Monday, 30 January 2017

Lighten The Load

    While I’ve been in Australia and New Zealand I’ve noticed that my backpack is heavy. 

    When I packed it, in Crete way back in October I thought I was being frugal with what I was taking.

    I wasn’t.

    I had too much stuff and while lugging it to an airport was easy and even fun, taking it anywhere longer than a twenty minute walk was painful.

    I ditched the Jack Reacher novel in London and thought that everything else was a necessity.

    I had a lot of stuff to carry, struggling into my 75 litre rucksack (a 50 with a dinky 15 litre zip on extra thing) on buses and shuttles, the weight making me curse and the pain in my shoulders, back and hips making me grumpy and tired and sweaty. 

    A habit I’ve had most of my life is to focus on bad memories when I’m pissed off, frustrated or stressed. Lugging that much weight around and facing an uncertain future….I was going as far back as Primary school to vent my negativity. The cud for my brain to chew was unresolved issues from aeons past.

    While couch surfing in New South Wales I gave away my emergency spare tent (basically a bivvy bag with upgrades) to a young lady who hosted me.

    The pack seemed just that little bit lighter and my wallowing in bad reminiscence took a little bit longer to kick in.

    I tried a couple of weeks ago to do the Great North Walk but bailed after about 20 miles. My backpack weighed just shy of 29 kilos at that time. I was too tired to be negative then, and in too much pain to focus on anything other than staying upright and hydrated. Once I felt comfortable again, the bad thoughts came back every time I had to pick up that heavy burden once more.

    Two days ago I decided to have a Super Clean of my pack and ditched a lot of things. The tent was replaced by a lighter, more “lay down fully” version that only cost $50. All the charging cables I’d brought were examined along with the various plug adapters and I binned most. I also got rid of my coffee thermos, banana guard (google it), camping mug, bicycle muti tool, and my cameraman’s waistcoat with all the lovely pockets (that I’ve only worn 3 times since I got it as it’s shit with a backpack and I just kept telling myself it was a necessity when it wasn’t).

    Then I realised that the backpack itself, even when empty is on the heavy side and I needed to tailor the load accordingly. With 3-ish kilos of weight gone (left on my latest Couchsurfing host’s dining room table for her to select or discard) I found that I had a more positive outlook when I stepped out the front door for pastures new. BUT…the pain in my back and shoulders kicked in again after a while and the bad, unresolved bitterness churned up from the sewers of my memory hostel. 

    So yesterday I did an Ultra Super Clean Out and fine tuned the contents of the pack even more. It turned out that it wasn’t the load as a whole that was the issue. It was individual items, all adding up to make a weight that dragged me down each day I had to carry it. 

    Like my bad memories, just one on its own, or even two wasn’t a problem. But put that Swiss army knife with that Leatherman. Add that mess tin to that camping stove. Put that tent in with that Apple Macbook Air and that yoga mat with that sleeping bag and the weight began to press down on my shoulders like guilt on a 1970s High school governor.

    So I streamlined everything and now I find that I don’t get quite so grumpy quite so quickly. Like biting my nails I still bring up old memories to chew on but now it’s a little easier to suppress them. Today I walked about 16 miles, went to Mount Eden and later One Tree Hill and saw views to die for. I came back tired, sweaty and with VERY sore feet but after a shower, some yoga and a meal, I felt refreshed and free from negative shit.

    I lightened the load.

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