By in Live Life as a FreeBird
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Back in April of this year, lululemon nominated me to represent the Franklin store at “The Hike” in Chattanooga, TN. I was so honored and of course I accepted the nomination. I had to fill out a questionnaire and send in a video just as all of the other nominees in the South East Region. I was so excited to learn that I was selected to attend the hike even though I really had no idea what that really entailed!! Just like all of the hikers, I really had no idea why I was there. To be completely honest, all of the time leading up to the hike, I thought it was disorganized, but really, that was the plan! 😉

The month of October finally came and my journey was here! I packed, well I over packed! HA! I always do! Hopped in my car and drove myself to Chattanooga for the very first time! GORGEOUS is an understatement! About 20 min. into my drive, my WAZE app rerouted me and I was very confused as I thought I would remain on I24 the entire way into the city. I questioned it, and drove with sweaty palms and full of nerves just imagining myself getting lost! This was the start of the soon to be learned theme of the weekend, CHOICE & TRUST! I had to make the choice to trust my WAZE app and follow the path. The directional voice told me I would be exiting I24 in 1 mile. As I approached the exit, about 5 car lengths past the exit, traffic was at a stand still. So, yeah…. I’m trusting WAZE and getting off. The road it leads me on runs parallel to the freeway and I drove smoothly through winding roads alongside of the freeway for 15 minutes…..15 minutes of standstill traffic along side of me that never moved! I then hear “TURN RIGHT TO MERGE ONTO I24” Uh oh…… It’s having me get back on in this mess???? Here comes the theme again…CHOICE & TRUST…. I trusted, and as I merged onto the freeway about 5 car lengths behind me, there was a pretty serious accident, and this is where the traffic started to clear. Needless to say, I made it safe, sound and smooth to my destination, The CrashPad, a MTV Real World style Hostel.

I was nervous, yet excited. There were 22 strangers hanging out in the living room inside our home away from home. We made small talk, signed waivers, got a tour of the CrashPad, and then we headed to our bunks to get settled. There were 3 areas with 4 bunks on each floor. I was the only girl in my area, and at first I was nervous about that, but after getting connected, I knew I was in a safe space! I’m pretty sure they liked bunking with me since I diffused lavender every night!

We had our first circle up meeting around the fire pit. We all introduced our names, city and state we were from, occupation, and childhood nickname. As I entered into this journey, I thought I was going to be with all lululemon ambassadors from the southeast region. This was not the case at all! I was surrounded by all different kinds of community leaders! There were fitness guru’s, artists, jewelry makers, candle makers, vegan doughnut makers, leather goods makers, life coaches, retired athletes, photographers, entrepreneurs, coaches, and more! I WAS SURROUNDED BY GREATNESS……..and wondering why in the heck I was sitting in this circle. These people are way bigger than me, way smarter than me, and doing way more than me. I started to sulk inside. Kate, our learning leader announced the theme of the weekend, CHOICE & TRUST…… two words I had already experienced on my way to this adventure! She also stated that each one of us were chosen to be on this adventure because each one of us were “BAD ASS” community leaders making a difference. She kept repeating it, reassuring all of us, that we were there for a reason and we deserved it! At this moment, I started to feel better about myself and being there, and slightly believed her. I was instantly drawn to Kate from the moment I saw her. She’s beautiful, tall, strong, smart, and has that something special that just makes you feel good when you are around her. She is a confident and honest leader, and I look up to her!

Maggie was our logistics leader, and she deserves an award! She nailed her title, and I am so proud of her! She kept us on track and in suspense by only giving the very minimum details needed as the mystery of the weekend was to be kept alive! We were then instructed to head next-door for dinner, drinks, and connection. The atmosphere was urban & chic! We had the top level to ourselves to get acquainted. Lovely vegan food was ready for me, and the cabernet was delish! The conversations were juicy & inspiring! My good friend, Joe had brilliant questions for us all to really get to know each other! 1. Why do people love you? 2. What has been the best day of your life? 3. What outside of your family and occupation are you most proud of? sooooooo good, right?! The party then headed to the fire pit where my friend, Caleb lit the warmth! ….now, bedtime, early rise for a morning sweat… a 3 mile run!

Run…. not for me, so to the bikes I go with Emily, and Celine! We traveled the dark city, through the streets as most people were still asleep. Experiencing the sleeping Chattanooga Charm was dreamy! We crossed the city bridge and rode back through the rising sun! At the CrashPad, breakfast awaits, YUM! The way we were cared for was beyond my expectations! I freshened up and headed back to the fire pit for logistics! We were headed to rock climb at High Point! As we pulled up in our black SUV’s, feeling like P Diddy…. I noticed the rock climbing walls were outside of the building on the city streets! WHOA….. ummmmm, I’m not doing those I thought to myself! I’ll head inside to the kids area! I’m not kidding! that’s where I started, and well, I nailed those walls, climbing up & down and my confidence was built up to graduate to a bigger wall! So to the front room I headed. I got to the top, which was really high compared to the kids walls, looked down, and felt stuck. How do I get down? They said, just push off the wall with your feet, and glide down. This was so scary to me, but I did it and it was actually fun! I walked outside to the plexiglass walls and witnessed the most inspiring moment! My friend Raj, who has an electrifying smile and spirit was half way up this wall! Raj, has 2 prosthetic legs and 1 fully functioning arm, and he climbed that wall like a BOSS! He inspired me to face my fear and climb that beast! I made it up just past half way, but I was proud of myself, and I thank Raj for giving me the courage to face my fear!

