This week we highlight Jo Atta, mother of 4, businesswoman, and aspiring author. As if that wasn’t enough, Jo decided that for her 51st birthday, she would attempt to climb to 18,500 feet on the Anna Purna circuit in Nepal. I decided to join Jo on this quest as I had completed the circuit twice before and I was thrilled to experience it with her.
Jo had previously worked through many tough things in life, as most of us have by our 50s. As a mother of four children, there is always something askew, and then, on top of that, Jo raised the children mostly alone and supported them by running a business. To say that was challenging at times is an understatement.
Today, however, life is a little easier, with only one child at home, Louis. Louis is 14 years old and Jo had requested that he join the trek as well, as he has a penchant for immersing himself in new cultures and is home educated.
Jo trained for six months to undertake this challenge, including daily 10-mile hikes with a weighted backpack, swimming, squats, and step-ups to build leg strength. Her regimen also included a tweaked diet to reduce calories and firm up.
Jo understandably expressed a little uncertainty at the beginning of the trek. This was a completely new venture for her, having almost exclusively eliminated exercise for the past 10 years after undergoing major surgery to prevent cancer, including a total hysterectomy. Her confidence was reasonable but not 100% certain.
We set off on Saturday, October 15th, with Louis in tow. After about 2 hours and five miles, Jo felt a surge of panic. I was a little ahead and so I stopped to have her catch up – instead, found Louis with a message that Jo was stopping and heading back to the start. She didn’t think she could do it.
Louis and I returned to where Jo was sitting – at the top of a very steep climb, looking very hot and sweaty. We immediately decided that zipping the bottoms from her hiking trousers and reducing them to shorts would be a good first step. Then, we took her hat and doused it in cold water to cool her head down. After 15 minutes of rest and long drinks of cold water, Jo agreed to go forward, at a slightly slower pace, and with rests to cool her body down.
By night’s end, Jo was feeling stronger and more confident.
The lesson? When undertaking new things, we need to find patience with ourselves as our bodies need time to adjust to new endeavors. Midlife is the time to undertake new things, otherwise, we risk finding ourselves bored, uninspired, and lacking enthusiasm for life.
Jo certainly doesn’t fit that description, as she is beginning a series of novels and continues traveling the world.
The “rest of the story” unfortunately didn’t end with Jo climbing to the summit, but the positive outcome of the experience is that by Day Two, Jo felt much more confident and strong, and has decided that at some future point, and with enough training, she will come back to Nepal and attempt the summit again.
The only failure in life is not trying. If we are not failing, we are not trying enough new challenges.
We look forward to seeing Jo grow and undertake more physical and mental challenges. She is a woman driven to achieve and find her most fulfilled self.
We can all stand to be a little bit more like Jo!
– Anissa, Founder b-untethered