Hop in your car, drive, park your car then grab your backpack and walk. Walk to a campsite high in the mountains or on the shore of the ocean or a lake. Preferably someplace without cell service. Take your dog, take your friends, take your partner and your kids or go it alone. The benefits of backpacking are worth some minor inconveniences and sometimes physical discomfort.
(1) The most obvious answer is that being in nature is good for your body, mind and soul. Trees are healing and the sound of the ocean is soothing. Take note of the smells, how the air feels and the sounds of the birds. I’ve heard that forests have more oxygen than cities and buildings. There have been many studies done about the effects of spending time in nature. Walking in nature reduces stress and oftentimes depression. It leads to the release of endorphins which help you feel focused, less affected by pain and improves your mood. If you’re with friends and family you no doubt will share a few laughs. Laughter also causes the release of endorphins.
(2) Know that your feet can take you to places that the average tourist will never see. I’ve seen things that others will see only in photos. I’ve stood on the side of the bluest glacier fed lake thinking “I wish my grandma could see this.” As a side note, my grandma is 96, now lives in Toronto and has never been West.
(3) Tent camping helps us appreciate the little things in life that we so often take for granted like flushing toilets, ice cubes, hot showers, dry socks and the sun. Some of these are luxuries that most in developing countries do without on a regular basis. This reminder of privilege keeps me grounded.
(4) Forces us to think about the food we put in our body. I think about packing enough good fat, protein and yes carbs in that order. I’m not a fan of processed food so at first this was challenging. But then my old boss introduced me to his dehydrator and it’s been a game changer. I also think about portion sizes and I haven’t quite figured this out. When I cook too much, I generally stuff myself until I feel gross or find other hungry campers. If I don’t make enough I go to bed hungry. How often do you go to bed hungry? It’s humbling.
(5) Have you ever felt off? Perhaps you have a busy schedule and not a lot of down time. Backpacking slows life down. It gives you the opportunity to reconnect with yourself and with your companions. I can’t wait until my little niece and nephew are old enough to start hiking with me. I can’t wait to share my love of nature with them and to help them feel connected to the earth and to themselves. I feel that the people who know me best are the people who have walked with me in the forest. This is where I am my truest self.
Have I left something out? These are my personal experiences. I would love to hear yours.