Inside Out

IMG_1711Road maps and directions provide semblance of order. They get us from point A to point B and are often necessary to assemble a bookcase. But when we approach something new we should rely just as sincerely on instinct as directive. And when we look back on an experience, we may find that our greatest insights and growth came without road maps or directions.

A couple of years ago I camped my way across the U.S. My routine became packing and unpacking my tent, sleeping bag, camp stove, and various accoutrements. This was a trip about exploration, not delineation. At trip’s end the odometer calculated 12,941miles from coast to coast and back.

It was also a trip about turning my life inside out. I had not camped before, so every turn was met with a good mixture of excitement and trepidation. Who knew the Badlands of South Dakota create the most stunning light shows as the sun meets the horizon to illuminate the moon-like surface mountains? Who knew the winds could blow so hard and turn every untethered article into dancing tumbleweeds?

A month after the trip, I took two essentials of my camping life — my headlamp and sleeping bag — and went to Alaska. There I slept in my sleeping bag most nights, but inside a friend’s house. It was Alaska in the winter after all. One morning my friend Isaac asked, Why do you have your sleeping bag inside out?

What are you talking about, Isaac? It’s not inside out?

With that Isaac took the bag and flipped my interior to make it the exterior. He exposed the bold THENORTHFACE logo, and I noted the water resistant sheen.

Four months and well over 12,000 miles I had used my sleeping bag incorrectly. I laugh at my ignorance and naïveté, and every time I see someone with a NORTHFACE hat on with the logo boldly present, I think: I guess the company did not intend for their name to be hidden—like down at my feet inside my sleeping bag.

Yet, even inside out life went on — camping succeeded even on the raining nights. But the story made me reconsider how we look at things and how we often view life in one direction. Some of us believe in living linear lives: school, job, relationship, family, retirement, etc. Some of us read the directions and proceed step by step. There is admiration in this follow-through approach, but we can also appreciate that sometimes it’s not about how we live life with check marks and accomplishments but how we live life with varying views and openness. There will always be a time to follow a prescribed path, but so too there is a place for us to grow when we live a bit from inside out.


  1. John reilly says:

    Another good story

  2. Carol Love says:

    Love it, Ann! Your article really speaks to me. Thanks for the eloquent reminder!

  3. Tina Kauffman says:

    Another beautifully written essay on life! Thanks for sharing another gem!

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