If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you know by now how much I love backpacking. But there is so much more to backpacking than sleeping under a blanket of more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life, or peaking out of your tent window to catch the most beautiful alpine sunrise. In fact, these are only a small portion of your backpacking trip. A sunrise only lasts a few minutes.
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy Miley Cyrus song, is it really the summit that makes your hike or is it the climb? Even when I was standing on the top of Mount Elbert, the highest mountain in the Rocky Mountains and the second highest in the continental United States, the view was pretty awesome, but I was high (no pun intended) on the accomplishment of climbing that high.
The point I’m making is that backpacking is the whole experience, not just the end goal.
I have written before about the benefit of deprivation when backpacking. When we deprive ourselves of life’s modern comforts, they taste and feel sweeter when we return to them.
That juicy burger and big comfy bed sure are awfully nice after 30 hard miles. I believe we tend to take life for granted. And by backpacking and skipping out on modern conveniences, we realize how nice we have it. We also realize how first-world problems don’t really compare to how others have to live.
While camping in North Carolina with my sister once, a woman said to us, “Y’all sure come a long way to sleep in the woods like hobos.” And I guess we did.
But the thing is, sometimes you need to go a long way to live like hobos in the woods. Anyone who has been backpacking knows the pleasure of dropping excess weights. It is a weight, literally, lifted off your shoulders.
The first few places along long-distant trails such as the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail are dumping grounds for unneeded and unused items packed with good intentions at the beginning of the trip.
And one thing I love that backpacking teaches us about the entire trip is to drop the excess weight. Whether it’s out of our packs or from our day-to-day lives, dropping the excess weight makes us feel and perform better.
Backpacking shows us how unnecessary it is to take extra items that we might need. After carrying them with us for miles and miles, we realize we never will need them.
We do that in our everyday lives too. Sometimes it’s holding onto a toxic person because they have been in your life for so long. Other times it can be staying involved in an organization that you no longer have time for. But when you drop that excess weight, you will feel better.
The excess weight of life can also be chasing after a promotion that, yes, will give you more money, but take you away from your family and friends. Is the weight of lost time with your loved ones worth the raise?
Yes reaching the summit or meeting your goal while backpacking is nice, but pay attention while you hike, and you will see that it teaches you many of life’s lessons.