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My Heartland in the Chilcotin Mountains

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Maaike - My heartland in the South Chilcotins

Before coming to the ranch, I realized I was lost; I did not know what I wanted anymore, I did not know what I liked and I did not know how to talk about my feelings. Whenever someone wanted to talk to me about how my day was, or how I was feeling I just shut down, not knowing how to keep a conversation going or how to actually explain how I was feeling. I did know one thing, and that was that I was unhappy and I needed change. I needed change from long nights going out and being useless the next day, a change from watching Netflix every free moment I had and a change from fleeing every time I had to face reality. I needed a transformational journey.

Thus, I decided to go to Canada and work on a ranch, just like in that TV show ‘Heartland’.

My first week on the ranch was a rush of many emotions and I was really unstable. Getting to the ranch was a big step out of my comfort zone because of many different things. Sleeping in a tent, shoeing horses and being responsible for everything I do and want to do. But the biggest challenge was not being able to run away. It is very simple and easy to just not look in the mirror and go on with your life without thinking about where you are from, who you are and what your future is. And this was exactly what I had been doing for the last few years of my life.

Reality really hit me in the face pretty quickly, and a tsunami of all my unresolved feelings from the past few years passed over me. Which made it even harder for me to focus on the things I was learning and I started to feel pretty useless. ‘Did I make the right choice coming here?’ ‘Do I even belong at this place?’ ‘Maybe I should just give up’ were thoughts that ran through my head constantly.

After 7 days of learning how to pack, shoe, stake and hobble horses we left for 7 days into the bush to the middle of nowhere. ‘Spruce Lake’. The night before we left, I was contemplating not to go at all and to just give up and go home, but I decided that was weak and followed my guide past steep slopes and high mountain climbs. I felt more scared than ever.

Arriving at Spruce Lake, I just wanted to go through my days as fast as possible, so it would be over as soon as possible. Even though I had some really cool and mind-blowing experiences, like seeing a lynx in the wild or standing next to a snowbank as high as a house, there was this negative feeling that kept lingering in the background. I was really confused. The whole experience was just too overwhelming for me and too much out of my comfort zone. I was not ready for this kind of personal growth. Or at least, that is what I believed. Turns out that I was just scared of change.

On the way back, when I saw the signs of ‘Chilcotin Holidays’ I started crying. I was just so happy to be at a place I already kind of knew and that the pack trip was finally over. The first thing I said to Kevan was: “I am never going on a pack trip again.”

It wasn’t until I had a rest and began to reflect about the trip and about how crazy the experience was, I started to feel a change. The contrast between riding through the yellow May flowers with the mountains in the back and then actually riding through these mountains on horseback was so unique. While riding through Windy Pass, there was absolute silence and peace whilst you could see marmots running around and footprints of animals in the snow on the mountains . Untouched and unharmed.

The environment that the ranch has is what supported my evolvement. The environment of the ranch is all about teamwork, taking responsibility and developing leadership skills. During the transformational journey reviews, conversations and meetings I have had here, it became clear to me that there was a solid reason why I had chosen to come here and why I worked so hard at home to make sure I could get to the place I am now. I wanted a change. I wanted personal growth.

By being at the ranch and learning about the trails and helping around, I showed myself that I am better at doing some things than I initially thought I was. I started taking initiative in my life. My change  of perspective and positive outlook lead to me having accomplished many things in the last few weeks. I guided people around the ranch and I was even a guide for a 6-day Dude Ranch. I learned the trails, how to identify certain flowers and plants and about the history of the area I am staying at. It has made me feel more connected to nature and myself. A while ago I realized I was never more satisfied than I am now.

Being able to feed information to the guests has made me eager to learn more about the area and about the plants so that I can try to help the guests feel connected to nature and let them forget about their busy lives. What I have come to learn is that much depends on the mindset you are in. I started with a very negative mindset, because I was afraid of change. But by changing and getting to know my qualities and abilities, I have realized I can accomplish so much if I just set my mind to it.

Being here at the ranch, has taught me a lot about the person I am now and the person I want to become. I have realized that the only person who can open doors to numerous possibilities is yourself and that you need to write your own story and not let someone else write it for you.

The funny thing is that nobody here forces you to do anything. Everything happens on its own because of the environment that is being created every day. You learn things in many ways and you get to know your strengths and weaknesses. But I do not see them as weaknesses anymore. I see them as a way to grow and improve.

Right now, I feel like I am on the way to becoming a person that I want to be. By investing in myself and developing myself, I will keep on getting opportunities here, which is a good motivational factor to keep on doing so. Because of the process I have been through, reflecting and investing in myself I know that I am ready to start a new adventure and become a guide mentor in the Chilcotin mountains.


Author: Maaike, Belgium

Check out Maaikes Photography here: https://www.facebook.com/VranckenPhotography/