Time was when I would backpack 25-30 miles a day with non-ul kit. Then one fateful night I regained consciousness hung in a tree above a smashed motorcycle with a broken spine. The car driver had fled the scene.
Six months later I walked about 20 miles across the Sierra de las Nieves in Spain with a 35 pound pack. It was a blue-sky February day and it took me from dawn to dusk to get there.
I realised I had to lighten the load and regain some fitness.
Buying and making lightweight kit has eased my aches and pains a lot. And I've recovered well enough from the spinal injury to be able to do 28 miles in 11 hours with 5000 fet of ascent. Next day 10 miles will be enough though.
I'm very tall and have a long stride, so my natural pace is fast by others standards. Kath calls me 'Stormin' Norman' when I forget she is trying to pace me and I slip into my natural gait. "Where's the fire?" she calls out from behind. It's tiring to try to deliberately walk slower to suit someone else, so I move at my own pace, then stop frequently to take photos while she catches up and takes a breath with me.
The thing we love about backpacking is that we have the capability to stop pretty much anywhere, built a little house, set up a little kitchen, and enjoy the sunset before turning in for the night. We don't use regular campsites, so the world is our oyster and our schedule... what schedule? If we find ourseles up a mountain too late to descend, we bivouac. If we miss that bus, we find something to do in the local area until the next one, or stick a thumb out, or change our ever-changing plan again.
For us, that's the essence of backpacking. Freedom from schedules and goals and fixed plans. Freedom to take time out to explore an unexpected place of interest. Freedom to enjoy what the world has to offer us at the pace we feel happy with at the time. Sure, sometimes we push ourselves to reach a destination by nightfall, but if the moon is bright, we might stop and cook at dusk, rest an hour, and then continue our walk under the moon. Variety truly is the spice of life.