Lessons from Backpacking: but also applicable to non-backpackers ;)

IMG_20180307_122256884I’ll admit I’m a novice. I’ve only been backpacking twice in my life. But, before you disregard my entire post because of my lack of experience, recognize that it is sometimes the newbies who have the fresh eyes.

1. Water is valuable

Drinking water, showering water, waterfall water…  You know water is valuable when, on top of all else you’re carrying 6.5 miles up 3,000 feet of mountain (not the most fun IMG_20180305_131123154.jpgexperience in the moment, to be honest), the crew adds a couple more pounds of water–just to make sure we’ll have something to drink at the top. A month after returning from that trip, I was trying to fill up a water bottle at a dinky water fountain that was only pulling half it’s weight. For a second, I was impatient, but I remembered how much easier, still, this is than filling a water bottle and filtering that through a hose into another water bottle before even having a sip of clean water. Most Americans have clean drinking water, running water in their houses, and–especially those of use who know the beauty of the Great Lakes–have many other sources of water to appreciate. Don’t take the little things for granted.

2. It’s all about the angle of the photograph

IMG_20180508_134020899.jpgYou ever see those advertisements for dream vacations and think that’s looks pretty swell? Backpacking has once again impressed the truth that life isn’t about seeking out the coolest places, but about seeking out the coolness in wherever you happen to be. Sure, a picture of a crystal-clear ocean looks attractive. But honestly, a picture of a group of friends hammocking in the middle of the most average woods can have the same appeal if shot from the right angle and with the right lighting. You don’t have to travel far or pay much to have the best times in life: you just have to learn to see from the right angle.

3. Never take a vacation from God

On our last backpacking trip, the most trivial things would annoy me. I was frustrated with how frustrated I’d get when food took too long to cook, when we had to change IMG_1539.JPGplans, when I had to sit in the car more than I wanted to. I didn’t understand why I was bothered by such small issues. It wasn’t until the day we were packing up to leave that I awoke early and had some actual one-on-one time with God. The experience was what Christians write inspirational books on! How extremely refreshing it was to reconnect with the Creator of the landscape we’d been exploring. This time with God re-centered my thoughts, refocused my perspective, and left me rejoicing. Even in the midst of a busy week with lots of people, time with God one-on-one is a must. Always.

4. Company is key

On my very first day ever of backpacking, our group got lost. We were literally IMG_20180508_110214010.jpgtrailblazing (let me tell you, when you’ve got an over-sized pack on your back, you don’t fit through or under anything, your balance is off, and climbing over anything is double as much work!), quite uncertain of whether we should press on or turn around. We were hungry and tired (very tired, actually) and rain was on the way. When you’re lost in the woods like this for hours and not one of the company complains, you know you’ve got a prime group. That day emphasized the importance of surrounding myself with a group of encouraging friends. Who you spend your time with matters.

5. Preparation is worth it

While packing for camping trips, I almost without exception question whether the work is worth the pleasure. I have to pull out a set of drawers to climb into a dark cubby hole with a tiny door and no lights to grab my sleeping bag. I have to bring a ladder into the house from the garage to reach the cubby spaces up high in our mudroom to get a tent. I have to IMG_20180509_140720516scour the garage and dig through bags to retrieve camp cooking utensils. I have to brave the somewhat sketchy garage attic to find a cooler. And, through all of this, I have to painfully dread returning all of these items when the trip is over. But every time, once I make it to the actual adventure, every piece of preparation was worthwhile. Our time on earth isn’t our end goal; it is preparation for the life to come. “To live is Christ, to die is gain” and there have been many, many days where I feel that I understand this passage. Living here on earth ain’t the greatest joy of all time. But I believe that the preparation will be worth it when we arrive at our actual home.


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