The rustle of fallen  leaves underfoot puts me back on Michigan’s North Country Trail.  Every autumn for 10 years I joined a handful of backpackers — women only — for three days of hiking and camping.  Looking back, I realize that many valuable life lessons were learned with a pack on my back.

Here are a few:

  • Travel light. What seems essential at the start of the trail can become an unnecessary burden by the end. Purge and lighten up.

  • Share the load. All our “stuff” can get pretty weighty. Let someone share your load and help them with theirs.  It will mean a more pleasant journey for everyone.

  • Wear good shoes. A solid foundation avoids a lot of pain and a few stumbles.

  • Pack rain gear. Or, to quote some Boy Scouts I know, “Be Prepared.”

  • Pace yourself. There’s a long trail ahead of you. No need to come to the end of it exhausted and discouraged.

  • Look up. You’ll miss out if you walk with your nose to the trail or to the backside of the person in front of you. There’s so much to see on the journey. Don’t miss it.

  • Know where you’re going. Pick a reasonable destination and use a map to get you there. It helps to pay attention to signs posted along the way. They are there for a reason.

  • Keep the trail in sight. It’s okay to leave your chosen path occasionally, but don’t lose track of where you’re going. A well-traveled trail means someone walked through there successfully in the past.

  • Watch for potential obstacles. No path will be perfectly clear — another reason to “look up.”

  • Be part of the team. Unless you’re hiking alone, keep an eye on your fellow travelers. Don’t leave anyone behind.  If you are traveling alone, seize the opportunity to commune with nature and its Creator.

  • Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. Capture your memories on film, and remember to clean up after yourself.

  • Drink plenty of water. Enough said.

The prayer of a young shepherd whispered on a trail thousands of years ago voices the joy to be found in becoming an intentional traveler:

“Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
    I’m on the right way.”

Psalm 16:11 The Message

What path are you on?  Are there life lessons you’ve learned on your journey?

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