In May 2009 I went on my first real backpacking trip. My wife and I (along with a two siblings/their spouses) went to the Grand Canyon. As I prepared for the trip, I prepared physically (not enough) and learned about the type of gear/food I needed to bring. A couple days before our departure I began filling the backpack for my trip. Of course, I had the sleeping bag, tent, necessary food items and some camera equipment (including a tripod and multiple lenses), but I realized that I had additional space in my backpack. I thought back upon earlier camping trips (car camping primarily) and how nice it was to have snacks and simple games to play in the evenings and decided to fully utilize all of the available space in my backpack, primarily by adding junk food.
I weighed the backpack and it came in around 50 pounds (without water) and after wearing the backpack thought “this is kind of heavy, but I can handle it”. For anyone that has been on a multi-day backpacking trip, at this time you are shaking their head at me and my foolishness. (After going on multiple backpacking trips, including four 50-mile trips, I have determined that I enjoy multi-day backpacking trips when my backpack weighs 30 pounds or less.)
As we began descending into the Grand Canyon, I saw a sign that stated “Down is optional, Up is MANDITORY”. I thought this was a fun sign but thought it was geared toward those who were not in good shape or not prepared with sufficient water, etc. Over the course of the next few days, we enjoyed the beauty of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado river and purchasing lemonade at Phantom Ranch (a small restaurant at the bottom of the Grand Canyon).
At the conclusion of the trip, we repacked our gear in preparation for our return trip up to the rim of the Grand Canyon. As I was doing so, I realized that I only ate a small portion of the junk food that I was able to fit into the backpack (I found that I didn’t like eating junk food on backpacking trips). The journey back to the top of the Rim was excruciating. I found that the weight of the backpack, in combination with the nearly 4,000 foot climb up switchbacks was excessively difficult.
Gratefully (and embarrassingly) my companion hikers took some of my gear to make the accent more doable. I learned a lot on that backpacking trip. Number one, I learned that I really enjoyed backpacking, being outdoors in nature and doing so while spending time with family and friends. I also learned the importance of making decisions that would help me enjoy the journey more fully.
Before leaving for the trip, I wished I spent more time speaking with others who had more knowledge than I about successful backpacking trips – I am sure I would have enjoyed the trip much more.
In life, we find ourselves in a journey that includes many ups and downs. Segments of our journey are filled with beauty while other segments can feel excessively difficult and frustrating. Gratefully, even though we find tough times, generally we have the fortitude to weather those storms and look forward to better times. Additionally, we have people in our lives that can provide perspective and assistance to help us enjoy the journey more fully.
When I look back upon my backpacking trips, I think about all that I have learned (personal lessons learned as well as lessons learned from others) and enjoy sharing these experiences with other people in hope they can avoid the mistakes I and others have made. Similarly, in my professional life as a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and CPA, I have opportunities to share perspective, give guidance, provide support and encouragement and help people enjoy their life’s journey.
One key item I have learned is that we need to live life richly. This phrase, “Live Life Richly” can mean many different things – everyone will define it a little differently. But we need to be sure we look for opportunities to live life richly. Nearly a year ago I was speaking with a client about a possible timeshare/vacation purchase. For many years this client didn’t feel comfortable with spending money on themselves, even though through years of being fiscally conservative, they amassed a fairly large portfolio. We discussed the importance of living life richly and determined the expenditure was not only feasible but that it would allow them to enjoy life more fully and thereby live life more richly.
Another key item learned is that we need be cognizant of the load we are carrying (let’s equate “the load” to our daily/annual living expenses for a moment) and whether that load will allow you to live rich lives. Some individuals live well within their means (possibly they are not living life richly enough) while others may live outside their means (making it difficult to live a rich life in retirement).
Similar to my backpack and having room for junk food, most of us can afford to fit more things into our budget – but will these items truly help us in the long run. When the journey gets difficult (i.e. the car breaks down, COVID-19 business closures causes a drop in my income, the death of a loved one occurs, etc.) do we have sufficient savings/resources to allow us to overcome and continue? After all remaining “down is optional” but “up is mandatory” for a successful financial life.
Contact Montage Financial Advisors if you want to live life more richly.