Rethinking Sacrifices: In Gear and in Life

Ali Becker


There have been thousands of great articles written about how to lessen your pack weight by doing very pragmatic things, like swapping out heavy or bulky items for more ultralight options, or by the very commonsensical approach of simply bringing less stuff. However, this is not one of those articles. 

Instead, this is an opportunity to explore the idea of how a simple perspective shift towards gratitude can go a long way in helping us to let go or leave things behind in a way that isn’t complicated or challenging and doesn’t actually feel much like a sacrifice at all. 

Let’s get into it.

First Approach

On my very first long-distance cycling trip across Canada, I stuffed four panniers, a handlebar bag, and a rear rack duffle with everything I thought I needed to survive the apocalypse; I had full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner, a giant can of bug spray, a full bar of soap, a hardcover book, two pairs of pants, a thick fuzzy sweater, and many other unnecessary items, including a collapsible kitchen sink.

Three weeks into the trip, I realized that I needed almost none of it. 

Over the course of the three and a half months that it took my partner, Mat, and I to cycle the 9,500 kilometer coast to coast route that we had chosen, we made four stops at Canada Post outlets to ship boxes of excessive items ahead to our final destination on the East Coast. 

These shipments not only lightened our load literally, but there was something about shedding the superfluous that seemed to free up mental space and led me to having a deeper appreciation for and a closer relationship with the things that I had elected to hold onto. 

That Gratitude Thing

When I got rid of one pair of pants, I became more grateful for the other pair. When I ditched the bottles of shampoo and conditioner, I counted my blessings for having a river to rinse off at the end of the day. When I let go of the bug spray, I had a new appreciation for the mesh on my tent.

It seemed like letting go of things not only made it easier for me to see the value in what I did have, but also gave me the ability to see that there was plenty to be grateful for aside from just the gear that I was storing in my bike bags.

I found myself appreciating my surroundings more fully, feeling blessed for being alive, for having access to wild spaces, for the privilege to ride my bike on the roads, and have the ability to camp outdoors. For the opportunity to learn, explore, discover and grow in such a way that brought me so much joy.

What I realized at the end of my bike trip, as I stood in the shower under a seemingly unlimited amount of glorious hot water in a house with four solid walls, where lights turned on with the flick of a switch, was that I never noticed how much I had to be grateful for, until I made the choice to go without it.

The Choosing

Now, we don’t actually have to go without things in order to appreciate what we already have. But in the modern developed world where many of us are used to having so much and going without very little, making conscious sacrifices can be a powerful way to cultivate gratitude.


When we choose to say, leave our folding camp chair behind, we give ourselves the chance to appreciate the ability to sit down on solid ground, or get giddy when we find a log bench, or hit the jackpot with a picnic table!

Or perhaps, change is forced upon us when the outdoor store is out of camp fuel and we have to try cold-soaking instead of cooking hot meals. We might come to appreciate the beauty of having any food at all, and go on to enjoy the simplicity of a smaller camp kitchen.

In all situations, we have the choice to hunt for the good. 

By embracing the challenge and choosing to see the silver lining, we will become more adaptable and better positioned to deal with life's real hardships when they inevitably come our way.

When we choose to fixate on what we don’t have, what we can’t bring, what we wish was there but isn’t, our mind becomes conditioned to notice what’s “wrong” and we set ourselves up for disappointment everywhere we look. We can create our own heaven, or create our own hell.

A Daily Practice

It sounds so simple - to be grateful, to choose this perspective that’s available in all situations. But the truth is, it’s a practice like anything else. And if we’ve been practicing otherwise, it might take some time to bring one train to a halt, and shift our momentum in another direction. 


For me, letting go of my entitled mindset and cultivating more gratitude in my life has been a multi-year process and a journey in self exploration and acceptance that exists on a continuum, with no destination to which I finally "arrive." 

That first cross-Canada bike trip changed my entire outlook on life, it shifted my values and priorities, and sent me on a quest to create a life with more freedom, more adventure, and more gratitude - all which we have gone about in a rather non-traditional way.

A Continual Adventure 

That first bike trip showed me I really don’t need much to be happy and feel free, which led to years of downsizing my stuff, getting really good at letting go, moving on, and knowing that if there’s anything I do away with now, I can always buy it again down the road.

These days, everything Mat and I own fits on our bikes, or as we call them, our freedom machines. We spend half the year traveling by bike and the other half serving as house sitters - caring for people's pets, plants, and properties so they can get away on adventures of their own. 

Minimizing what we own, lowering our cost of living, and doing remote freelance work gives us the freedom and flexibility to spend our time doing the things we love like traveling, adventuring, and sharing stories and ideas with others in hopes of inspiring them to build their best lives too. 

Sacrifice is a Mindset

Our lifestyle has come with what some may see as "sacrifices." Sacrificing the stability of one's own home, the perceived certainty of a traditional job, the convenience of a car, the "known" of living in one location, and so on. But for us, it has become a life of adventure and novelty.

We choose to see that our way of living doesn’t come at the expense of missing out on something else. Instead, we feel lucky that we get to experience new communities, explore new trail networks, and meet new people. Plus being car-free makes every outing an adventure of its own. 

We’ve found that when we focus our energy and attention on being grateful for who we are, where we’re at, and all that we have, “going without” becomes infinitely easier. We know it’s not about what gear we have in our backpacks or bike bags that really matters. It's our ability to hold steadfast to the knowledge that life is good, our adventures will continue to be great, simply because we are lucky to be here and blessed to be alive.


Ali Becker is a freelance writer and adventure storyteller who spends half the year backpacking and bikepacking and the other half sleeping in strangers' beds as a professional house sitter. She and her partner, Mathieu, share their ups and downs on their IG channel at @trip.longer and hope to inspire others to get outside, adventure in nature and find their own freedom. You can learn more about them here:

1 comment

Scottie Fipps

Scottie Fipps

Thanks for you input on this topic. I know I get my priorities a little skewered from time to time. Your perspective is refreshing.

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