The Hike of a Lifetime

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

-John Muir

One of the top things on my bucket list is to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT is 2,200 miles and stretches from Georgia all the way to Maine. The trail was completed in 1937 and is maintained by hundreds of volunteer clubs. Each year, over 2 million people hike the trail at least 0ne day and over 2,400 complete a thru-hike of the 2,200 miles. A thru-hike is extremely difficult-those who attempt this endeavor take an average of 6 months to complete the expanse and 75% will fail in their pursuit. If you can’t get 6 months off from work then there is the option of section hiking the AT-this officially counts as completing the entire trail and can be completed over a lifetime. My goal is to section hike the trail over a 3 year period. I think one-month stretches twice a year during the best times for hiking would make the trip much more enjoyable. My ultimate goal is to hike the AT along with the Continental Divide Trail (3,100) which runs through the Rockies and the Pacific Crest Trail (2,600 miles) which runs through the west coast.

So the question is why would anyone want to hike over 8,000 miles of wilderness? What is the point? It is a hard question to answer because in a sense it requires one to describe an instinctual urge. I feel better in the woods. I feel more happiness in the woods. I feel alive in the woods. The woods bring me into nature in the most intense way because they encompass every sense: the sight of trees, the songs of birds, the smell of fresh air, the texture of trail beneath my feet. In addition to the surrounding nature, the act of hiking is the most relaxing and pleasant activity. Hiking is the foundation of mankind’s physical prowess. We walked across continents and spread throughout the entire world with our ability to hike. When I’m hiking in the woods my mind is in a proverbial hot tub of relaxation. Moving through the woods tangibly connects me to the earth and to the ancestral urge to explore. Contrast all these feelings with the unnatural state of everyday life: driving in a climate controlled vehicle, staring into a computer screen, shopping at Walmart, watching TV commercials, etc.

I think most of you who are reading this agree with me about the awesomeness of hiking. However, I still haven’t justified why I want to hike 2,200+ miles while carrying a backpack and sleeping in a tent. Backpacking is a humbling experience because you can only carry so much stuff and what stuff you do pack becomes quite heavy overtime. It is the antithesis of our consumer culture where we accumulate tons of stuff but never really feel the environmental impact of our consumption. This antithesis attracts me to backpacking and my minimalist lifestyle delights in carrying only the most essential. So what is the point of hiking all those miles? The point for me is to push myself and see what I am capable of. God has blessed me with great health and I want to utilize those blessings to the fullest. This logic runs parallel to my proclivities for reading and writing-I don’t want my talents to be wasted so I regularly do both of them. We all have goals but unfortunately many of them are misaligned. I want to get a promotion. I want a new car. I want an extra 20,000 a year in salary. I want a remodeled kitchen. I want bigger biceps. Humans need goals and we like to conquer those goals. That is why I want to hike all these miles. It is a challenge that brings me closest to my naturally aligned physical and mental state. What do you think? Would you like to join me?

The Essence of Essentialism

Has anyone heard about or seen news concerning the Flint water crisis? My wife and I live in Flint and we have been faced with the real life scariness of not having clean water for daily usage. Water is one of those things that is 100% essential to health and happiness. Fortunately our water is now clean because we just purchased a whole house filtering system which will last for 1,000,000 gallons (a crap ton). This water scare has made me hyper aware of what is truly essential in our lives. To further explore what is essential in my life I picked up Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

Essentialism is very similar to minimalism because it seeks to rebuke excess in our lives. It is different however because it impacts all avenues of life whereas minimalism (in my opinion) focuses more on decreasing material possessions. So what does it mean to be an Essentialist?

The Essentialist…

-Pauses constantly and asks, “Am I investing in the right activities?”

-Doesn’t focus on getting more things done but rather the right things done

-Says “no” to everything except the essential

-Realizes there can only be one priority at a time

-Thinks almost all things are nonessential

-Creates time to escape and explore life

-Hears what is not being said

-Makes playing and sleeping priorities

-Makes one decision that will eliminate multiple future decisions

-Says “yes” only to the things that matter

-Is comfortable cutting losses

-Practices preparation and buffers for unexpected events

-Removes obstacles to progress

-Celebrates small acts of progress

-Keeps their thoughts in the present

-Enjoys the moment

-Asks what is important right now

The Essentialist lifestyle can be summed up by the German saying-Weniger aber besser-“Less but better”. I’m sure most people can identify with a few aforementioned attributes but the key to being an Essentialist is that all facets of life are defined by only those things that are essential. So what is essential? On a biological level, healthy food, water, sleep, exercise, and shelter are essential. On a psychological/spiritual level, autonomy, control, friendship, play, meditation, and purpose are essential. And the most essential of all…TIME. We need to construct our lives so that time is abundant. Without time we will push aside essentials and fill our lives with cheap fillers: material objects, social media, pride, vanity, power, etc. We need to remember that LESS is better and that the more we refine our priorities the more poignant our life’s purpose will become.