It seems silly at times to spend so much effort in figuring out the future when the future often takes care of itself, and yet I would like to live a more spontaneous life than I’ve done so far, and that takes planning.
For example, I would like to set off on an adventure in an effort to live spontaneously, just go where the wind blows (or, considering how much I dislike wind, go where the wind doesn’t blow), but whether I am on foot or in a car, I will need to be prepared in case my adventure takes a disastrous turn. And even if there is no major disaster, just minor calamities like blisters, such mishaps could take some of the spontaneity and all of the fun out of an adventure.
There are many things I cannot know — or plan — until I am free of my current responsibilities looking out for my 97-year-old father. It could be that my father outlives me. It could be that I would want to hang out in this town for a while longer, especially if I weren’t ready to leave my friends and my various activities. It could be I would want to do a more structured adventure to begin with, such as a women’s wilderness adventure. It could be I would want to — or need to — take a car trip first to get used to living an unsettled life, then gradually work up to a walking trip. It could be that I won’t be physically capable of walking for miles on end. It could be that that after all these months — and eventually, perhaps, years — of planning, I decide to quit after a day or two.
For now, thinking about an epic walk is like working a puzzle. What would I do with my glasses at night? What would I need at bare minimum? How would I carry those necessities? What would I wear?
I carried a five-pound weight in a backpack on one of my local walks, thinking it would be a good way to get acclimated to carrying extra weight. I didn’t expect any problem at all — five pounds is not much, and I’d recently lost at least that much weight. After three miles, however, my buttocks hurt and so did the tops of my feet. I still don’t understand why there would have been any noticeable difference, unless it is where I carried the weight. The five pounds was on my mid-to-lower back, but when you carry an extra five pounds of body weight, that weight is distributed throughout your body, so no one muscle would feel the effects. I’ve been wondering if a belly pack would offset some of the weight of a backpack, giving a better distribution of the weight, but my online researches have turned up no answer. I do know that if you develop your quad muscles at the expense of your hamstrings, you can end up with knee problems, so it’s possible the same sort of physiology would hold true when carrying weight. I suppose one of these days I’ll have to get both a pack and a belly pack and see how it goes.
Speaking of backpacks, many of them weigh four to five pounds. Yikes! That’s close to the maximum of what I want to carry. If I do get a pack, I’ll be checking the weight. And size. I always thought you just saw one you liked at the price you liked and bought it. Apparently not.
Then there’s the matter of clothing. Experienced hikers say not to wear cotton, to wear fast drying wicking fabrics, especially for garments that hug the skin, like socks. One woman went so far as to say that anyone who wore cotton socks even for walking short distances was an idiot. Apparently cotton keeps the feet wet, provides no warmth, and causes blisters, while wicking fabrics “wick” the moisture away from the skin and keep the feet dry. My problem is that synthetic fabrics make my skin sweat, so perhaps my skin would be warm and dry, but I’d be walking in a swamp. This past winter I got some wicking ear warmers. I never knew ears could sweat so much! So now I’m back to using silk scarves to tie around my ears for protection. I’ll have to look into silk sock liners. Or alpaca socks. I never even knew there were such things.
The more I try to figure out the logistics of such a trip, the more I want to scrap all my plans. Just take off. Nothing but me, some random clothing, and whatever I can fit into my pockets. Now that’s a plan for spontaneity!
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.