Six days to Charleston, WV. Just been piddling around the apartment slowly gathering things for the trip. I won’t need much…we’ll be camping out the biggest part of the time. This won’t be like your typical family camping trip where you can bring everything including the proverbial kitchen sink.
For a trip like this, weight is the first consideration…even over convenience. Distance doesn’t really matter either. We’re expecting to hike ten miles a day for five days. On most of my other trips I’ve averaged 24 miles a day. That doesn’t sound like a lot either, and it’s not…if you’re used to traveling in a car. But imagine this.
Put 70 pounds on your back. Everything you need to live and survive for a week is in that bag resting on your shoulders. Food, clothes, shampoo, stove, eating and cooking utensils, sleeping bag, tent, socks…better bring plenty of socks. And don’t forget camera gear. I’m not talking about a fancy little point and shoot that can fit into your shirt pocket. I’m taking about another 30 pounds of camera bodies, lenses, filters, flash unit and a tripod. Oh yah…I almost forgot the computer. There’s another few pounds added to the backpack.
Now, it’s early in the morning. You roll out of the tent, fold it and your sleeping bag. You strap them to the backpack, grab one more swallow of yesterday’s coffee. You hoist that bag onto your shoulders knowing that you’ve got to carry it 10 miles before you stop for the evening. And when you stop, you’ve got to set up your tent before you call it a night.
And you get to do it again tomorrow. And the day after…and the day after…for six days and five nights you live like a turtle with everything on your back. Notice anything missing in this routine? How about a shower at the end of the day? Nope. There’s no place to shower on the road. This isn’t a credit card trip where you get up in the morning in a nice hotel, walk ten miles to the next hotel while a support vehicle carries your luggage. Want to check email? Nowhere to do that either. Heck, we’ll be so far out in the country that the media has already been warned to either use satellite phones or to forget calling anyone until the return trip home. No cell phone will work back in the hills and “hollers” of Wild Wonderful West Virginia.
It’s not your typical vacation. So why do people volunteer to do this? Simple. They have a passion. And not just any type of passion. We kick that word passion around so much these days that it’s lost its true meaning and almost anyone that likes doing what they do is quick to say they have a “passion” for it.
For example, I know a reporter with a local newspaper. As a reporter he writes…and writes a lot. Everytime I go by the paper to see him, he’s either in the middle of writing a new piece, has just finished one or is just about to start one. I ask him why and he says, “I have a passion for writing”. No he doesn’t. If he didn’t get paid to write, he wouldn’t write…he freely admits that.
I’ve got another friend in town that likes to build and repair bicycles. Just like the reporter, my bicyclist friend is always getting ready to fix a bike or has just finished one or is in the middle of working on one. He’ll tell you he has a “passion” for bicycles. Again…no…he doesn’t. If he didn’t get paid to work on bicycles, he wouldn’t do it.
The people that are making this march have a passion. They want to see the mountains of West Virginia protected from the profiteers that set in their air conditioned offices and make truckloads of money off the backs of people willing to work in dangerous conditions for just above minimum wage.
The people that are making this march have a passion to save the environment and are willing to face the possibility of putting their lives on the line to accomplish their goal.
The people that are making this march have a passion…they’re committing their time, energies and possibly their lives to a cause they believe in…and they’re not getting paid for it.
As a photographer, I get to see and shoot a lot of protests and rallies in Asheville. Invariably at each one someone says they have a “passion” for the cause that brings them out. No they don’t. They have an interest…but no passion. I can almost see your eyebrows rising in objection.
Anyone can stand up in front of Vance Monument and wave a sign for an hour. Doesn’t take commitment or passion to do that. Someone that will stand at the intersection of Patton, Biltmore and Broadway for an hour occasionally has a passing interest in the subject…but no passion.
Fifty years ago, people were willing to give up their lives for a cause they believed in. Nowadays, it’s hard to find people who will give up an hour.
There’s not enough passion around.