We began to feel the intensity of our approaching pilgrimage building as we carefully laid out all the items we each will carry 500 miles in our backpacks while hiking the Camino de Santiago. We have plastic zip lock storage bags, rain gear, sleeping bags and liners, boots, sandels, flipflops, hats, clothes that wick, socks that breath, bandanas, sunscreen, ear plugs, pack towels, walking sticks, bottles for water, cell phones, iPod, a book, headlamp, Band-Aids and a blister kit, toothbrush, mini soaps, shampoos and toothpaste, and a few necessary vitamins and medications…..I think that is about it.
Our backpacks stood in the corner of the room naked and empty beckoning to us to fill them up so that they could be used for the purpose in which they were created.
We stopped to think about what should go in the pack first…things that we won’t use as often and what we will need quick access to. We certainly didn’t want to have to empty our entire pack to get to items such as sunscreen or Band-Aids.
By the time we were done packing, every nook and cranny was crammed full with relevant items designed to make our journey easier and more comfortable…or so I thought until we weighed our packs. Mine weighs 28lbs and Dan’s weighs 29 pounds. My goal is to not carry more than 20lbs and Dan’s goal is 25lbs so this sent us into a quandary of what we should leave behind and what adjustments are needed to lessen my load and increase his.
We both wonder if what we think is necessary, will actually hold us back from doing what we want to do.
This whole process reminds me of a skit I once saw about a cowboy who had a horse named ‘Is-Me’. The cowboy was carrying a huge pack that dug into his shoulders. Every time he wanted to stop his horse, he would pull on the reigns and say “Whoa-Is-Me” but he never lightened his load.
Of course we can always lighten our load now or any time along the way. Letting go of items now proves to be too difficult, so we decide to ‘walk on it’ Monday morning. This means ‘full packs on and all uphill’. Nothing like a dose of reality to help one decide what is important to carry or not.
In my mind I am thinking “haven’t we given up enough already?” You know, things that I have already talked about in my earlier blogs….knick-knacks, furniture, appliances, cars, our house. Surly there isn’t more to let go of, or is there? Oh but there is…….lot’s more!
Do you see where I am going with this? I bet you do.
This isn’t about our destination, it’s about our journey. It is about all the moments, decisions and experiences Dan and I put in our backpacks, but first we need to make some room. What we fill it with, is what pours out on others. This is why we are sharing it with you. Your journey and your backpack may look different then ours and that’s ok, it is suppose to. I hope we inspire you to fill your backpack with hope, compassion, mercy, and joy to share with others.
For the last month our moments, decisions and experiences have revolved around living in our RV on our sons’ family homestead in Bigfork Montana. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been during the summer. In between training for our hike, we have played with the kids, roasted marshmallows, helped paint, mow lawns, clean, cook, bake, pour concrete and build a bunny home. We have enjoyed sunsets together and the opening Olympic Summer Games.
By freeing up ‘our backpack of life’ we have made room for many more cherished moments and experiences. It has helped us be more focused on helping where we can, which is one of our goals. It has made me realize that even at this age, (no I’m not going to tell you how old I am) we are still a work in progress.
On a side note, I would like to tell you a recent true short story that helps illistrate what I am talking about. The character is our middle son, he left the beginning of August to hike the John Muir Trail (JMT). After 4 days, 59 miles and 2 passes (Cottonwood 11,500′, Forester 13,200′ and Mt Whitney 14,500′), He was doing so well and on pace to make his 16 day goal when an injury caused him to have to quit early. It was a devastating blow as he had planned and trained for a year and his body and mind were in the zone. Sometimes things don’t go our way, even when we plan and train well. He worked his way through the knot hole, got rid of his pride in ‘his backpack of life’ and decided to use his moment, decisions and experience on the JMT as a teaching opportunity for his kids.
He hasn’t given up on hiking the JMT. He will plan to go again when the time is right. After all, what kind of a lesson would he be teaching his kids if he gave up?