“The more you know, the less you need.”- Yvon Chouinard-
When we began our 5 month thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, our backpacks were bursting at the seams with stuff. We had five changes of clothes, we had fancy GPS units and cans of bear spray. We had piles of books and extra journals. We had deodorant.
After the first 100 mile wilderness in Maine, we were exhausted, dirty, mosquito-bitten and sopping wet thanks to a week’s worth of rain. We had blisters on our feet and collar bones due to the horrendous weight of all the stuff we were carrying. When we finally arrived in Monson several days later, we dumped our packs and did a full evaluation of what we had. We confronted the very basic and real questions that would save us from another 2000 miles of pain and suffering.
One by one, we asked:
- Did it serve a crucial purpose/was it absolutely essential?
- Did we use it everyday?
- Could we not live without it?
If the answer was no to any of those questions, those things were tossed into an empty box to be forwarded to our families. Away went the three extra t-shirts and three changes of pants; off went the books and extra journals; black bears eat berries, not people, bear spray had to go; deodorant? Sorry, but that had stopped working after the first few hours of hiking; into the box it went.
After that first pairing down of our packs, we experienced a huge shift in the daily pain we had succumbed to. Without the overbearing weight of stuff we didn’t really need, we moved with more ease and our muscles and bodies recovered.
The more you know, the less you need.
The lessons we learned about living simply as we walked from Maine to Georgia have woven themselves into many aspects of our life. If we’re approaching a problem on a rock face while climbing, or finding our way past the surf break; if we’re packing for a long distance backpacking trip, or moving across the world to another country, simplicity rules.
Whenever we examine the personal impacts we are having on this planet, whenever we look at our consumption and our waste, at the way we choose to spend our money and our time, all opportunities for improvement and positive impact have a major thing in common: simplicity.
The Value of Simplicity
Generally speaking, these days life is pretty complicated. We’re bombarded with a barrage of messages and information via news outlets, social media and a constant connection to global happenings. Our lives are easily cluttered with stuff- from the latest gadgets and the hottest clothing trends to an unmanageable amount of information. Technology is moving at a dizzying pace, encouraging us to stay constantly connected, not wanting to miss a thing. At the same time many people, despite having more stuff than ever before, are still unhappy and unsatisfied.
Simplifying different aspects of our lives can make us more aware and appreciative of what we have. It can help us find space and time to acknowledge the good things in our lives- the small things that bring us joy. We notice our surroundings in a different way once we simplify. We’re less distracted by our things and more engaged with our environment.
This ride is an opportunity for us to celebrate the simplicity of the journey. It’s a time to reflect on the natural beauty that surrounds us, and to enjoy the act of living each day in a new place, focusing our care and energy on our horses, dogs and one another, meeting new people and learning new ways of interacting with the world.
From the trail we’ll share stories of these experiences, of the simple lifestyle we embrace in order to have more experiences with less stuff. We’ll celebrate the simple things that make us smile or laugh, even when we’re exhausted, soaking wet and hungry. We’ll take time to reflect on how simplicity can be woven into the fabric of the solutions we need to make this world a better place.