Most people are familiar with the phrase “think outside the box” whereby one is encouraged to think creatively and from a new or different perspective. My experiences on a recent trip to South America forced me to think in this way, but I would characterize the process more accurately as “thinking outside the boots.”
Nancy Sinatra had a huge hit released in 1966 named “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”. The catchy lyrics tell us “that’s just what they’ll do.” Are these lyrics just fluffy words for a song? I think not. In fact, I think the words are pretty profound if the boot wearer stops to think about it.
Characterizing myself as a boot wearer is strange to me. That is not a type of shoe that I wear regularly or even rarely. In fact, prior to November 2016, I hadn’t worn boots in over 20 years. I’d last donned a pair of snow boots to walk from Point A to Point B in the wintertime while living in Ohio. So what prompted me to embrace boots this past fall? A packing list.
I had bravely signed up to take a mission trip to Ecuador. I say bravely because I am the consummate introvert. Deciding to go off to a strange country with people I barely knew and would be with 24/7 for about ten days was way out of my comfort zone. In fact, it wasn’t even in the same country as my comfort zone. In any event, I was given a list of items which were suggested to be packed for the trip. Yes, you guessed it. BOOTS were on the list. Rain boots to be exact.
Why would I need rain boots? Well, DUH! To walk about the grounds of the evangelistic camp in the foothills of the Andes where I would be based while on this trip to Ecuador should it rain as it often does there. Rain boots are worn when it is raining or has rained to keep one’s feet dry. Simple concept, right?
The concept is very simple if the boot wearer thinks inside the box. Had I adhered to the intended purpose of the boots, though, I would have missed the adventures of a lifetime. If it rained while I was in the Central Ecuadorian Andes, it must have sprinkled while I was asleep. At no time did the intended scenario for the boots’ use ever arise. Does that mean that I spent good money on boots that I merely lugged to and from South America without using? No, sir! I thought outside of the box–er, boots.
While the purpose of the trip was to accomplish good–help others, assist with a family building conference, teach some English—I did have some down time with the opportunity to experience some once in a lifetime adventures. One such opportunity was to be able to hike up to a waterfall on two separate occasions. Proper foot gear would be required for this activity. Cue the rain boots. They were the sturdiest shoes I had. If I were going to get to see beautiful Andean waterfalls, it was use the rain boots or miss the opportunity. I love waterfalls, and rain boots would obviously keep my feet dry around the splashing water. Voila! The rain boots were going to be used as my hiking boots.
And when I say hiking, I mean strenuous and sometimes scary climbing up a steep and narrow path a long way up a mountain. Had I known in advance what challenges I would be facing, I may have thought twice or passed on the opportunity. What a mistake that would have been!
As a result of that hike, I saw the boots as well as myself in a new light. Rain boots may be made for walking, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be utilized for anything else. I may use my brain in my everyday profession, but that does not mean that I am incapable of strenuous physical activity.
Had I used the boots for merely their intended use, I would have missed out on things that I could never expect to experience again. How many Americans get to stand at the bottom of an Andean waterfall high on a mountain and glory in the watery mist as a reward for nerve-wracking climbing to get there? I saw breathtaking views, experienced the thrill of victory (I SURVIVED THE HIKE), and became closely bonded with fellow team members who by their presence gave me the impetus to keep moving and by an extended hand helped me to forge forward on the precipitous path.
Such a seemingly simple decision–use an object in the way in which I am told it is to be used or think outside the box and use it to push the limits. So thankful I chose the latter option while in Ecuador. I not only learned that rain boots are capable of being used for way more than just walking about on rain dampened ground, but I learned that I am capable of achieving way more than I label myself as being able to do. This girl and her boots are going to walk all over you, self-limitations!