Have trouble sticking to your New Year’s Resolution? Try travel.

As I pushed myself to take one step after another on spiraling stairs through the Peruvian jungle and cloud forests, I contemplated how I got myself into this exact spot – side stepping around alpacas and slowly but surely trekking my way to Machu Picchu. About a year-and-a-half before I stepped on a plane heading to Cusco, I found myself at the start of a new year, wanting to get out of my comfort zone, to get in shape, but having absolutely no desire to go to the gym knowing I’d lose interest (and maybe a pound) a few weeks later. This was the constant cycle I found myself in whenever the time for resolutions came around, but this time I decided it would be different.

The key for me was finding something I could look forward to – an end goal to attain – and a reason for me to become more physically active. So, I decided I was going to hike the Inca Trail. Which was arguably the most off-the-rails impulse decision I could’ve made at the time since I was not – by any stretch of the imagination – a hiker. Believe me, as much as I wanted to experience the wonder of Machu Picchu, the trek scared me. I knew it would be a challenge, but that’s what I needed to motivate me to move, and I honestly became a different person over the months I spent training for the trail.

I devoured countless videos and articles on what to expect from the trail from all kinds of people who had completed the trek – from recent high school graduates to 70-year-olds ticking off their bucket list. I began going to the gym daily, bought an under-desk treadmill (who am I?) and would carry a daypack filled with water and weights for an extra challenge that I knew the altitude would bring during my trek. I would go on hikes over the weekends with friends, often discovering incredible places not far from my own home that I’ve now visited multiple times even after I’ve returned from Peru. Having the goal of completing such a challenging trek, pushed me to become the best version of myself and to know how much my body is capable of.

So, let’s talk about the trek itself. There are no photos or stories that can do the Peruvian Andes justice, and to have the ability to trek along the sacred Inca Trail, pausing to learn more about ancient history and traditions while surrounded by towering mountains, is simply mind-blowing. At times you’ll feel tired – exhausted even – but you’ll keep pushing, and every step is more empowering than before. Arriving at the campground each night feels like you’ve won the lottery, and every morning you’ll wake up to friendly porters making breakfast and you’ll know you’re that much closer to your final goal – Machu Picchu. The feeling of reaching the Sun Gate to overlook Machu Picchu is one of sheer awe – for respect of the skill and brilliance of the Incas and for yourself for what you just accomplished. I cannot tell you enough how much this trek has changed my me, I’ve continued to exercise and keep up a similar training program as I did before the trek and I’ve even started going to the gym, and yes, even enjoying it!

I say all of this to you to push you to try something new and set challenging goals. Getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things is one of the best ways to keep growing, so I encourage you, if you struggle with New Year’s resolutions, to look at it from a new angle, and I guarantee you’ll surprise yourself with what you’re capable of.