Backcountry / Work Balance

10:48 a.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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I often find that whether out on a day hike or for a longer treck in the backcoutry, coming back to work is often the most challenging part of the experience. Often the first few days back to work include thinking about trying to find a job that would allow for more time in the backcountry. My brother and I were talking about the balance between the responsibilities of work and the desire to be out in the backcountry more often ... and thought this would be an interesting discussion.

12:22 p.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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Nobody wants to go back to work lol.

2:25 p.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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Well said Mike068. Well Said. After about a week back in the rehearsal space, I'm ready for another trip. Maybe I can pre-record my parts and they can just play it back whenever they need! All in all my job isn't that bad except for the pay. It's not your regular 9-5 gig, but I often get a few consecutive weeks off to bounce around Francis Marion Ntl. forest or something a but further away like a Maine trip. Hay, the balance of the grind, family and the backcountry is what it's all about for me.

4:08 p.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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My experience with this has been a work 3-4 months of the year and hike/bike 8-9 months. I have done this since I was 21 and I am not 53. In 32 years, I have only worked about eight years and hike/biked the rest.

I decided when I was very yound that I did not want to do anything that cost too much money, like starting a family, going into a morgage on a house or having a car. I have not owned,driven or known how to drive a car all my adult life. I have saved probably 10's of thousands of dollars not owning a car, buying gas and all the expenses of having one.

I have bicycle toured all over the USA, but I started hitchhiking from 1977-82 when I did my first bike tour. I spent 20 years hiking in the Grand Canyon from September to April totally and have lived in Alaska, California, New England and been in 3/4 of the US since '77.

If you are youndg and don't allow peer pressure to rule your life, you too can learn to be free. I am now approaching my mid-fiftys and am as free as I was in my late teens. Its up to you, do you want to spend months outside hiking and not worry about work, or do you want to work hard to take a couple weeks off every year and get old and grey before your 40?

Choose a life of adventurous freedom or a life of miserable hard work till you retire. Course it helps to have a good job that will allow you to work a few months a year and take off the rest.

8:34 p.m. on August 24, 2009 (EDT)
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A great topic CoyotePacker.

Here's how it goes for me, can't speak for anyone else.

I work hard for a while, my family is very important to me, so I take care of those responsibilities first. Then I take a week off and go on an adventure that I have been planning in my spare time during those weeks of hard work.

I often make the 5 hour drive to NC, or sometimes the 7 hour drive to TN in order to get in the mountains. I actually have to take a few deep breathes sometimes to calm down when I first get on the freeway and the trip begins, I'm stoked!

Once on the trail, all my troubles melt away, I can relax and think clearly in ways not possible at the house. After I've been in the mountains for a couple days I often ponder what my life would be like if I had chosen a career in the outdoors. Or what it would be like if I lived a long time ago and had to build my own cabin, hunt for food and grow a garden, chop wood, or travel 50 or 60 miles to town to trade. Would I truly like that lifestyle or would I wish for the life I have now??

The time I spend in the mountains is crucial to my mental well being I think. My work is stressful, fast paced, and very competitive. I enjoy my work, but a break every now and then is important to me, it gives me a chance to step back and re-access where I'm at, and what changes need to be made to my priorities.

Spending time in the mountains seems to be good therapy for me, it definitely enriches my quality of life!

On the trip back home many thoughts run through my mind, such as: Am I truly happy in my current occupation? Is my work too consuming? Would I give it all up for a chance to just live peacefully in a cabin in the mountains?

I always come back to the same answer. Yes, I enjoy my job, I enjoy the challenges it brings. I think I need the challenges my work brings to be happy. I enjoy my trips in the mountains so much, in part, because they are special. I look forward to them so much because I don't get to go every day.

I do expect to go more often, and take longer trips as I get older and have less responsibility and more free time. I want to go to places out west, other countries, things like that.

Who knows....maybe someday I'll have a cabin in the woods, and stay in it several months at a time. That would be cool.

