Once in a WM program, after the first hours on our very first day, our group stopped to refresh in a local cafe. I noticed that Vince*, which was more or less my age, was looking very attentive to his mobile phone, which I found a bit strange after a long morning with many kilometers.
A few minutes later, Vince approached me with a serious face. In an honest way, he said that he was questioning what he was doing and the way he was doing it. We set down, and I ask him to explain me better what was bothering him.
As I understood, he was walking and sharing his experience on Facebook. As he went, he also started receiving comments from friends. He became confused because, despite the positive feedback received and the interest generated, there were also questions he could not process correctly. Some friends told him that the walking part of the experience was beautiful, but the backpack he was carrying should go on a taxi or on a transfer since it was not the most efficient way to walk.
As far as I remember, I agree with him, which caused him even more surprising.
From a distance walking with a rucksack with 7 or 8 kilograms is not the most efficient way to move around. You will be much slower and more tired. Not to mention the heat and sweating.
What seems obvious to us doesn’t necessarily need to be evident to others. I took a deep breath and thought to myself about the fundamental reasons for doing what I was doing.
Mainly there are two approaches to look at your backpack while walking, a rational reason and a spiritual one. They are not exclusive and can perfectly walk together.
When you advance for a long time surrounded by nature and the elements you want to make sure you carry with you enough protection and comfort to face off the challenges of every day. Heat, cold, wind, or rain are usual travel companions. We often hear that there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. You can also take with you enough food, medicine, a diary, a pen, and water. All of these are good reasons to take a backpack with you. But there are others.
When you carry all your belongings inside such small equipment, the amount of freedom you welcome into your life is unbelievable. If there is something you need to care about it is all inside your backpack. By reducing your possibilities, you are increasing exponentially your capacity to appreciate what you have and enjoy every moment of everything.
Each time you revise your backpack, you become a (better) essentialist and minimalist. Each morning it becomes more clear that less is better (not necessarily more).
But the question from Vince continued to drill down on my brain.
When you walk an average of 4km per hour, it is never an efficient way to reach a specific physical location in less time. On the other hand, it is probably the shortest distance to make you dive into yourself.
When you are truly present, you become part of the flow in you and around you. Your thoughts begin to circulate more clearly and profoundly, like a river running to the Ocean. No matter the detours, you are always moving in the right direction.
Your whole body in motion, allows your mind to feel free and after some kilometers, you are actually free. Step by step, you detach from your current situation and start gaining perspective. A healthy hygienic distance that clears up the real size of your challenges and opportunities. Usually, that’s when the neurotransmitters begin to kick in inside your brain.
Walking is never just walking. It is simultaneously a school and medicine.
A school, because you have the opportunity to learn about yourself, the world, the local people, and culture, but also nature and everything else that the route tosses at you. It is also a Ph.D. of patient and resilience, depending on the distance you decide to walk.
For instance, the mountain in front of you will take 2, 3 or 4 days to reach and there is nothing you can do make it different, except enjoying every step forward.
In parallel, walking is also a medicine, especially in our modern world. It purifies your thoughts and helps you to focus on what matters in each moment. Prioritization comes naturally, one idea after the other.
And what about the backpack? Why do we need a backpack?
The backpack is always the metaphor of our life. What we put inside we need to carry. If it is too much it becomes too heavy, if we forget the essentials we will miss them down the road. Some amazing song mention that you cannot hide from yourself, at the end of the day you have to carry your own weight.
Vince was looking at me in silence after I finished my answer. Probably this was not the explanation he was waiting to hear. But life on the road has shown me that when words are short, nature will fill in the blanks. So we continued our walk.
At the end of the week, it was good to receive such feedback from the participant I mentioned :
“It’s difficult to find the program, which is more physically and intellectually intense. It looks like walking, but in the end, it’s thinking and crystallizing the best ideas which you have in your head.”
Until the end of 2019, there are still a few options and places available if you need to “practice” carrying your backpack:
- October (5-12) in the Footsteps of Santa Teresa de Ávila (Spain),
- Midlife Transition in Costa Vicentina in early November (2-10).
- Finally, there is a new program The year-end wrap-up in Alqueva Lake (Portugal) which is the opportunity to revise the end of your annual journey and plant the seeds to the road ahead.
Keep Walking with me,
João Perre Viana
*Vince was not the real name of the participant:) but the story made me think for real.