I spent the last two weeks hiking the Overland Track and surrounds in Tasmania in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair World Heritage Area. Most incredible time? Yes. It was just myself, 4 friends, and my backpack – a weighty third of my body weight.
I write this post to not only share some of my favourite photographs of the trip, but also because I like to think a lot while walking, and one of the many things I was thinking was why responsibilities are like a backpack, specifically, that 15-20kg monstrosity I carried every day for 10 days.
Strapping myself into my backpack and feeling it on day one opened my eyes to a world of horror – surely I wasn’t going to carry this thing up a mountain for the next week?! I could barely walk the short 100m from the visitor centre to the caravan park! My sister and I exchanged nervous glances and joked heartily that “they say the first day is the hardest!” Those extra kilograms were sharply felt, and had me silently sweating over the possibility that I might not be able to accomplish what I wanted, that the strain would be too much. The amount of times I have felt similarly on embarking on a new project with new responsibilities are too numerous to mention.
Though I initially felt the bag weighing me down considerably, it is surprising how quickly I forgot it was even there. I mean, I knew it was there, I felt it and saw it every time I turned around. Those around me could see it and could remind me of it. But like responsibilities, you kind of get used to them pretty quickly.
Now this can be good and it can be bad. It’s good because what was initially a struggle and felt super weighty, you come to find is actually okay, and manageable. In fact, you can climb mountains with it! On the bad side, sometimes we get so used to the weight that we forget what it feels like when we don’t have it… that light step! That feeling that you could fly! … that is, at least, until we get used to it again.
Backpacks also share other similarities with responsibilities: There were some things in my backpack that were truly needed for my survival – my meager rations for the trek, water, a warm sleeping bag – whereas other things I quickly found I probably didn’t need to be carrying around with me – those fingerless gloves turned out to be not so essential and I probably could have gone with a lighter set of cutlery (or none? who needs cutlery these days!). Likewise, I find myself accumulating responsibilities in life which strictly speaking, aren’t needed, nor are beneficial, or in the very least, I could have taken slightly less responsibility and done the same job.
Other comparisons can be made. Responsibilities, like backpacks, also have many positives. I even began to look forward to putting on my pack each morning, as it gave me a purpose, it propelled me forward (quite literally, momentum is a great thing), and it was a kind of comfort that I was getting used to. Sometimes shrugging on the straps of responsibility are as good, for different reasons, as shrugging them off at the end of the day.
At the end of the hike when I took off my pack, I felt liberated! No more walking, or swaying, gently from side to side perilously close to tipping off the track. No more sore shoulders and slightly crushed hips! . . . But soon I was just as used to not having it on my back as I had become when it weighed me down – I was used to being ‘just me’ once again.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you are carrying on your back, as you will adjust and you will become used to it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how heavy your responsibilities are, as in the end you will get just as used to carrying them as if you weren’t. And because some things really are essential to carry around with you, you just need to make sure that you’re carrying the right responsibilities, and as long as you are pointed in the right direction, carrying them will not be a burden, but a pleasure, and something that aids you in where you want to go.
I know I am going to do this walk again (spring 2016, lock it in) and next time my backpack will be different to this time. I guess some of the things my musings have made me realise is that, like anything, you need to have responsibilities to appreciate not having responsibilities. You need to wear the backpack in order to be able to appreciate taking the backpack off again. You need to choose carefully what you take with you, as the useful things will make you feel so much more fulfilled and will help you the most on the track, whilst the other stuff will simply drag you down, tire your body, and possibly leave you hungry and with a headache.
But most of all, my musings and my hike in general has reaffirmed the importance of making sure you’re going where you want to be going…
You don’t need to waste time lugging your bag around in the car park when you’re supposed to be in the national park.
Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain. [Kerouac]
You can view and buy more photos I took here.