I’m a heavy sleeper.
When I moved to Boston in 2011, I came from the little antiquing town of Snohomish, Washington, where everything moved more slowly, and the pressure of city life was far away. Suddenly, sirens, musical instruments, talking, laughing, and car horns surrounded me daily, but the noise didn’t really bother me. I could sleep through it; it was exciting.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that even when you’re not really bothered by the noises of the city, you sometimes need a break from the relentless activity, the fast pace, the people surrounding you.
At these times, a quiet place becomes the most important place in the world. The last two summers, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time at a beautiful, peaceful little lake in the Adirondack mountains of New York. There’s no internet or cell service at the house, only one tiny grocery store in town, and the closest large town is about 40 minutes away.
This quiet place in a loud world is utterly perfect, and I think we all need one like it to remind ourselves of how little all that noise really matters.
Unless you’re familiar with the Seattle area, then the phrase “the mountain is out” probably doesn’t mean much to you. Isn’t a mountain always out?
The persistent drizzle and cool overcast skies often hide the majesty of Mount Rainier. But on a clear day, when “the mountain is out,” it looks like this:
I grew up in the Seattle area, and I’ve been seeing Rainier since I was a little girl. But to this day, it still takes my breath away every time I see it. Most of the time, it’s when I’m driving South, and I have no chance to take a picture. So I marvel, and try not to crash the car.
Had a great Father’s Day surprise visit this weekend to my unsuspecting father–family gatherings, food, beer, good friends, the works. And of course, the mountain.
Most people enjoy a beautiful day hike, but not as many are thrilled with the idea of backpacking and sleeping outdoors–carrying the ridiculous amounts of equipment people need to survive and be comfortable. People go backpacking for a lot of reasons: to prove they can, to experience the outdoors, to see beautiful views. I would say that all of these reasons stem from one core motivation: doing something different. Our lives are surrounded by luxury, noise, comfort, and stress. Backpacking says no to the new normal.
I took my first backpacking trip this weekend, hiking up Mt. Liberty in the White Mountains with an enormous pack on my back. It sort of felt like a gust of wind would topple me without effort.
It was hard. I knew it would be hard. I found myself thinking: “Why the hell am I doing this?” a few times. I was doing it for all the reasons I mentioned above, and more. I was doing it for the camaraderie, for the satisfaction that comes from eating a simple meal high in the mountains that is somehow one of the more delicious things you’ve ever consumed. I was doing it to remove the stress of a million choices and anxieties, and focus on a few crucial tasks, like filtering water from a spring and climbing to the top of the mountain. I was doing it to get away from my normal life, a life that was so far from these quiet, natural surroundings that it might as well have been a different planet.
That is why.
Yesterday, when we got in the car, I was stinky and exhausted. Today, I am covered in fly bites and one gnarly spider bite. My calves wince at movement. They are building character. They are learning. And I will return to the woods.
I have a confession to make, dear diary.
Despite all my years of travelling to wonderful places, I have never once managed to keep a travel journal from beginning to end. I start off with a blank book and great intentions, then the entries fizzle off within days of leaving home.
My inability to journal (both daily journaling and travel journaling) has been a lifelong struggle–I love the catharsis of spilling my feelings onto the page, but once it feels like an obligation, I quit journaling with great haste.
I’ve kept a number of very sad, very incomplete journals since I started writing. My journal as an 8-year-old had probably 4 entries in it, one of which ended with “It was a grate day”. Exciting stuff. My dad is still amazed I learned to spell.
I think that entry from my childhood pretty much sums up why I don’t journal. I’m just not good at it. I try to remember all the details of my day, get bogged down and curt, and the result ends up being as exciting as corrugated cardboard. I’d like to get better at it–I’d like to be able to describe experiences as I go and draw on them later.
Experiences like swimming in a waterfall in Costa Rica. THAT WAS AWESOME. I have a picture to prove it (but no journal entry).
Maybe it’s time I change my journaling style. It’s not necessary to write down the chronology of one’s day, or anything else specific for that matter. To me, it would be an exercise in recording the events that might someday help me with creating my own pieces and remembering the places I’ve been.
For those of you who journal, what’s your style? Is it worth putting in the effort? How does it make you feel?
Spontaneous? Me? Nope.
I’m not the kind of person who just decides to take a trip at the last minute. I’m very deliberate, planning trips months in advance and taking no chances (I get that from my dad).
But next week, I’m going to Poland. And I only decided to go last week.
Every trip is a rush, a new story, and just the inspiration I need when I come back home. Sure, I had a little (or big) push from my Polish friend, but I don’t care.
Disclaimer: not Poland!
I’m doing something spontaneous. I’m going to Poland.
Updates to follow!