Do you remember the last time you were completely alone with just your thoughts to keep you company? No phone, no internet, no distractions. It seems a little intimidating at first, to even think about processing life without our handy dandy smartphones. We have become so accustomed to numbing ourselves with these artificial "company keepers" that when we are finally alone, it feels like we constantly need to be talking to someone, doing something, keeping busy.
I just spent five days in the wide open wilderness of the Colorado Flat Tops. With no phone, internet, or anything but real, live humans (and a human-like dog) to keep me company. And, of course, a constant stream of internal dialogue. What I realized during these five days boils down to this:
1. Humans are impressive creatures. We think deeply, love deeply, and are always trying to better ourselves.
2. Family, whether blood-related or not, is always the source of a smile and infinite words of wisdom.
3. It's okay to miss someone so much it hurts, because then you know how much they truly mean to you.
4. It's not okay to eat PowerBars on an empty stomach. You will throw up. At least I did.
5. Never underestimate the power of yourself. You are always stronger than you think.
6. Nature is astonishingly awesome. Cherish it. Cherish your time in it. Revel in the little things.
I can honestly say that the past five days have changed me for the better. I have been doing this annual backpacking trip since I was a freshman in high school, but it has never impacted me the way it did this year. I grew closer to my family, and farther away from my insecurities and worries. Being in nature has the impressive ability to change how we think about pretty much everything. We become essentialists. There are less things to distract us from enjoying the current moment. We are finally present within ourselves: how our muscles, bones, and mind work together to propel us forward; how our breath matches our movement; the way our lungs settle and and strengthen after gasping for air just moments before.
By the end of the five days I was both sad and happy that we were packing up camp to head home. "Happy" because my sleeping pad had a hole in it, and sleeping on bare ground is stiff and freezing. Also happy because I was ready for food with texture (although the freeze dried food we had wasn't all that bad. And my brother caught two fish so yum.) I was "sad" because I wasn't ready to leave the lifestyle I had so quickly become accustomed to. A little, orange two-person tent had become my home, my shelter, my safe spot. I felt the calmest I had felt in months. So naturally, of course I didn't want to go back to the hustle and bustle of "real-world" life.
But then I realized: why can't that sense of presence and calm become my real-world life? It will take more work to distance myself from technology and every day distractions (ironic that I'm writing this on a laptop and posting it to the internet? I don't know.). I will have to devote time to my internal dialogue. I will have to really stop to appreciate all the little things in life, because they are truly what make life so grand.
I could not be more grateful for my time spent out in the woods this past week. It has made me a fresher, happier, and more appreciative person. I came back smelling absolutely offensive, but radiating a happiness I hadn't felt in a long time. So yay to mountains, yay to backpacking, and yay to new perspectives!