the bottom floor. One welcome quality that I noticed was a lack of large chains stores within the town; instead, most shops were locally owned. The shops were filled with restaurants, bakeries, cafes, cheese shops, hiking apparel, photography shops, and a variety of other stores that catered to a tourist and hiker target market.
After spending the first night in Chamonix and sampling some of the local dishes; I woke up early the next morning to take a bus to the nearby Gondola that transported me up into the French Alps. It was a gorgeous day filled with sunshine, wildflowers, and glacier covered mountains. As soon as I stepped off the Gandola, I was immediately greeted with a vista of the Alps surrounding the valley where Chamonix was located. Lining the trail at the Gondola was also my first glimpse at the alpine wildflowers that I would become very familiar with over the coming days. This initial field was a blanket of yellow that extended for several acres of the mountainside. I took the trail to Refuge de Bel Lachat for a quick lunch in a glacial valley before continuing to the town of Les Houches where I spent the night in a cabin. It is important to note that the Tour du Mont Blanc consists of many elevation gains and losses throughout its length. That is an important consideration for those planning on tackling this hike. Not only does the length of the trail itself present a trial; the elevation gains as well as altitude sickness can play a vital role in increasing the challenge along this trail. That is without even considering the possibility of inclement weather. From personal experience, 7 days on the trail can wreak havoc on your knees to proper conditioning and gear is a must. Hiking sticks are highly advisable and can take some weight off your knees during the hike; this is especially true on the downhill sections of hikes. The positive side though of so much elevation shifts is that is affords hikers the opportunity to see an amazing variety of scenery during their days on the trail. Whether it was the birds-eye views from the top of the peaks I was able to enjoy on the first day or the rising mountain views I was able to enjoy in the valleys; the environment shifted often enough that I never got tired of the views. This is among the most scenic trails that I have ever been on, ever turn in the trail reveals a new sweeping vista of towering mountains and fields of wildflowers. This trail easily earns its reputation as one of the best hikes on the planet and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to enjoy this amazing part of the world. There also bridges passing over waterfalls, fields of serene farmland, and beautiful architecture to enjoy each day on the trail.
This story will be continued on another day…