I'm sure the explorers and frontiersmen of the past would say...."It's a great life, fresh air, total freedom, no one to tell you what to do, but what I really would like is a hot bath, a good sit down restaurant meal, and a dentist to pull this tooth here!"

9:36 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Interesting thread here. After killing myself working full-time since the age of 23, I'd have to agree, that to the unattached, Gary's had one hell of a full life. I also see troutmans point about the beauty of raising your family but heading off to the wilderness every chance you can. There's a balance in there somewhere for me.

Since I am finished with my family responsibilities, and have nothing really holding me back, at 46 I feel its time to enjoy the wilderness as much as possible, and see what life has to offer. I am a bit too spoiled to go as minimal as Gary, but share his view of the constraints of having a full time job (feels too much like slavery). I guess it depends on how you are wired as an individual.

At the end of this school year, I might just live in my little truck camper, which is little more than a shell with a bed, and spend a year or more camping full time and seeing what I have been missing all these years.

I'd say, that if you are young and have no obligations, then by all means give it a shot, you have your whole life in front of you and spending a few years in the woods can be nothing but a good experience.

10:08 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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As I was pumping nylon off Sugar Mountain on a recent backpacking trip, I thought of why so few people backpack or live outdoors and then I realized we live in a culture of slavery, you could call it economic or work slavery. Backpacking requires huge chunks of time and if done correctly becomes a lifestyle choice and probably could be classified as a form of slavery in its own right, i.e. the addiciton to a lifetime of bag nights.

What keeps people indoors and in debt and enchained? Here's my take on it:

**The choice to pursue a career which demands too much of a time commitment per week. Most people work too much and choose to, based on these even earlier choices:

**To get married and start a family. The choice to have kids is the biggest cause of modern economic slavery. Very few people are gonna home school their children while living in a tipi or a wall tent and working one day a week or two. It's possible, but it takes the faithful choice of two inspired individuals, a husband and a wife, and even then the state apparatus may swoop in at any time to destroy the dream(having no flush toilets, etc).

**The crazy addiction to the expensive overbuilt house. This slavery induces people to enter into terrible mortages and 15 to 30 year debts which in turn commits them to a lifetime of full time work. They never consider living in a tent or a hogan or a tipi instead, and so they become enslaved.

**The addiction to technology, cable TV, dish TV, computers, cell phones, cars; all these things have a monthly fee and cause even more slavery to a higher cash flow.

**The nasty debacle of debt. Here the chained easily enter into contracts with credit cards, bank loans, car loans, home loans-- that never fully get paid off, and so the ruination of a life spent indoors and working and not outdoors and backpacking. A wall tent on a half acre could change this, but no, people continue to squander their lives away enslaved and indoors.

So, I guess after thinking about all of this, I'm well aware of how good it is to get out under a cloudy and rainy sky next to a singing river in a wilderness area of trails and trees. The funny thing is, no amount of money could buy this land to live on and yet by being mobile and willing to live w/o electricity or flush toilets and in a tent, a person can live out to their heart's content by choice.

Such is our stone age birthright. Modern man has squandered this stone age birthright by wanting too much and by his attachment to frivolous excess and unnecessary necessities. All of this is just my pinheaded opinion.

10:54 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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As Henry David Thoreau said:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived.”

11:58 p.m. on August 27, 2009 (EDT)
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Tipi you are completely correct. The only good reason to live like an ox, with a yoke around your neck is if you decide to raise children. And the folks that try to raise children while living in a van, might not be doing the correct thing for them, but who am I to judge.

But I suppose a husband with a wife could both manage to live frugally, and avoid the temptations, of debt, cable, life insurance plans, and all the other little demons that steal most of ones cash, and still have enough time to live as we should live.

I raised my three chillin's on 10 acres of land in central Texas, having none of those luxuries, while teaching them how to garden, pick berries, and fish. We lived very cheap and had a heck of a time, but the call of society still managed to creep in. The two oldest finally persuaded me to move 20 miles closer to town since their friends told them that shopping malls were essential to their existance, so I did. They still turned out fine but they are their own people and didn't see the beauty of living way out in the country. Once others are involved with your life: The Thoreau existance is a tough one to follow.

