How Backpacking Changed My Life #2

This is the second of a series of posts from Balanced Rock’s current staff. We are excited to share with you how backpacking has impacted our lives. We hope you enjoy the stories!

By Paula Wild

When I write the word HOME what comes up for you? This can be a really loaded concept for many of us, and I’d like to share with you how backpacking has helped me heal my relationship with the idea of home.
I am an immigrant; my family came over from communist Poland in 1988 when I was five years old. I don’t remember what that was like, however I do know that most of our extended family remained in Poland while the small nuclear family of mom, dad and me set off into the huge landscape of America.
My childhood was fraught with confusion and often embarrassment. I was forever caught between cultures and feeling alien. My folks spoke Polish with me and we ate the food they had grown up eating. However when staying over with friends I was exposed to a Midwestern American culture that felt both foreign and exciting.  I often cringed and wondered why my parents’ accent had to be so strong, and why we couldn’t just fit in?!
In 1999 my father passed away unexpectedly and my mother and I moved into a new “home”. I was heartbroken and bewildered, and began heavily using marijuana as a means of coping with my discomfort. I went on to attend University continually feeling lost and out of place. For these two decades I was completely adrift without a real sense of my roots.
Enter backpacking. As I write this, tears of gratitude well up in my eyes for the people and landscapes that helped bring me “home”. As I began to explore this concept of filling a pack with everything I would need, shouldering it and walking many miles I immediately felt at ease.

Whatever the weather I am HOME!

In the backcountry I am a citizen of Mother Earth, just like you. Our differences fade or quiet down and our innate humanity comes forth. We each have our own fears (wild animals, thunderstorms, the inability to walk another step etc.), and our moments of surmounting those. We can each celebrate the stunning beauty of the landscape, the magically clear sounds of the place at night, or the delight in a warm meal.
When we are in the wilderness, judgments and comparisons seem to somehow fade or quiet down and we can simply be. The daily tasks of filtering water, cooking a meal, pitching a tent are all that needs to be accomplished. There is a certain simplicity in having everything you need on your back. A whole lot of spaciousness opens up to just be who you are; a human being.
The study of Evolutionary Psychology reminds us that our DNA is informed by 50,000 generations of pre-farming wilderness nomadism, and only 500 generations of settled agricultural domestication. This really explains to me why I feel so at ease and so fully ME when I am backpacking. I am truly going “back to my roots” in a profound way (even though no one in my family has ever backpacked).
In the space of the backcountry I always feel more open to connect and share, which is why I LOVE Balanced Rock trips in particular. It never ceases to amaze me that we get a group of 5-10 people together who have never met, and after only four days together in the wilderness we have created bonds that often last a lifetime. 


Loving life and connection on an annual girlfriend backpacking adventure. 

After spending countless hours in the backcountry, far away from any human-made structure or cell signal, my soul finds itself. I know exactly where my home is. This is a beautiful thing, and I know I need to tend to it. Every year I plan multiple backcountry outings to keep that connection with my soul’s home alive and thriving.
Tend to your soul’s home and hearth by going backpacking this year! Balanced Rock has some really great trips planned, check them out here.  


Paula Wild, E-RYT 500, is honored to serve as Director of Operations, Instructor and Guide for Balanced Rock. She is a masterful yoga instructor and therapist who most deeply enjoys practicing and teaching in nature’s outdoor studio. She believes that the tools yoga and time in nature offer are the most effective ways to connect with our own inner wisdom and expand our potential in the world. Access Paula’s latest musings and offerings on her blog and website:


  1. allan weidner says

    i LO VE the explanation why I love camping, traveling, being in community such as Heartwood Massage School more than being in one of my homes and why it was more fun building a home than living in it. our DNA is informed by way more nomadism than domesticity

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