Tired But Grateful: What my First Backpacking Trip Taught Me

When I speak about going out into nature to center myself, you may have a certain vision in mind: Running water, birds chirping in the background, sitting in a crosslegged position with deep breathes traveling through my lungs. While, at times, that is the reality of my visits to nature if only just for a moment, there is also another reality to escaping into nature.

Picture this: heavy breaths that never quite feel big enough, aching legs as I pull myself up yet another series of shifting rocks, the weight of 30 lbs on strapped to my back and several layers of sweat gathering on the surface of my skin. That, my friend, is also the reality of venturing into the great outdoors for a moment of centering myself.

While that second vision doesn’t nearly seem to come off as meditative and soul-awakening as the first one, allow me to tell you about what I learned on my first 20-mile backpacking trip and why both of these moments are equally helpful.

1. Backpacking isn’t always relaxing.

In fact, throughout my first backpacking trip, there were many times where I felt like I was getting one of the most challenging workouts in a long time. However, despite the fact that it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, the sensation of my body truly being pushed to its maximum potential was nothing short of exhilarating.

I’ve never been a particularly athletic person. I’ve never had the fastest mile and doing hardcore workouts was never my forte. However, experiencing my legs lifting my body up flights and flights of rugged platforms and unstable rocks was, in the end, quite a proud moment for me. Yes, it wasn’t the quiet, zen moment I was anticipating, but rather it was a certain reminder of what I am truly capable of. I should be proud to have the body, drive, and mindset that I have.

2. The Physical Challenges Are A Different Kind of Mindful

While I didn’t get the chance to sit by running water and chirping birds as often as I initially anticipated during my backpacking hike, I did still have the opportunity to be in the present moment. Let me tell you, when you’re feeling your muscles work and your heart thump while hearing the buzzing of insects and rustling of leaves, you still have this moment of being quite aware of exactly where you are.

While on a challenging hike, I tend to think about my body and what it’s currently enduring. I tend to think about where I am right at that moment: in a unique area with no daily forces (technology, stores, roommates, friends, etc.) that I’m usually surrounded by. I don’t find myself thinking about work and the projects I have coming up. Rather, I am solely focused on what is happening to me at that exact moment. I am thinking about my abilities and just myself in general.

3. You Develop A New Appreciation For the Little Things

Fresh water, good conversation, a comfortable pillow, hearty food, and an amazing view. These are all things I placed high value on throughout my trip. These are the things that kept me going. For once, I wasn’t reliant on some kind of technological stimulation or social inclusion for happiness and fulfillment. In fact, I didn’t even think about the things that I typically seek out. Rather, I found a new appreciation for the real and wholesome things in life.

After taking on a challenging backpacking trip, I realized how badly I needed an extended separation from the typical everyday stimulations in life. I wasn’t constantly worried about other people and how I compare to them. I learned to focus on myself and my successes. I learned about the importance of personal goals and self appreciation.

Tip of the Day: Challenge Yourself and Feel Pride For Your Abilities

I think a good piece of advice I can offer after this physical and mental experience is this: remember to challenge yourself. Remember to put yourself in a place that’s outside of your comfort zone. Remember to love yourself for your abilities and congratulate yourself for taking on that personal challenge.

Understand that personal growth is just that: personal. It doesn’t matter how you compare to anyone and the only person you have to seek love and acceptance from is yourself.


Do you have any experiences with a challenge that changed your perspective on life?


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