“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is rather than as you think it should be”. Wayne Dyer
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) is a great place to be reminded of the truth in Wayne Dyer’s quote. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of a trip to the BWCA, most of the area is wilderness with no running water (unless you count the rivers and waterfalls), no electricity, no roads, no motors, no cell phone coverage, no phone lines, and no wifi. There are parts of the BWCA with some of these modern amenities, but I am talking about the real wilderness area you can only reach by canoe. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth and you have fewer options to avoid things that are less comfortable than the conveniences of modern life.
One of my favorite things about traveling is finding life lessons or being reminded of life lessons, and BWCA offers many opportunities.
You Choose Your Reaction to Life’s Discomforts
In the BWCA, you pack your gear into a canoe and then find a spot to unpack your gear and carry it and the canoe across one or more portages (a rocky, winding trail through the woods) to get to your campsite. Sometimes it rains and the path is muddy and slick, and often there is a heavy fog of mosquitos. Now, you can complain about all of this, but it will do no good. Even though there is irritation in life, you do not need to be irritated. You can accept life for what it is and focus on how you will deal with the situation.
If you have bug spray, the mosquitos are less bothersome. If you have only what you need, you will have less to carry. But the only way you will have what you want is to pack it. If you leave something at home, you will have to do without it. As you can see, planning will significantly affect your trip. Having a packing list and checking it twice is a good idea. I did that; however, that was not the only preparation that was needed. As with life, you often do not know what you do not know until it is too late.
Minimize Frustration with Flexibility and Good Humor
I am embarrassed to admit this, but on my first BWCA trip neither my travel partner nor I remembered how to steer the canoe. It had been many years since either of us had canoed, and never with each other. We both thought we knew what we were doing. However, once we started paddling in a circle it was obvious we had a problem. The first couple of hours we made slow progress and our route was indirect until we figured out how to get the canoe to go where we wanted and to work together. I am glad to say that we were able to stay flexible and had a lot of laughs, but without the flexibility and good humor, it would have been a very long couple of hours. On the second trip, my travel partner and I did a practice outing to refresh our memories and figure out a rhythm. Needless to say, we made much better progress at the beginning of the second trip.
Wants Are Not Needs
Many things can make life easier or more comfortable, but we can have a good life with much less. Although I am glad to have electricity, running water, phones, and internet, a few days in the wilderness proved they are not necessities. I also realized I need much less food, less variety of food, and way fewer kitchen gadgets than I have at home. When you are packing everything on your back for part of the trip there are a lot of things that can stay home.
Being in nature enhances feelings of peace and relaxation. There are fewer distractions in the BWCA, and no TV, internet, or phones. This makes it much easier to be present in the moment. Exercise is a part of the trip and there is something about being tired from physical exertion that is very relaxing. In the BWCA you are surrounded by woods, lakes, rivers, beavers, loons, and eagles.
Like a trip to the BWCA, life is a mixed bag. You can focus on the joy or you can focus on the hardship. You can focus on the problems or you can focus on how to solve the problems. It is all about your attitude and where you put your energy.
Would you try a trip to the BWCA? Do you have a favorite camping spot or an activity that puts you in the moment?