But I am glad to have raised them, all have turned out to be decent adults who I am very proud of.

But the Thoreau existance still appeals to me as much as it always has. The only question now is what crap I need to keep and what crap I need to get rid of. I'm sure it will all work itself out, since it always does. Thoreau himself, had quite a few luxories that the stone age man couldn't even dream of. People that can live in tents, who move from place to place have a far more spartan existance than Henry David who at least had a cabin and garden.

My point would be to ask oneself: How many things can you live without. The outcome is sure to vary from person to person, but I suspect that less is the best.

12:10 a.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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To follow up that last message, speaking from the point of view of a man still locked in a career (which will soon change): I want my $2000 truck, $200 camper, $2000 dirtbike, inflatable kayak, bicycle, backpacking gear, AM/SW radio, guitar, dog, adequate clothing, and bottle of whiskey!

This is quite small compared to what I am used to. But very excessive when compared to some that have learned to live without.

The only essentials would be the Backpacking gear, clothing, and radio. But this man ain't nearly there yet.

2:08 a.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Thoreau also says:

I see young men, my townsmen, whose misfortune it is to have inherited farms, houses, barns, cattle, and farming tools; for these are more easily acquired than got rid of. Better if they had been born in the open pasture and suckled by a wolf, that they might have seen with clearer eyes what field they were called to labor in. Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they eat their sixty acres, when man is condemned to eat only his peck of dirt? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born? They have got to live a man's life, pushing all these things before them, and get on as well as they can. How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life, pushing before it a barn seventy-five feet by forty, its Augean stables never cleansed, and one hundred acres of land, tillage, mowing, pasture, and woodlot! The portionless, who struggle with no such unnecessary inherited encumbrances, find it labor enough to subdue and cultivate a few cubic feet of flesh.
But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before. It is said that Deucalion and Pyrrha created men by throwing stones over their heads behind them

10:54 a.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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kmarr says- unemployment RULES!

I'm not going to say "no one is hiring" because that would be a lie, businesses are hiring, they're just not looking for an 18 year old with no retail experience. I have been looking for a job for the past 6 months, put in applications at well over a baker's dozen places, and not one has called back. I am really pulling for EMS(a hiking store in the northeast). What rattles my chain is that I know more about their products than they do!!

Idk how people love unemployment like some people say. I am unemployed and probably have less time on my hands than I would have if I worked. Finding work is more stressful than....WORK.

I digress...

11:20 a.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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Yes, I know what you mean Kmarr. I have been looking for a cooking/food service job since coming south from Wyoming to northern Arizona and Flagstaff for 5 months. I have spent so much time putting out hundreds of application in person and online, been checking Craigslist and the local newspapers forever it seems.

I have just come to expect that I am not going to find anything. I do work about 2 -10 hours a week which for me pays the bills, but I would like to find at least a parttime job so I can save for my next outdoor adventure. Right now I am only making enough for rent and groceries, with plenty of time off to go hiking/biking.

I hope whatever can happen to get us out of this recession happens.

11:45 p.m. on August 28, 2009 (EDT)
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I enjoy Thoreau, but we must remember that he was only a short distance from town and dependent on friends for many of his meals. That doesn't make some of his statements any less true, though.

I did the wandering in my youth and enjoyed it. Waking up in a patch of woods near the highway trying to remember whether you are going East, West , North, or South. Then realizing it doesn't matter. I did the "build the log cabin in the woods" and that was good, too.

But marriage and children changes that. Not for everyone, I have friends who raised eight great kids without electricity. Running water for them was a matter of carrying a bucket to the creek quickly.

I can't imagine, after thirty years married and having the kids, how my life could be better. True, I don't make the six figure salary I once did, but we have enough to just squeak by. I can walk across the street and fish for trout any time I want (the stream is just beyond the dumpster behind the House of Pizza). It isn't wilderness, but if you squint a bit it's very pretty. Since I write, I work my own hours, but I enjoy the writing so the hours are good. And I can write-off fishing trips as research at tax time (I haven't yet, but I could). My health doesn't permit hills anymore, but I can still walk on the level. So I am okay along many of our rivers (getting back up the bank takes a long time, though). I like the balance of outdoors and work just as it is for me now.

