Through the Lens Thursday: Backpacking Through Limitations

Travel, the saying goes, broadens the mind. It puts us in touch with different ways of thinking; helps us to appreciate the different ways people speak and look; and, if we’re especially lucky, makes us better for the time and effort. If that’s true of travel in general, backpacking — the form of travel you need to be the most unhinged to enjoy — not only broadens the mind, but redefines limitations.

I am a runner, one who is prepping for his first marathon in October. So far, my toughest days are hot and humid 10-milers that ensure I’ll be oozing bog stench and electrolytes for my trouble. My recent excursion from Tokyo’s Mt. Takao to Shizuoka City completely destroyed my notion that 10-miles is the most I can put my body through in a day. I did consecutive 10 and 14-mile days — with 50 lbs of gear strapped painfully to my shoulders. Some days, my partner and I had to drag our feet and packs through that mileage as it rained enough to eventually break through our shells. Before the trip, those elements coming together would have seen me giving up, not looking for more.

It’s not just fitness and mental determination that are tested and strengthened, either. As the lone Japanese speaker — albeit one of questionable ability — I literally could not afford to accept my previous skill-cap. If I didn’t want to pay too much for an hour at karaoke or a spot to sleep at a ryokan, I had to listen harder and think more when I spoke.

Even knowing how much I enjoy hiking — Atlas’s burden on my back and all — I never understood why I do it. Can’t I experience the same things on a day-hike without stuffing my life into a sack? Nope. I really can’t.

Why do you keep putting on your pack and boots, even knowing it’s going to hurt? Let me know in the comments below.

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