Departure: Imminent

(Note: Please click “Motorcycle Trip” under Categories at right to read in chronological order.)

Leaving in two days. It’s been a heck of a journey just getting here. In the last two weeks we’ve quit our jobs, sold our house, sold our furniture, gotten rid of a lot of our belongings and packed our remaining ones into ship-to-Europe boxes, store-in-NY boxes, or stuck them in the take-on-trip room or the take-on-plane room. The Europe and New York boxes are both too numerous, the take-on-trip room is impossibly full, and the take-on-plane room is strangely empty.

Stressful, yes. Agonizing over what to do with what, sometimes arguing over it (some things are easier done alone), realizing the ridiculousness of how much stuff we actually have (can you say “pack rat”, anyone?), knowing that among our peers we are actually rather lightly burdened (can you say “race of pack rats”?), and still failing to bring ourselves to throw, give, or sell away more than a fraction of it. Understanding that despite our good intentions, we’re just bringing more of the same with us on our motorcycle trip. Giving thanks that despite this constraints of space will force things to be at least somewhat reasonable.

Do we really need that French press accessory for our camp stove? Sealed coffee container to go with it? What about that water filter we’ll probably use only once? The pocket hammock? Ha!

It’s like the journey of ultralight hiking. You realize the weight of your rucksack is breaking your back and taking all the joy out of hiking. First you try cutting out a few luxuries. Then you spend a bunch of money reducing the weight of the items you continue to carry. Lightweight sleeping bags, tents, pots and pans – it’s all out there for the right price. Your bank account is hurting but you tell yourself it’s money well spent — happy experiences in the heart of nature await. Finally, excited and ready to skip down the trail in unburdened lightness of being, you set out on your first trip with all your new kit – and still find yourself busting your balls.

You may give up or tell yourself to be satisfied there. But you can also start to dig deeper and come to understand that the only way to go further is not to work on your pack, but on your mind. You need to change your conceptions not just of what you want, but of what you need. Partly it’s a matter of new skills — how to pick your campsites, what types of food calories to bring, how to layer your clothes, etc.. Partly it’s ingenuity, refusing to carry any item that doesn’t serve at least two purposes, making less do more. Eat out of your pots, sit and sleep on your pack’s back pads, pitch your tent with trekking poles, stuff like that. But mostly it’s attitude. Do you really need a tent to live outdoors, or can you get by with a tarp? Is a sleeping bag really the most efficient approach, or can clothes and a quilt do the same? And why are you carrying that book along?

In the end, you’ll find something interesting has happened. While you were concentrating on reducing your pack weight so you could enjoy nature, you’ve actually been brought closer to nature itself. By learning to work with it rather than against it, and carrying fewer distractions, you have a purer experience in the outdoors, more in tune with the surroundings.

Long motorcycle trips (including this one) should be done the same way. But it’s hard to hone the technique when you only do one every few years, and spend the rest of the time surrounded by the comforts and gadgets of modern life. We’ll see where we end up.

About ABR

I'm just this guy, you know? And please click on the Category links on the right to read things chronologically.
This entry was posted in Colorado+ 2013, Motorcycle Trip, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Departure: Imminent

  1. mer says:

    Exactly, and no matter what size bag/room you pick, it seems like you manage to fill it with “essential” stuff! After three years of living out of vans, and living on boats before that, I’ve become distressed not just by the amount of stuff I own but the amount of stuff I actually USE as part of a daily routine. Sunblock, moisturizer, various vitamins (some of which require refrigeration!), notebook, layers of clothing, etc….I find one thing that works and then am totally unable to leave home without it. Like my titanium spork. Why is that so essential in my everyday life? Clearly if I were in the wild I would immediately die without my titanium spork.

    It’s the old attachment vs. comfort problem. At points I was able to shed some of my belongings, but instead of being happier, I found that I felt more lost. There must be a balance in there somewhere I haven’t found yet, and as you said part of that is skill and part of that is mental. Which brings us right back to Buddhism. From what I understand they seem to encourage that “lost” feeling, but having been pretty close to the edge I have to think there is a difference between crazy and free.

    Or was Janis right on when she said “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose”?

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