Be a dirt bag.
Not the quintessential type, with nefarious intentions, low intellect, crude language, and loose morals. The frugal kind.
We Americans are in love with spending funds. We like making money, complain when we aren’t making enough, and, despite what some commentators on national news will tell you, we like to spend it. We measure the value of people based on possessions.
What type of housing arrangements, the transportation we use, our entertainment choices, clothes, electronic devices, food, and education all identify our value in relation to society. You can do some research on your own, but might I suggest starting with Pope Francis and his comments about six months ago? He criticized the obsession. I don’t watch Fox News that often, but I vaguely remember huffy persons voicing opinions that sounded an awful lot like the Pope should stick to religion, we’ll do the money part. I’ll stick with the Pope on this one, and I’ll disagree about clerical marriage (it can only help the faith, come on Francis).
Spending is a problem. I went through an effort and managed to chastise myself. That’s hard to do when I am preparing for the journey of a lifetime. The inclination to purchase the best, and hopefully lightest, gear is unbearable. Especially when you have the means. But having the means does not translate into “Go and get it”, especially when I may not need it, or if I can make it. What about buying second hand? A once used sleeping bag is just as good as a brand new one shipped from Colorado. Right?
This thru-hike is taking on a life of its own. It is tempering mine and Bailey’s habits. We are conditioning ourselves to think differently, separate from the comfortable first world problems. I don’t need a pillow. Not when I will be wearing the same unwashed clothing. This walk is about shedding. Eliminating. Downsizing. Can we fit it into a stuff sack? Does it do anything else, other than what it is designed for? If not, can I do that task with something else?
My father-in-law once again brought up dangers on the trail. This probably has more to do with his lack of having done any backcountry travel than anything else. I stated he was, and has always been, a man who only stepped so far, and never wandered off. Other family members chimed in as well. Bears, snakes, sketchy vagrants, and serial killers. I brushed them off. People are in fear. Fear of being lonely, hurt physically, emotionally, catching a disease (the people at Fox News are totally certain we will run afoul of Ebola), terrorists, immigrants, the government, religion, offending others, being offended, losing sleep, or even being forgotten (which is why Facebook exists, so you aren’t forgotten, do away with your Facebook page and email me when you do).
I left home at eighteen. I went to places where I did not speak the language, and ate the food they put in front of me. If any of you have ever been in the military you know the native of the land will feed a U.S. serviceman anything. If I ordered up something that might have offered up the appearance of beef it might have been goat, or something more dubious. It never tasted like beef. I have never had a problem venturing off, with or without another person by my side. In fact, this thru-hike is the first time I ever planned anything for a length of time greater than a week. The unknown does not trouble me, and after reading about other travelers it should not trouble any of us.
The Dirt Bag has the right idea. Only that which is necessary should concern any of us. Collect or make whatever else you might need along the way. I may be diverting here, but Jesus was of the same mind. I won’t put the quotes or verses down, that would discourage anybody from looking them up, which is always good. Don’t take my word for it.
Strangers do not trouble me, and I’ve seen bears in the woods before. Nothing to fear, unless of course you smell like pie. Most of the fears we have are ridiculous and unwarranted. The terrible reality is the struggle for status, and the unnecessary desire to be comfortable, coupled with childlike fear, have stopped all of us from doing monumental things in our lives. Not the sort of things that gain recognition, because plenty of people achieve that. The type of things that test and prove ourselves to our ourselves. Which is why we are timid about stepping away from the known, saying what we want, or walking away when the time has come (for those of you that hate how you attempt to create money, do something else).
You were born screaming, and you will die with a sigh. Everything in between are the significant parts. Climb a mountain, write a book, make a movie, cure a disease, paint a work of astounding beauty. Because when that last sigh comes it should not be anything other than one of relief that you have finished.