After rock climbing we headed to roof top yoga with Kelsey on our brand new black lululemon mats with the hike logo pressed into the top left corner! Thank you, lulu! Kelsey lead an amazing practice, speaking life lessons. Two things she said stuck into my brain. 1. How you do anything, is how you do everything. 2. (while holding plank for what seemed like 2 hours), stay strong, your mind will give out on you before your body will. During savanna, the sun was beating down on me, filing me with light, love and gratitude for this very moment of achievement. Again… Thank you, lulu!

It’s Friday morning, I’ve biked the city of Chattanooga before sunrise, faced my fear of heights and rock climbed, and practiced a roof top yoga class ! I’m hungry! We head to lunch, where I have another vegan option and juicy conversations waiting for me! After lunch we have some free time and then we headed back to the fire pit circle. Logistics aka, Maggie informed us that we would be headed on a hike. YAY! Learning leader Kate takes us through a lesson of our personal Legacy! We had to connect with one person that we had not connected with and look them in the eye and tell them what their Legacy was without even knowing much about them. So cue in the psychic abilities, ha! Eric was my partner and we nailed each others legacy! It was a super cool moment! Kate then set our hike intention of really focusing on our legacy and what we need to bring in and release that was not serving us. Our hike was to be silent….no talking, period.

As you all know, I just recently buried one of my best friends. We were best friends, sisters, roommates through our twenties. We loved each other hard, and we partied hard. We got married, grew up, and I moved away. We kept in touch through Facebook, and some text. When I learned of her passing, a lot of guilt was brought up inside my soul. I found myself questioning, why did this happen to her, and why have I been so blessed over the past few years. I had such a heaviness of sadness on my shoulders. I was questioning, am I deserving of this legacy that I “think” I am supposed to leave. This is what I was pondering as I navigated my way through the woods in silence. Many tears streamed down my cheeks, the heaviness was still residing on my shoulders, and I kept praying and asking God for forgiveness and strength. The path we were hiking was clear, and then Maggie stated that the next portion UP, was not as easy to travel, so we really had to stay focused each step of the way to keep ourselves safe. Once we got to the top, I was overcome with comfort, peace, and abundant love. There was a clearing in my soul as I witnessed the clearing in my surroundings. I was up, way high, with the sun beaming down, a river dancing below, a hawk floating through air, flowing trees all around, crisp air in the atmosphere, and PEACE, CHOICE & TRUST. God was telling me that I was deserving of my blessings, and I heard him loud and clear. My happy tears were uncontrollable. Again… Thank you, lulu.

We headed to dinner to the coolest place ever! Ever had Ramen, yup…. I’m sure you lived on it during College, well this was gourmet ramen and I wish I had a bowl of it right now!!!! It was so yummy! We connected more, and I shared my personal story again with a few of the hikers. I was never judged, only loved on. They were all so accepting and told me I inspired them! WOW! Just more proof to voice your truth, as you never know who you will inspire….even the greatest of great were inspired by me! That was such a great feeling! We got to meet Maggie that night, a hiker from last year! Before the hike last year, Maggie was ready to give up on her business, but after the hike she got inspired, rebranded, worked hard and is now thriving in her craft! Maggie is a gentle soul and was so nervous to speak in front of our group. Strong learning leader, Kate stood beside her an stood with her giving Maggie the strength she needed! It was so beautiful and magical! A true moment of, we rise by lifting others!

Bed time…… I was so exhausted!

