14 years ago I was hired as a backpacking guide at a summer camp in Colorado. When you’re hired as a backpacking guide there are two very simple expectations: keep everyone safe and know where you’re going. Good news. I had a flawless safety record. Bad news, I had subpar navigation skills. I got lost once during training and twice with campers. Each time we made it back safely, but the route a bit circuitous, timing flexible and extraction moved. Thank goodness for modern technology as without cell phones I’d have been in a pickle. Even my mom started making jokes about it sending me a copy of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods poking fun at the additional time spent on the trail due to navigational mishaps.
There was nothing worse than calling into the camp office having to explain why I needed our group to be picked up at a different location. Or arriving back 3 days early from a scouting trip because another guide and I couldn’t navigate the terrain successfully. Admitting I was lost was quite embarrassing. The thing is, being lost while backpacking heightened my awareness of the situation. There was no desire to settle in and watch time pass. No, there was only a need to get back on course and manage my way back to the appropriate destination. Within me there was an intense call to action.
Compare that to grocery shopping. At times, I’ve found myself walking through a grocery store having completely forgotten the point of my trip. My mind wandered off and that can of crushed tomatoes was a blank page in my mind’s eye. Why had I come into the store in the first place? Aimless wandering would ensue until either I recalled my mental shopping list or return home void of an item or two. if the latter, it was easy to simply accept I had botched the trip and we could just get the crushed tomatoes later or just do without them. When it comes to shopping I’m not too hard on myself for aimless wandering.
The truth is, I realize that I too often I’ve treated my life more like my shopping trips than backpacking. Rather than calling myself to intense action I accept aimless wandering. At times my mind wanders off and I aimlessly pass periods or seasons. It amazes me how quickly and easily the status quo can sneak up. It’s easier to do anything but the hard vulnerable work it takes to step out, try something new, to fail or to succeed in order to find my way and my place. But this is life, not Wal-Mart. Wake up! Lean in! Get moving!
I’ve been lost and aimless. That’s not the easiest admission, but a necessary part of making changes. It’s been a while now since waking up from a season of aimless wandering and moving into action. These are some of the questions through which I’m wrestling. Questions I’ll work through on this platform. Questions that challenge me, that call me to action:
What do I have to say?
What am I meant to do?
How am I impacting the world around me?
How am I being impacted by the world around me?
How am I adding to the lives of others?
In what situations do I most come alive?
What’s my adventure?
How do I love well and what gets in the way?
What am I learning?
What am I creating?