I’m talking wild camping; load up a backpack and trek into the wilderness, spend the day gathering firewood, wash in a lake, kind of camping, and I know it seems like a strange comparison, but heare me out.
When you go camping like this, you spend a couple of weeks before the trip writing lists. You think of everything you could possibly need for every eventuality – from the obvious stuff like flashlights and first aid supplies, to trying to work out how to look ‘cute’ when you’ve been away from indoor plumbing for more days than you want to think about. Normally I end up making a list a mile long and I rationalise it all too; it does make sense, Kenny. Then, we get the drybags out and Kenny ‘helps’ me pack, which basically involves him packing all the essentials (afformentioned first aid supplies and, y’know, food) and then telling me I have the rest of the bag to fill. That’s it. There is no other possible way for us to transport more than I can fit in that bag and if you’re like me, you see this as a challenge rather than a limitation.
Generally I squeeze, I fold, I roll, I crush and I swear a lot, before admitting defeat and asking Kenny to actually help me work out what a necessary item looks like – I can never get the hang of it really, you mean brow product is not a survival essential? But here’s the thing; once we actually get out wherever we camp, the feeling is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced (and not just because of all the peeing outdoors). I am calm in a way that defies every other day of the 20 years I’ve suffered with anxiety. I am content. I am in the moment. Every item in that bag is perfect for what I need it for – and I am grateful for them all. I want for nothing. There is no feeling of restlessness, no being pulled in 100 different directions by my phone beeping, or adverts on a web page – I am one person, in one place, doing one thing.
The level of appreciation Kenny and I have for those few items we take with us is incredible – the joyous sensation of putting on clean, dry thermals after accidently getting soaked is almost impossible to sum up in words. Preparing the simple meals together over a fire; it’s a wonderful, heartening experience. And most curiously of all, I never reach for those clean clothes and feel disappointed I went for the black rather than the navy, we never cook together and then sit wishing we had a McDonalds – every need is attended to and because we know what we have out there is all we have, we give up feelings of dissatisfaction and instead embrace being there in the moment.
I wonder if this is what everyday feels like if you live a minimalist lifestyle. That would be… incredible. Some parts of it sound appealing; the slower pace, the lack of decisions, the simple pastimes, and other parts sound really scary – the slower pace, the lack of decisions, oh, hang on. I can’t help but feel it’s a double edged sword for me, with my anxiety. Is cutting down everything I can’t deal with in my life a sign of weakness or is it a strong, conscious choice to live more happily?