Another gust slammed into my one-person tent, forcefully pushing its wall toward my lying body. The sound of howling wind echos through the long night.
I had slept only for a couple of hours before the wind suddenly became violent and started to shake my tent like a toy boat. My weather app didn’t forecast high winds tonight. Luckily, I securely staked my tent to prevent unpleasant experiences on my first backpacking trip. Still, I wonder if the next gust would yank the pegs off or break the poles.
There is nothing my backpacking partner and I can do to stop the force of nature. We will weather it until dawn, pack up our camping gear, and head back for the parking area three miles down the hiking trail.
Camping was not part of my life until recently. I grew up in orderly, cleanliness-obsessed Japan, where we take off our shoes before entering a home and put on house slippers so that our feet don’t touch the dust on the floor. This sense of order and cleanliness stayed with me even after living in the U.S. for thirty years.
As I cultivated intimacy with nature and began spending more time outdoors hiking and relaxing, camping became my favorite pastime. I joined a local Facebook hiking group which was also for backpackers. Once I learned what backpacking meant, I fell in love with the idea of hiking to a campsite carrying all my camping gear.
Backpacking is pure minimalism: take only what we need to survive. To do that without relying on any vehicle, tool, or help from others felt empowering.
Backpacking became one of my goals for this year which I named the Year of Empowerment. This year, I encourage myself to step out of my comfort zone and try things that will make me feel stronger and more confident.
When I need to choose something or take up a new task, I ask myself if it will help me grow my power. If the answer is YES, I go for it. This process leads to a bolder and more radiant me that I love.
“Backpacking? I would rather go glamping!”
My girlfriend didn’t understand my passion for camping and backpacking.
“I don’t want to push myself hard.”
I get it. I don’t want to push myself either.
What I’m feeling is the opposite sensation of pulling: being pulled to something exciting, fun, meaningful, and satisfying.
I listen to my heart’s yearning and follow it to enjoy the sweet taste of the life fully lived. I bought backpacking gear and created a training regimen. I started by hiking for a mile with a 15-pound backpack. It soon increased to a couple of miles of hiking with a 15-pound pack.
I raised the bar little by little: not pushing myself hard with a grimace but gently leaning into a gradual ascent of my power.
In a few weeks, I reached my goal of hiking a 3-mile trail with gentle inclines with a 25-pound pack.
I reach for my phone to check the time. The night is now the darkest before the dawn. I open my weather app again. The gust icon is now showing at 8 am. It doesn’t look like the weather is going to improve. I calmly compare the risks of enduring the rough weather and taking down the tent in the high winds.
“Let’s start packing up,” my campmate’s text comes in as if she read my mind. “Yep, we had better leave soon,” I reply.
We manage to fold our tents that want to fly away like kites. After checking the ground to make sure we leave nothing behind, we put on our backpacks and hike back to the parking area. The sliver of the moon is hanging low in the dark sky like a smile. Bright stars illuminate our path.
I feel something fundamentally shifted inside me: I’m no longer the person who was hiking the same trail just yesterday.
The winds are now calming down. We see the first ray of the sun spreading from behind the Enchanted Rock. My backpack is lighter after half of the water I carried to the campsite has gone.
I feel energetic despite sleeping only for a couple of hours. With the blessings from the rising sun, I celebrate the emergence of a new me: a calmer, stronger, and more confident.
Self-empowerment is a journey. Take one step at a time.