I slept in Saturday morning, skipped the sweat, ate breakfast and headed to the fire pit for logistics. We were told to dress with layers and be sure to pack sunglasses in our backpacks. We jumped in our pimp daddy SUV’s and climbed the curvy roads of the mountains. We got to the top, and there it lied. a hang glider……a freaking hang glider! OMG!!!!!!!!!! NO WAY! NO WAY! NO WAY! I can’t even fly confidently in an airplane! It was FREEZING too! They had us fill out waivers, and i thought, ok…. I’ll fill it out, but no way in hell I’m doing this. They separated us into 2 groups, Group 1 stays and hang glides, group 2, heads onto another adventure. I’m in group 2, Thank God, because I knew I would need time to mentally prepare to fly! So in the SUV I go thinking, I just escaped the scariest situation ever. We arrived at our next destination, high on top of a mountain and logistics, AKA, Maggie’s guides us down a short path. I’m right behind her and when we approach our next adventure I quickly realize we are rappelling 80ft down a 2000ft cliff. OMGEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! no. just no. I wanted to run back and hide hoping no one would notice I was gone. We met Lou. Lou was a professional climber/rappeller. I still ave no idea why he does this for fun! HA! He gave us the low down on the harness, the rope and the gear! He assured us we were safe, he even said multiple times, if you completely freak out, let go and the gear will do the work. I heard him, but it was hard to believe him because of my fear. I did not want to do this adventure, but I had this voice inside of my head saying, “Danielle, you HAVE to do this…..You can not let fear stand in your way!” So here it is…. my turn. Its windy as hell and cold as ice! I can barely feel my fingers. Lou gets me ready and I start to walk backward to the edge of the cliff, and the gush of wind surrounds me and I instantly back off, tears fill my eyes and I look at Lou and say, “I don’t think I can do it!” Lou looks at me and says “YES YOU CAN! TRUST!” I repeated the notion at lest 4 more times, literally shaking like crazy. There were 2 ropes to repel down. My friend Dean, aka COACH comes over and hugs me so tightly, gave me words of encouragement and pure love & support. COACH then jumps into a harness and says, “Danielle, I’m going down with you, I’ll be right beside you the entire way! LET’S DO THIS!” I looked at him and said ok. Then my friend Caleb comes up playing the ROCKY song EYE OF THE TIGER to get me motivated! Then…. yes there’s more, my friend Kent lays down as close as he can get to the edge of the cliff and says, “Danielle, look at me in the eyes the entire way down, YOU’VE GOT THIS!” As I walk myself back, still shaking, still full of tears, Coach says, you take a step and I’ll take a step. I take a step, scared to death, shaking, crying, trembling, so cold, I can’t feel my hands, Kent is saying look into me in my eyes, Danielle, you’ve got this, Coach saying you take a step, I take a step. It seemed like forever, but we finally made it down 80 feet, and I made it into the arms of Justin the other climbing pro guiding me down! He was so proud of me, Dean was so proud of me, I was so proud of myself! I could not believe I made it! I could not have done it without the support and love of the strangers that were quickly friends. The selfless act of Dean (COACH) was unreal. He took his rappelling experience and made it about me. He guided me, encouraged me, walked with me, believed in me & I could not have done it with out him. Lou, was so patient with me, and never got frustrated with me. He loved on me and allowed me to take the time I need to conquer my fear. This was my moment, the moment I was in complete vulnerability to the support system around me. It was my moment to recognize it’s ok to lean on the ones that want to be there for me! It was pure magic and this was the moment that changed my internal world. I ABSOLUTELY CAN DO ANYTHING BY CHOOSING TO PUT MY TRUST IN GOD & MYSELF AND MY SUPPORT SYSTEM! I learned it’s ok, to accept a helping hand! Thank you, lulu.

For dinner we headed to the park for a calming paddle boarding experience, and one of my favorites, tacos! We laid on blankets and just took the night , and day in…….. wow……what a day!

Back to the fire pit that evening for celebration, fun, pizza and wine! We shared our experiences, thanked one another and loved each other. My friend Kent shared, and it really hit home with me. He is a successful and AMAZING artist! Like for real……. AMAZING! He shared his story of struggle in his career which at this moment in time he is no longer experiencing, which is great….. but here’s the thing….. He says he misses the struggle. The struggle is what makes the triumph so SO SO GREAT! He says embrace it, love it, honor it! I loved hearing that, because I am in a moment of struggle. But you know what…. I love it. I am living my passion, I am living my PURPOSE, and that right there is what it’s all about! I KNOW I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and I am a BAD ASS doing it!

I did not get to hang glide Saturday because of the winds, so I was supposed to do it Sunday morning. I received some sad news at 2:00am and I was not in the right mindset to hang glide that morning. I do not feel as though I failed. The theme of this trip was CHOICE & TRUST. I made the right choice for my mind and my body that morning and I know in my heart it was the right choice.

Sunday morning I headed to YIN YOGA with group 1 at the Wild Flower Tea shop. There I had a beautiful practice on my new mat on ancient floors dated back to the 1800’s! WOW! We got to hear the story of the tea shop owner. She quit her corporate job and invested everything she had into this magical place! Just like me and FreeBird! The journey is real & I could so relate!

Here comes learning leader, Kate! She stands in the middle of the room and shares her deepest struggle. Her inner voice… she’s named her Summer. That voice that tells you, you can’t, you’re not enough, you’re dumb, you’re not worthy, you’re not, you’re not, you’re not….. We all have that voice. I named mine, Daphne. She tells me I’m stupid, I’m ugly, I’m not worthy, I’m not a leader…… I’m working on defeating Daphne! We came up with our declaration statements to beat down that inner voice every time it tries to creep in. We each had to stand up and shout it to everyone. My declaration…….

I AM A SMART LEADER THAT CHANGES LIVES TROUGH LOVE, LIGHT & VULNERABILITY! I LEAVE A LASTING ESSENCE OF POSITIVITY ON EVERYONE I ENCOUNTER!

I have learned we have a choice to dive in and be exceptional! We have to trust in the process no matter what! I am so grateful for my lesson and proud of my adventure!

Thank you lululemon for gifting me this life changing opportunity. Thank you to my new friends, my hikers, for sharing your stories and inspiring, supporting and loving me! This is and adventure I will never forget and I am eternally grateful! I am deserving of this blessing!