On Why I Hike

Imagine winning five million dollars in the lottery and you suddenly had no debt. Your home is paid in full. No car payments. You don’t need to charge the cost of getting things done or to do what you want to do. Imagine having the amazing freedom this would provide.

So, what would you do? You have enough money now that you can buy anything you want. You can travel to places you want to see. With all that loot, you could become the next rags-to-riches investor. If that money is properly invested, you will have enough money until the day you die. And if you do it right, the money could continue providing for generations to come. But now that you have it you will have important decisions to make and one of them is would you go back to work?

I’ve long thought about this. I don’t even bother buying lottery tickets, so this will never happen to me, but I’ve thought quite a bit about it. What would I do with myself? I do enjoy my work, and my colleagues. But I came to conclude that if I were to win that money, I would most certainly and quickly decide to retire.

If I were a doctor I might claim that my purpose in life is to heal. If I were a man of god, I might claim to find purpose in helping my fellow beings find religion. If I were a farmer I might claim that my purpose is to feed the hungry. But I’m neither a healer, nor a prayer, nor a feeder. I sell printing and marketing services. I can do anything I want, I know, but this is where I am. I guess it’s hard to get pass that what I do is probably not important to the cosmic workings of the world, or even just my world. This isn’t my purpose. I should be looking on and moving forward to find what that is.

A few months back, I cleaned up my life. I dumped the landline and gave up a phone number I had for 22 years. I unplugged our cable box, packed it up and took it down to AT&T to return their gear. At work, I made a folder on my computer desktop and entitled it “Personal.” Into it, I dragged whatever I found on the computer to be mine. I found 3 photographs, copies of two letters I sent to my brother before he died, a scan of a paystub from eight years ago and a document not yet complete – a letter to my financial planner whom I intend to fire. All but the Dear John letter to my financial planner were put in the folder which was then trashed and deleted.

I cashed in a life insurance policy that was beginning to reverse its cash value. I updated the gift list of my will. I deleted a lot of my “friends” from my contacts list. I put into the give-away pile a few t-shirts I’ve never worn.

In my car, I found old copies of proposals to clients, paper swatch books that were out of date and a coupon for Frito’s that expired January 31, 2009. I’m not sure why I had this coupon because I don’t typically eat or buy Frito’s. But there it was with the other clutter I found in the trunk. I collected it all up and tossed it out.

Lately, I’m moving about my life looking for what provides meaning and what does not. I go from one pile to the next, reviewing and assessing, keeping and tossing out. I feel like I’m cleaning house and getting organized. But I don’t think that’s what it’s all about. I don’t need to get organized. I need to find ways to move forward. That is what I’m trying to do. Figure out what carries meaning and what does not. And I want to step on.

Our lives are largely made up, I think. We create needs and our routines all by ourselves. It’s not like there is a playbook somewhere out in the cosmos that dictates what we do with ourselves. We control what we become, who we are. Unless you’re a fatalist I guess. But we choose to live in 2000-square foot homes, drive $30,000 cars and belong to gyms. We decide what work we do, what things we need. It kind of sounds more like Hedonism than Fatalism, philosophically speaking.

Other than the food we eat and shelter to protect ourselves and family what else do we really need? I’ve been getting into this whole Tiny House thing going on and am completely fascinated. In most cases due to local laws, these tiny homes must be on wheels. They range between 150 to 500-square feet. With ingenious design and proper planning usually one person or a couple will move in and have virtually everything they need to sustain their shelter. Of course it requires a total scaling down of belongings. But what emerges is a very simple way of living. In a way, these people strip their lives down to its core, free from all the self-made stuff that make up their lives. And then they are told to ask themselves, what left is important?

We recently hiked a patch of the PCT and climbed Forester Pass. At some 14,000 feet, it is the highest point of the entire trail. The climb starts out with a gentle slope and the peak is in view but it’s a long way off. When we got to the very base of the climb, the climb became much more vertical with switchbacks. The climb was brutal and long and it was hot and dry. But we plodded on. We reached the top exhausted but elated. We conquered at least one of the most demanding challenges the PCT tossed our way.

When I’m out on the trail, the core I spoke of above, that core of who I am aside from the self-made part of me like being a salesperson, tends to come out and find me. I feel for at least the time I’m there, the self-made stuff fall away and I just kind of forget about it all. I think of what I’m doing at that moment, moving forward and getting done the job of the day. When I hike, I see real progression, one step after the other, one step further to where we are going. It all makes sense and it’s simple. It’s so unlike the cluttered world we all seem to be in, with our headache complications and dramas and all. None of that is truly important. None of it.

And now, I think, it all sounds a little Existential.

Lynn

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6 thoughts on “On Why I Hike

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