Column: Find strength, growth in leaving belongings behind (even temporarily) | Columnists

For a time, my husband and I watched “Tiny House Nation” somewhat obsessively. I think Stu was intrigued by Zack Giffin’s skilled carpentry and creative building designs. Alternatively, I liked learning the motivations behind people’s choice to shrink their lives and hit the road. We both very much enjoyed seeing the places people chose to travel or move.

The only distressing part of each episode was near the beginning when John Weisbarth worked with the participants to cull their homes and pick out the small percentage of their belongings they’d be allowed to take with them. Theoretically, all of these folks just sold, gave away or trashed the rest of their stuff. I can only assume in actuality they rented a storage unit and put the rest there, as that is what I’d do.

If you’ve read my previous columns, you know that for the past seven years three girlfriends and I have trekked the Bighorns on our annual backpacking trip. This is the time of year I generally start gathering my clothing and equipment for said trip. I find starting this process about a month in advance allows me to be certain I don’t forget anything and also don’t take anything I won’t use.

The girls and I keep thoughtful notes each summer, making lists of things we brought and didn’t need as well as the rare item we wish one of us had remembered or brought more of. I also generally document all of the clothing I take along so as to make appropriate adjustments the following year. At this point we have it down to a science.

Stu and his pals recently completed the Wyoming Backcountry Discovery Route tour on their dirt bikes. Being as this was the first time in a few decades he had done a lengthy motorcycle camping trip, and he is a bit more of an advance planner than me, Stu started gathering his gear for the BDR nearly three months prior to starting his travels.

When it came down to departure time, two of his more experienced friends took away a third of the accouterments he had packed. They must have taken some notes from Weisbarth’s playbook.

I am currently in the midst of packing for a new adventure as well. Since we summited Cloud Peak last summer, the girls and I have decided to take a year off from the Bighorns and branch out a bit. This year we’re going on a six-day Salmon River rafting/hiking/fishing/floating trip. We are using a guide service, so the amount of stuff we need to bring is minimal.

However, since I’ve never done a trip of this nature, I am fearful of finding myself in the Idaho wilds without some key item. Good thing we aren’t leaving for a week yet. I still have space in my bag and a good 12 pounds before I reach the 40-pound limit set by the guiding company. 

While getting rid of (or storing) a majority of our belongings and altering our entire existence by moving into a tiny house isn’t desirable or realistic for most of us, I would encourage you to stretch your comfort zone and take an outdoor adventure this summer.

It matters not whether you sleep in a tent or camper, or travel by foot, motorbike or river raft. The catharsis comes by going through the process of narrowing down your belongings to the select few that you need to survive, and then taking to the wilderness for a period of time. You’ll return home with renewed self-confidence and the knowledge that you don’t need a lot of the excess in your life. It’s up to you whether you keep it or let some of it go.

Julie Greer is a member of the Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources Commission.

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