This is how my uncle once described backpacking to me in a rather crude, but as I would come to appreciate poignantly accurate way: “It’s like sticking your head in a toilet and flushing. . . It gets all the shit out.”
Now as a sixth grader at the time I didn’t have an exorbitant amount of “shit” that needed to be flushed. As I got older and found each year adding more responsibilities and stress however, I’ve realized how beneficial backpacking has been for me. I’ve had to apply for college, experience the death of loved ones, and watch my close family member fight cancer, just to list a few of the more serious experiences. All these things have given me a heavy heart and clouded me with stress and anxiety.
It was always backpacking that helped me deal with and grow through these experiences. The annual trek into some unknown wilderness with nothing but what could be fit in a backpack, surviving, and exploring for 3-5 days has been salvation.
Backpacking has helped me and I know it can help others, so here is the top 5 reasons why everyone should go backpacking, NOW!!!
1. You get total freedom.
There are almost no moments in our day to day lives that allow us total freedom. We are constantly pulled and prodded into action by a whole assortment of different responsibilities and necessities. It’s important that we face these, not avoid them, but have a time and place where we get to shred these and have complete and total freedom.
Backpacking gives you that. While there are some things that backpacking requires, like preparing a tent and cooking food, it also allows you whole stretches of time where you have total and complete freedom.
If you want to sit lazily by your tent and read a book for hours, you can do that. If you want to go on an arduous day hike to a small lake hidden off trail, you can do that. Anything you want to do, you can do.
This type of total freedom, a freedom where we are completely in control of everything we do, is impossible to come by in our day to day lives. It is very important that we grant ourselves this freedom.
2. It puts a lot into perspective.
When you’re away from all civilization and all you’re really faced with is a plethora of nature and pure simplicity, things get put into perspective. When you’re surrounded by miles of mountain ranges, lakes, forests, an unadulterated pure sky, and none if it has been formed by human hands and petty stresses, the minute details that come to overwhelm you melt away.
It’s when you’re removed from all the monotonous insignificant stuff you’ve started to define your life around that you realize how unimportant it all is. What’s important to you, and what you’re going to devote your life to requires some serious introspection and that’s what backpacking has provided me.
3. It frees you from distractions (yes, that means texts, emails and Facebook).
Look, I’m just as addicted to the multitude of social media and instant communication possibilities as anyone my age is likely to be, but there’s no denying that they provide a ton of distractions and can drown us in a white noise of endless communication.
Being free from all this, even for just a weekend, is extraordinarily rejuvenating. It gives you the chance to just live completely in the present with nothing to pull you out of it. This has been indispensable to me.
4. It exposes you to beautiful nature.
It is spectacular to witness and be completely immersed in nature. The sort of stunning imagery that the world can create with unguided hand is absolutely stunning.
Seeing a night sky free of any light pollution packed to the brim with starlight is moving beyond belief. Nature, at least what we stereotypically think of as nature, is something that has become increasingly fleeting. For me, backpacking has become a time to immerse myself in the beauty of nature.
5. It is rejuvenating.
Backpacking is certainly physically exhausting and can be taxing to your body. Mentally, however, it’s absolutely rejuvenating. By giving you freedom, allowing you the time to connect with yourself, and introducing you to a serene and peaceful nature, backpacking can restore and rejuvenate your mind.
With a mentally taxing world, it is so important to give back to your mind and help reconnect with your true self.
Backpacking is an incredibly wonderful and restorative experience. Everyone needs to try it. Now.
Photo source: Spencer Nitkey