Backpacking has given me so much in life. Nature is my psychologist and my mentor, it humbles me and it challenges me. What I get out of my hikes I could never possibly formulate in writing, anybody who has ever been on longer hikes would probably feel the same. Being in the wild reminds us of who and where we really are on earth. Our place in the natural order, somewhere in the middle of the food chain. There are all kinds of bad shit that can happen to us in the wild, from falling and breaking something, to being eaten to being poisoned, freeze to death, starve to death or heat exhaustion. You name it, you can die from it in the wild. It is when you are alone in the vast expanses of the wild that you realize just how insignificant you really are. An ant on a child’s playground.
When I am in the wild I feel how insignificant I am, it’s not a thought, it’s a feeling. It’s that feeling of getting all the answers, the why behind so many decisions humans have made that led us to this point in our evolutionary progress. Of course we built cities, the alternative is living in huts and being eaten by lions. Of course we started farming, the alternative is starving for long periods of time before the next rat could be caught and cooked. It’s these things that I am reminded of when I am out backpacking. And it’s also for these reasons that after a long hike in the wild, I long for the soft warmth of my bed, home and wife. Sometimes I forget how good I have it in my life, how good things really are. A hike that humbles me and nearly breaks me, makes all the alternatives seem like paradise.
I used to hike because I needed to feel nature, I needed more from life than what a computer screen and a TV could give me. I needed more than a high paying job, a house and car to feel complete. Before I started hiking I had always been striving after something, making goals, buying new things, changing jobs, starting new businesses, changing out partners like old socks, and in the end I still felt empty, a void, like something was missing. It was only when I started to hike that I realized what that void really was: an empty promise.
I had lived my whole life like any other western man or woman. I grew up in front of a TV and later on a computer. I had been promised through marketers that life was about variation and change. That all I had to do was buy the next new thing and I would be complete. All I had to do was get a university degree and a high paying job and life would be perfect. When I accomplished that then the next big promise was dangled in front of me, then the next and the next. I have accomplished so much in so little time, and yet my void was still there. Sure I would be happy for a little while when I purchased the newest smart phone or computer, I would convince myself that the new phone would replace five other devices and that I would have it for atleast 4-5 years.
That emptiness never completely vanished, and it is still there, deep within me. That emptiness that is telling me life is so much more than what I have yet to do and see. Backpacking helps me with that emptiness, helps me in those times when I feel there is more to life, backpacking reminds me that the meaning of life is living. Living is not about consuming or working 12 hours a day. Life is about experiencing the world around us and living in the moment. How easily I forgot this simple fact every time I lose myself in my ipad. How easily I forget about being in the moment when I’m bored out of my mind.
Backpacking forces me to live with less, to experience the now, to live in the moment, to look around and feel the world surrounding me.
These days I hike because I need to experience the world, I feel it in my bones that this is what life is about. When I stand on top of a volcano after a 6 day hike, looking out over the vast expanse of the valley below, or the ocean in the distance, I know this is what life is about. My soul feels complete, my body needs nothing more and I am one with life.
This is what I think about and experience when I backpack.