Weighed down by excess baggage

Learning to let go of the stuff that clutters our lives, trips us up and keeps us from getting a ride to the next town.

We all come with a lot of baggage these days. That’s something that I’ve been seeing for more than a year now, but I just noticed it the other day when I drove past a couple of hitchhikers with at least half a dozen brightly coloured backpacks and travel bags spread out in front of them. Even if I was inclined to give them a ride, where would I have put all their STUFF?

A few days before that, I saw a young hitchiker with his road bike sitting lamely in front of him, his pannier bags arrayed on the ground and his thumb out. Mind you, sometimes accidents happen and plans change quickly.

When I was a kid, the norm for hitchhiking seemed to be a backpack and a guitar. Now I see people hitchhiking with what seems to be all that they own.

Reminds me of Charles Bedaux’s infamous Canadian Sub-Arctic Expedition in 1934. American millionaire Bedaux rounded up an entourage of Citroen halftracks, a couple of surveyors, geologist, filmmakers and radio operators, dozens of local cowboys, his wife, his mistress, his valet, a maid, a hunting buddy, a few cooks, mechanics and what have you. He loaded 130 pack horses with supplies that included cases of champagne, caviar, canned Devonshire cream, cigarettes, expensive boots, shoes and clothing, as well as food and equipment.

The group was to forge a route from Edmonton to Telegraph Creek, but their overloaded horses and vehicles soon bogged down in the mud and muskeg and the trip ended at Fort Ware, 300 miles shy of their destination. Four days were spent distributing loads of surplus canned food, clothing, etc., and the last case of Devonshire Cream among the local Indians.

It’s like that with ordinary people also. We carry a lot of unnecessary baggage around with us, unwilling to part with it, and unaware of the effect it has on the people around us until it becomes overwhelming. It affects the opportunities that come – or don’t come – our way, as well as the choices we make.

Better to travel lightly and take only what we need. That keeps our options open.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal