For the last three years, in October, my hiking buddies and I have taken a Fall backpacking trip. Our first year we went to Shenandoah National Park, and for the last two years we hiked through Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia.
Our trips to Dolly Sods were becoming a bit of a tradition. We were planning on going during Columbus Day weekend this year. However, as the weekend grew near, I was feeling less excited about attending.
For the previous two months I had been working long hours at my job. By the way, this job includes moving heavy machinery around throughout the day in an outdoor environment. Each week, on Friday afternoon, I am usually looking forward to the weekend just for the sake of resting and recovering for the next week. On the Friday of our camping weekend, was I really planning on driving 4+ hours to the trailhead and hike in the dark for 4 miles to meet up with my hiking buddies?
The regret of the forgone journey
The short answer is: No. In fact, while I was working on Friday I was thinking, “I can’t make this trip”. My hiking buddies departed for the mountains around noon. I still had to work until about 5pm. Mentally, this made me feel like they were getting a head start (and hey, they were). But I knew that despite this, I could still meet them later. I could still tough out a 4 hour drive after work and have the rest of the weekend to recover. Short-term pain for a long-term gain (or something like that).
Later on Friday afternoon my brain started to do something that I knew it inevitably would: I started thinking about comfort. It had been over 50 hours on the job for me that week, and it was only 1pm with a few hours still to go. I started thinking about relaxing on the couch and sleeping in a comfortable bed. Thinking about hiking for a couple hours in the dark and sleeping on a air-pad in the woods after a long drive didn’t seem so great.
I knew bailing on this trip would be a mistake, even if it felt like a wise choice at the time to bail. I knew that I was thinking about comfortable things since I was tired and sore from the week. However, it would still be worth it to tough it out. I would be missing out on spending time with friends who were counting on me to be there. Also, I hadn’t backpacked at all this year!
The grass is always greener
So after missing out on another trip, my hiking buddies returned with stories from the trail. Of course they made me feel guilty for bailing, but they came back with a story about finding a lost dog in the woods and returning it to the owner.
Well, that would have been something interesting to be a part of. Additionally, the owner owns a cabin in the Canaan Valley right next to Dolly Sods and invited them to stay whenever they wanted.
I thought to myself, “of course I would miss out on this”. I mean it’s not the most interesting story ever, but it’s a story where we could reminisce and enjoy. “Hey remember that time we found that lost dog in the woods? And then the owner was so grateful that we returned the dog that we were invited to stay at his cabin?”
Well, I will remember the story, but I regret not taking the journey with them.
So what is your point?
I suppose an economist would classify this as opportunity cost. I decided to forgo the opportunity to hike for the weekend and any interesting events that occurred during that time. Instead I rested and recovered from a long week of work.
In the long run, this will not greatly impact my life (unless of course my friends keep reminding me about it). However, I think that over time if you forgo small journeys like this routinely, then it plays more into your overall journey (through life).
So I suppose my point is that “the whole” is a sum of its parts. Your life is made up of a series of events and you can choose many of the events that you will take part in. Some events you will have to forgo. Circumstances dictate that you can’t do everything you want to do. However if you have that feeling that I had before I bailed on the weekend: that I should partake in our weekend trip despite being tired. Then I recommend listening to your gut (for lack of a better term) and go despite the circumstances. That will add another small part to the whole.