Writer’s Note: This was written during the second week of March in 2020, as I returned from a solo Grand Canyon hiking trip. A time right before the virus hit before it all unknowingly became the world we know today.
A Backpacking Story Out Of The Grand Canyon
You might think the hard part of a backpacking trip is the actual hiking with an overstuffed 25lb pack on your back. The reality is… the hard part of backpacking is having to return.
At this time last week, I was on my way towards my first solo backpacking trip into the Grand Canyon.
A part of me was feeling overwhelmed knowing that as I neared the Canyon, I would lose all cell reception. From my phone, I took numerous screenshots of the maps and directions I needed, for fear of getting lost and stranded alone. I tried my best to quiet down the anxious thoughts of what to do if my car broke down on an empty stretch of road or what to do if I became lost.
So, needless to say I was on edge about my phone losing signal.
After driving into the park, getting my permit and setting up camp…. I was finally in the position to be able to relax. No more things needed, “to do” just to relax, sleep, wake up early and start hiking down.
My phone went on airplane mode and safely tucked away, only coming out when I purposely thought I could capture some cool videos/photos for my IG stories (although I couldn’t post them in real time).
Over the next few days, I saw wonderful things. Talked to amazing happy people. I enjoyed my journey of being there in my own company. The journey that only I, really knew about.
It hadn’t been shared, meaning no one has seen my pictures. It is a complete adventure that only I knew and still know only about. I don’t want to share it. I want to keep this trip, only for me.
I silently feel proud and happy for myself. I did this on my own and had my own awesome adventure.
After the trip now back home safely, one of the first things I did was to grab a slice of well-deserved pizza and I sat on my couch. The tv was already on, my dogs were happy with their tails wagging and with their hot breath panting into my face, begging for some pizza crust. I found myself in this moment, somehow feeling empty.
I mean, after days of adventure spent in nature and out of my comfort zone, it’s now over and I’m right back to sitting on the couch. Almost as if it never even happened.
I began to further feel depressed, so I unknowingly grabbed for my phone. As soon as my hand felt my phone I immediately recognized this action was a reflex. I didn’t really want to be on my phone. Luckily, as soon as I caught myself, I put my phone back down.
But, within a minute I had it back in my hand again and had just tapped the Instagram app icon. While the app was beginning to open, I quickly closed it again.
I wanted to stay wild a bit longer. I didn’t want to return back into the real world.
Instead, I ate my pizza then went outside to enjoy the sunshine and a beer in my hammock. And I left my phone sitting right on the kitchen table.
In fact, for a few days I didn’t use my phone.
At Cody’s birthday party and at the Renaissance Festival there were so many great photo opportunities that I could have used on my Instagram feed. But, I didn’t take any pictures. I didn’t even pick up my phone.
Instead, I let others take the pictures. And, I enjoyed being in the moment.
I knew I couldn’t shut it off forever…but I could still stall a little bit longer.
First Day Back Into the “Real” World
Even the morning where I was getting ready to go into work. My typical routine is to listen to the news. But, on this morning, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know the news. I didn’t know what was happening with Corona Virus or the presidential election, or Harvey Weinstein.
My world felt better without me knowing.
So, I kept stalling. I put music on instead.
I got to work feeling refreshed and light. While I missed being outdoors, I knew that a little while longer and I’ll once again have enough money and time off saved up again for a new adventure. I felt hopeful and relaxed.
But throughout the day, little splices of the real world itched through my cracks. I learned from people that toilet paper is running low due to Corona Virus freak outs. I learned Bernie didn’t do so well and Elizabeth Warren dropped out. I overhead my co-workers complaining about their kids and during my lunch, ran on a treadmill at the gym with the stale indoor air.
By 3:30 pm, I was back in the gray dull dim office light of real life. Only now I noticed it bigger than ever.
I know, it’s all about attitude and how you think of things. But, man…getting that escape and then having to return back into the “real” world…is really emotionally hard.
I know that as time keeps going by…I’ll fall back into my routine. Into picking up my phone without realizing it. Back into taking pictures and posting them for social media, so that I feel like I’m doing something worth mentioning to strangers I don’t know. But, going on this trip made me realize more about myself and how I shouldn’t let that control me.
So, for the moment I’m still stalling. And I’m going to take it bit by bit. Bird by bird. And be more mindful at not just what I’m doing…but why I’m doing it as well.
Update: A week after writing this, I began (and continue) to work from home. I’ve gone on a few short day adventures but still haven’t felt the need or anxiety to post on social media. It’s actually been a blessing for me. Which, is why everyone should go spend a few days out in nature by backpacking. You’ll always return a changed person, I promise.