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Carry Only What You Need

If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. ~ Cesare Pavese

In less than three days I’ll be traveling to France to embark on a 170 km backpacking trip around Mont Blanc, the Tour du Mont Blanc.   I’m like a child on Christmas Eve.   I am so excited.   I am also a little nervous.  Am I in good enough shape to do all of it, to hike these kinds of mountains at these altitudes every day for 11 days?  Do I have everything I need in my pack right now?  Are my boots going to hold up?  I mean I’ve had them since my Appalachian Trail hike almost 10 years ago, but I love them and they saw me through then when others’ feet were covered in blisters with their toe nails falling off. 

The one thing I am very happy about though is the weight of my pack.  On the Appalachian Trail, and again on the Camino de Santiago, I suffered because of a pack that was too heavy. 

On the AT, I was a newbie and fortunately got help from the nice man at the Walasi-Yi Store at Neel’s Gap.  Items were swapped, some shipped back home, and others put into the “Free to AT hikers” box.  It was a ruthless process of getting rid of what you really didn’t need, or swapping for a lighter (potentially less plush) piece of gear that still did what you needed it to.  But there were trade-offs too.  I absolutely refused to give up my “sleep clothes”.  He couldn’t make me do it!  It was a record breaking rainy spring/summer that year and you were almost never dry.  I was borderline freakish about how I protected my sleep clothes so I had something dry and clean to sleep in at night.  It suffices to say that pack weight becomes an obsession.  It was something most of us continued to refine.  “Hey – how much does that weigh?” is a very common refrain heard almost daily. 

On the Camino, I knew better but I justified my stupidity with the fact that we would also be in places like Barcelona and staying in an incredibly beautiful hotel in Santiago de Compostela (as a 10 year anniversary present to ourselves).  Besides, I told myself, we were only doing a 100 km of it, and it was relatively flat compared to something like the AT.  Never mind that I spent pretty much every day in an office, either at a desk or in meetings, and had been hiking maybe three or four times since moving to Atlanta over  two years ago.  Ugh, when I think back, I just shake my head at my own stupidity over all I put in that damn pack.  One day was so bad I literally threw my pack on the ground, sat down, and said I wasn’t going any further.  Nice little tantrum there in the middle of nowhere Northern Spain.  But I wanted to look nice in town!  (Did I mention the trail name they gave me on the AT was “Townie”?  I really liked getting to town where there was running water and a bed.  I admit it.  After a few days out on the trail, they could get me to hike just about anything with the promise of plumbing, a dry bed, and a hot pizza.  Turns out I love both being out in nature AND the luxuries of town.)

I think I’ve finally learned my lesson now though.  I’ve been pretty ruthless about what I’m taking, and not.  Hard core ultra light backpackers would laugh at me saying that if they looked in my pack.  Things have gone in, and come back out.  Weighed, compared, and weighed again.  Things have been found that can multi-task.  For example, I gave up make-up despite the towns I’ll be in, but I am taking a tinted moisturizer I found that I’m quite pleased with.  I’m not taking the Dr. Bronner’s magic soap that does it all (quite literally) that I would if I was doing something like the AT, but I did buy all-in-one shampoo & conditioner for the trip.  No books are going, it was terrible for me giving those up on the AT, but a light weight Kindle in a baggie definitely is.  

So what, you ask, does all this rambling have to do with coaching?  I’ve found that what this process in backpacking has taught me with regards to my comfort and ability on a backpacking trip, also applies to our daily lives.  We’re all often carrying around WAY more weight than we need to, and it is slowing us down and exhausting us.  Oh the miles you could put in on the days that Ms. Janet would drop you to do a section of the AT and then pick us up so all you needed was a day pack!  And without your legs and feet killing you at the end of the day.

The extra weight in our lives burdens us and slows us down too.  The extra weight we carry comes in many shapes and sizes (kind of like backpacking gear).  It’s the useless worry over things that will likely never happen.  It’s the unnecessary guilt or resentments we won’t let go of.  It’s the things we’re putting up with in our lives that drain us…everything from an overflowing, chaotic home, car, or desk at work, to a job we hate, to too much time spent with someone that we wish we weren’t.  It’s the things we need to say, but don’t.  It’s the obligations and “to do’s” that pile up when we don’t say, “No, thank you”, when we know we need or want to.  It’s the things we buy, eat or drink that we don’t need, but seem like they might make us happy, when what we really need is a nap.

So today, think about going through the pack that is your life with total honesty.  What do you truly need to have a great hike, I mean day, today?  What just needs to go altogether?  What is in there that might be good for another type of hike, I mean day, but isn’t necessarily what you need right now for where you are?  Where are there inefficiencies?  Is there a Dr. Bonner’s all-in-one magic soap you can use, where multiple things would be knocked out by taking one or two actions? My Kindle is a luxury, but I will not be happy out there without a book for two weeks.  What are the things that you need in your life to make you happy?  Are you giving yourself the needed “luxury” of incorporating them into your life?  And hey, maybe you really do want to take all your make-up, that’s fine, I believe sometimes that is called for!  Just try to make it easier on yourself in other ways to compensate.  :-)

Happy trails to you!  See you in a few weeks.