3:07 p.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I never wanted to be a nomad, but wanted to be rooted in a simple life. For me, backpacking is a means to hit the reset button, to clear my head of all the trappings of the modern-day life of constant distractions. In many ways I think the Internet has made it infinitely harder. For work and pleasure. Work is so far detached from anything that can be called remotely productive (I'm an urban planner getting my masters in public policy), and what's pleasure? Sitting on the couch at the end of a day sitting at a desk? Man's purpose comes through usefulness, and never have I felt more useless in all my life.

Keeping things simple feels so much like an uphill battle. It's hard to not follow the herd, because if you're doing everything everyone else is doing at least you have a sense that you're not alone with your ideals. I don't want to be alone, but to engage the world on my terms.

I've always dreamed of being able to live and work at home, with my family, making things. I think that this, if i ever achieve it, would largely take the place of looking at backpacking as a means of escape. Because even in the grandeur of the wilderness am I still at a loss for what use I am in it.

6:21 p.m. on September 1, 2009 (EDT)
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I find it harder to find time to get into the backcountry since I am married and have responsibilities. I was telling my wife today that I want to start section hiking the AT and she said "when could you do it?" and it occured to me, I don't have time to do anything much less section hike the AT!

I do have an outdoor rec. job that allows me to get outside, mainly flatwater kayak tours and small day hikes but thats different from camping or backpacking in the middle of nowhere.

I guess it is time to hit the trails on the weekends and find time to get into the backcountry!

12:08 a.m. on September 4, 2009 (EDT)
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I hear your words, grimstuff. This past month I have not had a minute to myself with the many projects I start at once, work, friends, etc. I just came back from a small 2 day trip with a buddy and durring that time, everything just went away. I felt it was the first time I've relaxed in a while. when you're on the couch, there's always something more productive you could be doing, and either I get up and do something more productive, or the fact that I'm wasting my time just bothers me. Its not like that out on the trails. To me, that's one of the most mentally relieving things I can do, and that makes me feel satisfied.

Maybe we are just running away from an imperfect direction our lives have taken, but I am ok with that knowing there will be better days and if those better days are the hours logged on the trial, that's good enough for me.

8:15 a.m. on September 4, 2009 (EDT)
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grimstuff & Kmarr - These are the same sentiments that my brother and I kept going back to in our conversation. The nobadic life isn't something that would work for us, but the simplicity of being in the backcountry is refreshing. We also enjoy boiling everything down to what is or isn't useful, or productive, in the context of backcountry travel.

7:10 a.m. on September 6, 2009 (EDT)
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grimstuff said: " It's hard to not follow the herd, because if you're doing everything everyone else is doing at least you have a sense that you're not alone with your ideals. I don't want to be alone, but to engage the world on my terms."

Yeah mate, I hear you, I had this dilemma a few years ago. By my late 20's, when most of my friends were married and onto their second kid, here's me still travelling o/s 8 months a year and working (?) at ski resorts the other 4. It hit me all of a sudden at a reunion of sorts, I just got this bizarre feeling of isolation. I simply had nothing in common with these guys, and the ones I did were heartily recounting stories of "the good old days."

With my long term friends I realised that there were two groups of people. One group genuinely wanted to know what I've been up to (and I them), the other were trying to put me down and justify their own menial existences. From this point on, I knew I had to be around positive, like minded people and that's made all the difference.

As far as work is concerned, I have picked up work all over the world without having any clue of what my next move is. With a good attitude things just fall into place (sort of, well, not always but that's another story....), I just get out there and have a go, not knowing what's next is a big part of the appeal.

I was having an interesting chat with a doctor a while back, he said; " know, I spend a lot of time with people in their last hours and I am yet to hear anyone say they should have spent more time at work."

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