Five Lessons I Learned From Embarking On An International Jet-Setting Lifestyle

By Elena Murzello

In 2007, I went to Tokyo for the first time. I stayed with my friend in her tiny apartment, where it was simply but tastefully decorated. Perched in one corner was a wooden walking stick that had symbols burned into it. When I inquired of its significance, she said it was a walking stick that she used when climbing Mt Fuji. Neat memento, I thought to myself as I shelved that memory away.

Fast forward 15 years to 2017 and I was about to make the same journey. Yet, there would be a slight difference.. I mean, I would typically pack my carry-on AWAY case with my usual shoes of the Prada, Gucci variety (which are much more my speed, I must admit) but this time, they shared space with my new hiking boots.

On the climb of Mount Fuji, I had a lot of un-interrupted time for thinking. How did I even get here? This hike was not something on my radar, until it was. Why not try it? I am a person who is constantly on the move and continuously learning, reaching for those next “stretch” goals. As the sunrise gently appeared and kissed the summit, I contemplated what this journey taught me. These are five life lessons that emerged during my climb:

1) Be prepared

Do your research and homework. If you don’t talk the talk, you’d better learn it pretty quick.

As I looked onto the sea of hikers, I noticed there were a few that were inappropriately dressed for the hike; jeans and embellished backpacks belonged at NYFW and not on a mountain that should be respected. At the least, I looked like a hiker. I admit, I learned more about hiking gear in the month leading up to the climb than in my 36 years combined. But at least I did my due diligence and am prepared for my next high altitudes adventures.

2) Have a positive outlook

I got altitude sickness just before the 8th mountain station (3,100 meters) which lasted for an hour. Slightly emotional, I regrouped by the side of the mountain, watching other hikers that were just arriving for the night. Doubts were entering into my mind about my motivation for doing the hike: Was I doing it for myself as a physical challenge? Or was I doing it to prove a point about something or to someone?

Let me tell you that I wanted to complain when I was hiking in sub-zero degrees Celsius weather, sleep-deprived and tired in the wee hours of the night. My group of hikers and I were bundled up, trying to conserve energy by staying silent. We paused to watch shooting stars, mid-mountain, illuminated by the row of headlamps

that lit the trail. There was only one person who had the biggest smile on his face, and it was lit like a 100-watt light bulb.

It made me realize that your attitude is going to be what carries you through the dark and cold times. Literally. You must remember that uncomfortable times may seem endless but the sun will come out eventually. On Fuji-san, we waited patiently at the summit for the first hints of light: at 5:12am, the sun arrived, brilliantly and majestically.

3) Form your own opinion

Advice for anything should be taken with a grain of salt. There are those that have done what you are about to embark on who feel the need to give unsolicited advice like, “You should really test yourself at high altitudes before going on your trip. I hope you don’t get sick and die.” Seriously?! That’s your advice to me? What may be one person’s encounter may not hold true for you, whether positive or negative.

With any new adventure, hear and listen to what others have to say but decide and filter through what is applicable to you. There is this saying: there is nothing to fear but fear itself. If you let the comments of others permeate your beliefs about what you can accomplish, you’re setting yourself up for an even harder climb up the mountain, physically and metaphorically.

4) Celebrate the journey, not just the destination.

Two hikers saw me at the airport checking in my Mt. Fuji wooden walking stick and approached me. They had hiked a day before me and asked me if I had seen the sunrise; Mother Nature complicated their climb with a typhoon so they did not see the spectacular sunrise.

I did not even think about that outcome. I was too fixated on having the appropriate gear and fuel that I didn’t even consider that could potentially happen. Sometimes, the outcome is beyond your control and it truly is the journey that is the best part.

5) Know no limits

Just because you weren’t born a Sherpa doesn’t mean you can’t climb a mountain. When I signed up for this adventure, I thought to myself – how would I do this? True to form, I would always start with dressing the part. When you look good, you feel confident; when you feel good, you can do anything to which you set your mind. For me, I can say I successfully conquered Mt. Fuji.

There is something to be said about being honest with yourself – on all fronts, whether professionally or personally. What can you achieve? When you pretend to be someone else or wait for things to pan out, you may be hindering your own growth. My friends know to expect the unexpected from me because I refuse to be stagnant. So why disappoint? Keep them guessing.






Elena Murzello grew up near Calgary, and now travels between Vancouver and New York City. She has a travel and lifestyle blog called ELENAMURZELLO.COM, where she shares what she loves about products and places. Elena is the daughter of a Filipino- Chinese mother and an Italian-East Indian father.

After studying at the University of Victoria, and the University of British Columbia where she got her MBA, she traveled the world to experience an international lifestyle. But she felt she needed a partner, so she scribbled down a “love list” and immediately met her boyfriend of ten years. When that relationship ended, she felt other women could benefit from her advice, so she authored the book ‘The Love List: A Guide To Getting Who You Want’, which was published in 2013.

Besides being an author, Elena is also an actress and most recently held a recurring role on the Showtime series ‘The L Word’, (available on Netflix).

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