The start of any journey comes long before the physical departure. It begins with a ritual of planning, packing and organizing, making sure that you have the right supplies for the right environment. Then, compression straps are cinched, gear is sorted by activity and Tetris skills are mastered as you arrange each item to fit the limited confines of your small adventuremobile. There’s a place for everything, and everything is in its place. It’s an efficient and tidy system, you note, as you set off on the first day of a six-month, multi-sport road trip.
Eventually you arrive at camp, somewhere between the hours of twilight and pitch black, after a long afternoon ride on virgin singletrack. Crusted in sweat and hungry for solid food, you begin to tackle the responsibility of camp chores. You would grab your headlamp – if only you remembered where you’d put it. But the dusky sky is just light enough to illuminate what’s in front of you, so you’ll get by just fine without it. Instead, you weed through your hatchback to unearth the sleeping pad that’s wedged at the bottom, accidentally tossing your pillow and kitchen supplies into the dirt in the process.
In the meantime, temps are dropping, and that extra layer at the bottom of your pack would make a big difference right about now. So you sift through the layers of rolled up t-shirts and shove your hand into the depths of your top-loading backpack, hoping to pick out a flannel shirt by feel but mistake it for wool socks and leave a haphazard trail of clean clothing on the ground. As it turns out, you could really use that headlamp right about now.
Within minutes, the stuff that you so earnestly organized before leaving home has shuffled itself into a natural pecking order. Necessities, like tents and lighters, find their way to the top of the gear pile – while the nonessentials, like soap and clean underwear, get shoved into the hard-to-reach pockets where they’ll likely stay until the end of your trip.
Maybe you’ll make a few attempts at containing your stuff, but one day you’ll inevitably learn to resist that urge to arrange its contents and whole-heartedly welcome the funky, dirty state of you and your possessions. Because when you’re playing on Mother Nature’s turf, you’re also playing by her unpredictable, ever-changing rules, and no amount of civilized systems or OCD tendencies can tame her wild and primitive personality.
When that shift in thought happens, you’ll adapt quite nicely. You won’t think twice about bagging your four-day-old underwear because you’re too busy bagging that summit. And when you descend back to camp at twilight, just as crusty and hungry as before, you instinctively unzip your Camelback, pull out a headlamp, open up the hatchback and illuminate the fuel canister and stove that are nestled inside your cooking pots. No doubt you’ll sleep well after a hot dinner, which comes soon after burrowing into your sleeping bag and counting your fifth shooting star.
Tonight, living never felt so seamless and natural, as if you’ve been doing this routine forever. Everything has found its place, including you and your soiled gear. Just be sure to enjoy it while you can, because laundry day will be here before you’re ready.