Yes, I know. Three weeks ago I wrote a blog that I said was possibly my last. During that time, I have been swamped with ideas for new blogs. Go figure. So instead of tossing it all out I decided to remake this blog a little and focus in a slightly different direction. Over the past couple of years, my friend, coach, and personal backpacking Yoda, Mike Ege, has taught me a lot about the ways backpacking relates to daily living in the real world. I thought I might share some of that wisdom here along with some of my own observations over the next few blogs.
For the uninitiated, backpacking is essentially a combination of hiking and camping. For the most part, a backpacker must carry everything he/she needs for the entire trip because they will be, hopefully, far from modern conveniences such as restaurants and convenience stores. That’s the idea and the attraction of it. What that means is that the backpacker(s) carry everything in their packs. Obviously weight is an issue, since a person can only carry so much weight on their back while hiking. In fact, to some backpackers weight is pretty much the only consideration. For others, there must be a balance between weight and comfort. In any case, it’s undesireable to carry anything unnecessary. There’s no point in packing something you will never use or possibly need. When packing for a trip, one must analyze everything that goes in the pack and make a conscious decision about whether it is needed or not. It is an eye opening experience in many ways. You can take only what’s absolutely necessary, or you can decide to carry more weight in order to have something that is more of a luxury. Whatever you decide there is a definite thought process involved.
I have found it helpful to apply the same thought process to the “weight” I’m carrying every day. Today nearly everyone has more options than they know what to do with. Twenty-first century American life seems to be all about options. There’s nothing inherently wrong with options unless you try to take too many at once. It’s easy to take on too much and end up burned out and disillusioned. I didn’t always know that. It’s important to analyze every option and ask, is it necessary, or is it a luxury?
The necessities are a no brainer. You carry those. Sometimes even the necessities are a HEAVY load to carry. There will be times when all you can carry are the necessities, and even those will be difficult. All you can do is pray for strength and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Everyone goes through times like those, but, thankfully, they are usually only for a season. During those times, though, you need to be especially careful that you aren’t “carrying” more than you need. A mental/emotional checklist might come in handy to determine whether you are weighing yourself down with something you don’t really need. If you are, it’s imperitive that you drop it as soon as possible. That may involve something much more complicated than a simple decision. Letting go, even when it’s something that’s killing you, is often harder than it seems like it should be. Emotional baggage is often like that. It’s killing you, but you can’t just let it go. You might even like it in some strange subconscious way. It’s good to get someone else’s input at that point. A friend or counselor can often see the unnecessary weight you are carrying even when you can’t, and can point out where you would benefit from dropping something you don’t really need. In a real sense, they can also help you carry the load until you are ready to drop it, as well. That’s the benefit of not traveling alone, on the trail or in daily life. Having companions to help carry the load when you can’t do it alone is essential.
I can see that I have much more to say on this topic than can fit in one post, so I’ll stop here. I’ll end today with a note of personal thanks to my friend Mike, whose wisdom and experience opened my eyes to the concepts contained here. Dude, my life is much better because you are a part of it. Thank you.