Somehow, when deciding to walk the Camino this summer, it never occurred to me that I would be backpacking.
Please understand: I am pretty much the least outdoorsy person I know. My small group drags me camping most years, and I do begrudgingly enjoy it, but it is never something I would choose to do for fun if I were the one choosing the activity. Hiking and backpacking are something I NEVER would have imagined doing. But the dream of the Camino drew me in, and I had bought my airline tickets already before I realized that I would essentially be backpacking across a country.
What followed was a huge learning curve about all things outdoorsy.
Now I am all outfitted with my outdoorsy belongings: hiking boots, backpack, water pack, hat, trekking poles, good quality clothing… it’s a new experience.
I began training – walking to work and back each day was not nearly enough mileage, so long walks on weekends have become a staple. 25 kilometres on a Saturday is now a new normal. On a Saturday when I only walked 12 kilometres, I marvelled at how short that seemed, AND at how I have become a person who says things like, “I ONLY walked TWELVE kilometres yesterday.”
Amidst the training, I quickly learned how weight in a backpack is relative: the longer you walk, the heavier it gets. Walking with a backpack weighted at 25 pounds is a good way to realize that I only need to take the absolute necessities and nothing else. For the most part, this is easy to discern – one change of clothes, my hat, sunscreen, the barest of toiletries (seriously: comb, nail clippers, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, hair elastics), flip-flops, and headlamp.
And then there is this tiny bottle of gel that keeps making it into the box where I’ve been gathering my supplies.
My hair is a little uncontrollable if I don’t do something with it. This is what I tell myself when I put the bottle in.
Then I remind myself that this trip is definitely not about what I look like, and every bit of extra weight is dumb. I take it back out.
A few hours or days later, I think about how nice it would be to feel like I look presentable after a long day. The bottle goes back in.
Again, after a while I tell myself how ridiculous it is. I will wear my hair clipped up or in a ponytail. It’s a pilgrimage, for goodness’ sake.
This is such a dumb story, right? A bottle of hair gel – it’s almost inconsequential. And yet even though I know how inconsequential it is to have with me, I can’t help but keep trying to pack it, against all logic. This has made me wonder how much of my life and my decisions are controlled by, essentially, vanity. In the Case of the Hair Gel, vanity over my appearance. But in life in general, vanity of all sorts – how I appear to others. I want to appear like I’ve got all aspects of my life together, to look perfect to any outsider.
I can’t help but remember God’s words to Samuel: “For people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
May I continue to learn to be unconcerned about how I appear to others, and learn to be right before God!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down… (Hebrews 12:1)