10 Lessons I Learned From Helping to Build a New Section of the Arizona Trail Yesterday
The Arizona Trail is an 800-mile National Scenic Trail that crosses the north-south length of Arizona from the border of Mexico in the south to the border of Utah in the north. The protection and maintenance of the trail is the responsibility of the non-profit Arizona Trail Association, which relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers to keep the trail in good condition.
1. Almost all of the great things we enjoy in life are taken for granted.
That windy road that helps us easily drive up a big hill? A lot of people put serious effort into building it. That delicious cup of morning coffee? Many hands were needed to move that coffee from bean to brew.
I'm as guilty as anyone of taking the great abundance around me for granted, but I'm trying to use these moments to be better.
2. Working hard on a big project helps to generate gratitude.
A great solution for ridding oneself of taking things for granted is going out and doing something hard for a worthwhile project that will benefit others.
3. When we do something hard, we can point to it anytime after it's done and feel pride.
My father has worked in an area of construction for decades. He's touched thousands of buildings where he lives. You can bet anytime he drives around town and sees a place he's worked that he'll point out his work with pride.
4. If you're going to be out in the sun for six+ hours, layer on extra sunscreen.
Yeah. I put some on, but not enough. Paying for it today!
5. Being out in nature all day feels amazing.
There's something almost primal about it that cannot be replicated by sitting indoors all day long.
6. Putting your smartphone away for the day feels amazing.
I think another reason I felt amazing is that I only pulled my smartphone out to snap a few photos. It remained in my pocket or backpack the rest of the time.
7. You can stay physically strong well into your later years.
There were a few lean, strong guys on the crew who were decades older than me who were wielding heavy axes, hoes, and rakes as well as, if not better than, me - and, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I'm in pretty good shape.
8. If you think you packed enough water to be outdoors all day, check again.
I brought two liters of water, and that wasn't enough. I was dehydrated by the end, even though it only started getting warm about the last hour or so we were there. Better to take too much than too little.
9. When you're working hard on something, small talk is unnecessary.
As a die-hard introvert, small talk is my nemesis. I can do it, but I don't care for it. Thankfully, when working hard on the trail, there was scant little talk. That's because it becomes energy that is uselessly burned when it's better utilized for the physical task at hand. It makes me wonder if the prominence of small talk in our society is due to most of us not doing much of anything hard.
10. When you're done working hard on something, you want to talk a lot.
I think this is indicative of working as part of a team versus working alone (though it could apply to both). There was quite a bit of chatter after the job was done, and I think that has something to do with the shared struggle and resulting reward of a job well done.