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Following the paths in front of us

My last morning in Geneva, my one goal is to hike the time-worn trails of Le Salève. After a misrouted bus and a two-mile detour, I’m in a hurry to get going. Meanwhile, the gray-haired woman at the ticket counter is taking her time counting coins. The next téléphérique is leaving in less than five minutes. I watch as the seconds tick by.

Twenty minutes later, I’ve finally boarded. We scale the mountain and I peer out the windows at the treetops and quarries below. I reach for a brochure and read about the trails.

“Begin your journey at the lower station of the téléphérique,” says the guide. “Cross the bridge above the motorway and your climb up the magical Mont Salève has begun.”

I look down from my car at the station below—the place I was meant to begin. I feel foolish for not realizing that the hike up the mountain is one of its primary draws.

It isn’t the first time I’ve gone the wrong way or made a mistake that I can’t quite reverse.

After some self-criticism, I settle for a hilltop hike. “Easy and panoramic,” the two-hour route will take me “through meadows and woodlands across the top of the mountain.”

I find the first landmark.

“Go straight ahead along the path parallel to the games area and which cuts across the road. Continue straight ahead through the woodlands.”

I do. Or I think I do. I definitely make it to some kind of woodland, but after 45 minutes of pounding down paths, I realize I’m far from the course.

I give up on the guide, pull out my phone, and hope that Google Maps can help lead the way. I refuse to backtrack. Instead, I make a best guess at a path forward. I get lost many times on the top of the mount. I lose reception. I retrace my steps. I meet a French-speaking farmer with a black-and-white dog who is startled to see me so far off trail. Eventually, I make it back down.

Later, I post pictures of sunny brown cows and fields of electric green grass on Facebook. I load a selfie with a great big smile and the Alps in the back. Everyone comments how lovely it is, and I realize they all think I planned it this way. No one suspects that I’m tired and lost and hours behind schedule.

I look at the photos, think back on my journey, and wonder if this is the way it was meant to play out. The wrong turns and missed stops, the sidepaths and dead ends. What if I saw them as invitations instead of mistakes?

Slowly, I'm learning to accept life as it comes, in all of its beautiful messiness. I’m learning to allow for it to unfold in its time instead of punishing myself because the journey has taken too long or seems to have veered off course. I’m learning to follow the paths as I find them.

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