Recently I realized that my life has changed so, SO much from becoming a distance hiker. For those of you who knew me back before my 2012 Thru Hike you know that I was the kind of person who needed to be in control of a situation and liked to organize and plan out things. Once I really gave that idea up, which took a LOOOOOONG time, and began to learn how to take things as they came to me I've noticed something strange - I'm usually at ease when plan A doesn't work. I no longer freak out (at least, not on the outside) and I stop to think about what plan B could be. Then, I go from there. It turns out the more and more I thought about it I've learned quite a bit from becoming a distance backpacker, but many people learn these simple concepts from the first time they strap on a pack and hit the trail. Here are five simple things I learned from backpacking.
1) Simple is better. The easier a piece of gear is to use the less stress I'll feel when assembling it in less than ideal conditions. If it somehow gets dark when I get into camp, I'm 100% positive I could set up my tent, hang my bear bag, and climb into bed in less than 10 minutes. My gear is always packed in the exact same way and I bet I could do all of my camp chores blindfolded!
2) Clutter = Chaos. Remember the old adage "a place for everything and everything in it's place"? Well, that couldn't be more true than it is for my backpack. The stuff sacks are brightly colored and packed exactly the same every single time I put them back. When I put gear in my tent it all goes in the same order. With order comes calm. It's very rare you'll ever find me digging for a piece of gear I've misplaced.
3) Go with the flow. Sometime Plan A doesn't work out. In fact, Plan A is usually ditched for me pretty early on. As someone who used to preplan A-Z, it turns out that if you just wing it things will still turn out alright. Learning to be flexible with things that come up as been such a valuable lesson for me and has even helped me with my anxiety issues. It took me a long time to get here, but it's working out pretty well!
4) Everything happens for a reason. This one is still tough for me sometimes. It's hard to realize that even things that seem like they're terrible can turn out alright in the end. This couldn't have been more true for us than it was on our Finger Lakes Trail thru hike attempt in the summer of 2015. We walked through a section of New York with a long no camping zone. The trail conservancy was rude to us and offered no help, but with a little help from some trail angels and some tips from people in the area we were able to find a restaurant off trail with people who lived right on the property we were aiming to stealth camp on that night. Instead of us having to stealth camp on private property in the rain, they offered up a guest house with a shower and a freezer full of candy. We slept out the thunderstorm that night in the glow of a satellite television.
5) It always works out in the end. It turns out the old saying is true - it truly isn't about the destination, but about the journey. When I set out to do my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2012 I had a much different idea of how my journey would pan out. It turns out that the journey I thought I wanted wasn't the one I needed. It turns out the journey I took changed my life forever and in the best possible way. Funny how the universe works, isn't it?
These are just a few of the life-changing, simple things I learned from backpacking. Is there anything you agree with here? What would you add to the list?