Spirituality, Ancestry, and Backpacking


My thoughts on some big topics…

Spirituality in the outdoor community is pretty diverse, some folks put their earbuds in and crank out the miles and bag the peaks while other folks start their day with yoga and keep stopping to commune with nature…and as long as everyone can do their own thing it’s all good.

I guess I have some of both, I like to go fast and light, I like burly off trail mountain scrambles and I spend months comparing spec sheets before I buy new gear.  But I also like to sit back and close my eyes and listen to the streams running and the birds singing and see what these wild places have to teach me.

Mountains are my church, to what ever extent I have one, and when I’m in the mountains I often notice the way the landscape is literally supporting me as I walk on it.  And I think about how insignificant my human problems are from the perspective of a granite peak.

The first time I stepped off the plane in Scotland I had an uncanny feeling of being home, it was weird.  My ancestors are from Scotland and while I have no idea how “spiritual” or imagined that feeling was it certainly had an impact on me.  On my second trip (three months of backpacking)  we got to explore the Scottish landscape a bit more and for me at least that land is nothing short of magical.

Scotland Slideshow261.jpgThe standing stones in particular had some deeper meaning, no idea what it was but they just felt alive and powerful and important in some way.  We got to pitch our tent right next to them and I couldn’t help but wonder what my ancestors thought of those stones.  What did they mean to people 1,000 years ago?  5,000 years ago?  It was certainly food for thought.

In recent years I’ve dug a lot deeper into my own spirituality.  I’ve only done yoga a few times, and I throw rocks at squirrels when they come near my food.  I don’t collect crystals and I don’t hike with earbuds in.  But I do stop and watch sunsets, and sometimes I feel like I’m a part of the landscape and not separate from it.

I think, whatever our experience of nature is, it’s worth occasionally having a chat about it.  The more I’ve opened up about my experiences the more I’ve come across other folks who have similar feelings…and it’s cool to acknowledge the specialness, or sacredness, of nature with other humans.  I get caught up in my own insecurities about what’s sacred and whether things make sense but honestly it’s just plain fun to be in special places so why not?

As I write more about my travels I’m sure these themes of ancestry and spirituality will resurface from time to time, and I’m quite curious how other people experience themes on their adventures?  If you have any questions or thoughts you want to toss into this conversation I’m all ears!

4 thoughts on “Spirituality, Ancestry, and Backpacking

  1. Scotland indeed. It’s magical – even if you don’t have this feeling of belongingness. Some years ago, I went to the place where my grandparents lived once and have been banished after WW2. As a child I always starred at a picture my grandfather drew from the big, beautiful place in the center of this village. When I arrived there for the first time, I had tears in my eyes and a feeling, that this is the only place of my childhood which I have never seen before.
    I love your thought that the landscape is supporting you as you walk on it and my feeling is the same. Rarely but sometimes at the end of a long days hike, when I get rid of my shoes and put my naked feet on the ground, I feel like growing roots, like me and nature, we belong together. (I don’t collect crystals neither :-)). If you want, read my article “Why I hike”. I would really like to know what you think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it’s interesting how we can have such deep connections to a place the moment we arrive there. Thanks for sharing that bit about the place where your grandparents lived…those experiences can be so deep and powerful.

      Liked by 1 person

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