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Lessons From Wilderness Travel

I know many people really enjoy nature, hikers, campers, mountain climbers. I also know a lot of people who would cringe at the thought of hiking 15+ miles with 10-15lbs on their back only to end up sleeping in a hammock under the stars. I enjoy the outdoors and absolutely love being challenged, so when the idea of a backpacking trip for my brother and I came up, it had a lot of allure to me. An opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with Nate, unplug from my work and technology, and appreciate the simpler things in life that nature has to offer. Sounds very peaceful to me.

The ironic part was how worked up I got preparing for the trip. First, I pictured myself face to face with a bear (which happened), losing that battle and not coming home. I then found myself fixated on how iron clad my estate plan was. The night before I left, I tortured my wife with all the “need to know” things and made sure Adam knew where the business succession plan and life insurance policies were. Second, the realization set in that I needed to appropriately pack for this day and a half excursion. When many of life’s conveniences are left behind and everything you feel you MAY need or want has to fit in a backpack, that you must carry, for many, many miles, indecision and panic set it. What if I needed this? What if I needed that? The trip was supposed to be about getting away, destressing, and enjoying the peaceful outdoors and I ended up compounding my anxiety!

But like many things in life, the angst is in the mind and not in the actual experience itself. It’s funny to me how quickly we relearn some simple life lessons when forced out of our daily routine. As I reflect on my trip, here are some life lessons that I hope stick with me until the next time I’m reminded of them out in the wild!

  • Don’t over-pack. It’s good to be prepared for different potential scenarios but choose wisely when deciding what to carry with you. Don’t acquire and carry more than you need, or you’ll just get weighed down, sore and miserable. Aren’t many things in our lives just dead weight? It reminded me to let go of grudges, anger, and the quest for material things. They just take up valuable space in my backpack!
  • Live in the moment. It’s awesome to have goals. But if you’re only focused on the destination, you miss out on the journey. I found myself trying to picture the lookout when I got tired, thinking “how much longer until I get there?” But life is full of small experiences that define our days. For me it was the wildlife (a black bear!), streams, the way the sunshine cut through the trees. Map your course but embrace the adventure or you’ll miss those small but important moments.
  • Pay attention to what’s in front of you, not behind you. Nobody hikes trails walking backward. There’s rarely ever a clear, flat path in life. So, you better be looking at the terrain in front of you, watching your steps, or you’re destined to twist ankles, trip over rocks, or slip and fall off course. Keep moving forward, not looking backward!
  • Peace and quiet is so valuable. There were long chunks of time where we heard nothing manmade on our path. No voices, no airplanes, no traffic, no music, no arguments, no politics, no opinions… In some ways, you get to choose your noise level in life. If you find your life feels way too loud, find a quieter path (even if it’s not complete isolation in the woods!)

Lastly, and most importantly, count your blessings. I know I’m blessed with more than I deserve, things I missed on my short stint of time away; my wife, my kids, my comfortable home and the job I love. But it absolutely made me appreciate blessings I don’t think about every day too. Like waking up to a hot cup of coffee, knowing what poison ivy looks like and having the ability to sleep anywhere at any time….even like a banana in a hammock.

Tracking # 1-05164740

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