Backpacking teaches us many things. We learn wilderness skills, first aid skills, how to read a map, etc. But backpacking also teaches us life lessons. I love to learn, and through backpacking I have gained a lot knowledge, but also learned a lot about myself. I’ve compiled eight life lessons backpacking teaches me about life.
1. Sometime you just have to shoulder the burden
When you go backpacking, you carry everything you need to stay alive for however many days you are out there. Your pack is heavy, and it sure does suck hauling all that gear up a steep mountain. But if you want to eat, if you want to sleep without getting rained on, if you want to sleep in a warm toasty sleeping bag, you have to carry that burden.
Sometimes in life we carry a large burden around with us. But if we want to make it to our end goal, we have no choice but to carry that burden.
2. Enjoy the journey as much as the end result
I’ll admit it, sometime when I hike my main focus is to get to the end goal – the mountain summit, the waterfall, the amazing vista, etc. And sometimes while hiking straight up a mountain, out of breath and sweat dripping into my eyes, I have to say to myself, “But you like to do this.”
Really that end goal is only a small percentage of the journey. I hiked two days to see a glacier (and it’s still questionable where we actually saw it through the fog). If I wanted to see a glacier, I could have picked an easier trail. But it was more about the journey to get there.
I have found this to be very comparable to my life. When spend our lives looking to the next step instead of enjoying the step we are on. If we are single, we can’t wait to be married. When we get married, we can’t wait to have kids, and so on. But being single is a lot of fun too. We simply need to slow down and enjoy every stage of life.
3. You have to be (mostly) self reliant
When you backpack you have to really learn to rely on yourself. You have to know how to properly cross a stream? You have to know how to build a fire. (OK, so we take stoves. That’s why I said “mostly.”) You have to rely on yourself to set up your shelter and cook your food, as well as keep it properly away from bears and other hungry wildlife.
It doesn’t matter how good a person is. People are flawed and even the best person will fail you at some point. You also don’t know when you are going to get into a situation where others cannot help you. Learning to be self reliant makes you a stronger person. And then as a stronger person you can help others.
4. Cleanliness is overrated
So here’s my confession, I’m terribly lazy. I know it’s an oxymoron to use the term lazy when talking about a hike where you carry everything on your back up and over mountains. But I am lazy when it comes to backpacking. I went on a week-long camping trip with my sister recently, and she wanted me to find a campground with showers. “But not having to shower is the best part,” I whined to her.
So to giveaway my secret, one thing I love about backpacking is that I don’t have to shower every day. And nobody thinks anything bad about my greasy hair and smell of BO.
5. The harder climbs come with the better rewards
Some of the hardest trails, have the best payout in terms of that end goal. Climbing a 14er is no easy feat. Steep terrain, lack of oxygen, and boulder scrambling isn’t pleasant, but the view from the top and the bragging rights are so worth it.
The harder you work for something the sweeter the reward is. You put a ton of effort into a work project, you get noticed and promoted. The harder you work on your hobby project, the more satisfaction you get out it.
6. Life is not always going t be comfortable
Backpacking is certainly not comfortable, you’re hot, you’re cold, you’re wet, you’re getting eaten by bugs. But you put up with that lack of comfortableness to be in nature or to get to your reward. Being uncomfortable is a one of my favorite life lessons backpacking teaches us.
We definitely have many time in life where we are not comfortable. It may be starting a new job or trying something new. Stepping out of your comfort zone provides great rewards.
7. Life continues to flourish despite your problems
One thing nature teaches us is that life continues despite what’s going on. Despite the fact that I am in nature to think about my problems or to try to forget them, bears still poop in the woods, trees still grow, and seasons still change. My problems are not significant to the wood and nature.
8. Life is so much sweeter when you’ve been deprived
I wrote a post called “The Benefits of Deprivation and Love of Backpacking,” that discussed how depriving ourselves of modern comforts makes them so much better in our everyday lives.
Backpacking teaches us that we can go without something, like hot showers and comfy beds. But when we are off the trail we are so much more appreciative of the things we generally take for granted.
Being swarmed by biting flies, made my life so much more enjoyable when the winds shifted and the flies left. Having a big hamburger to celebrate an epic hike is just so much better when you’ve been eating the same freeze-dried meals for five days.
Life Lessons Backpacking Teaches
Backpacking teaches us a great way to look at life. What has backpacking taught you about yourself or life in general?