I spent the weekend camping down in the South West, at a lovely Dept of Environment and Conservation campsite – bbqs and sinks, drop toilets, lots of trees and nothing else (except a few other campers). I think these are the best kind of campsite.
On the way back to Perth I was thinking about how much I enjoy the minimalism of camping. There’s no clutter, no material baggage; you only take and do what’s really necessary. And for a four day trip, ‘necessary’ doesn’t include: showers, night-time lighting, or more than one mug, pot or frying pan. It does include several things that are a little further along the necessity-luxury spectrum, though, including:
- A camping chair. The ground or an esky make a perfectly acceptable seat, but after a while I just long for something with a back-rest.
- A kettle that whistles. Because I could use a normal pot, but then I’m always looking to see if it’s boiling yet – the whistling kettle means I don’t need to look. And the whistling thing just makes me happy inside.
- A tent with room for our luggage inside. This was very exciting. Our usual “two person” tent can hold just that – two people, and nothing else. This time we borrowed a tent which was bigger inside, and had a lovely stoep where we could keep our other gear, our esky and our food container (a big tub with a lid! so handy!).
These things just make for a much more comfortable existence. But I noticed that the list of things I could do without decreased with the length of time I envisioned away for:
- Toothbrush: I’m willing to leave it at home if I’m away for one night, but two makes me twitch, and three is just not on.
- A night-time light: No light was ok for the three nights we were away, but we would very soon have gotten bored with cooking dinner in the dark. And reading by the light of a wind up torch (as I had to do the second night because it was the exciting end bit of the book) soon becomes hugely annoying.
- More than one cooktop: One burner was ok for four days, and would maybe be ok for a week or so. But eventually I’m going to want to cook more than one thing at once (um, tea water and breakfast eggs?).
I suppose that’s how our houses fill up with stuff – we’re there so long that by the time we have to pick it all up and move, we’ve encountered pretty much every annoyance in the book, and usually solved it with stuff, without remembering the weight of our current stuff. Given my long-running “Reduce!” kick, I’m hopeful I can avoid accumulating too much stuff this way. Asking myself “Do I really need this? How much value would this really add to my life?” is probably a very good habit to get into. All I need to do now is get rid of some of the stuff I acquired before I started doing that!
I was also thinking about the thing I think about on the way home from every camping trip. Every time I go camping, I come back wondering how to capture that feeling that comes with it. Is it just getting away from the complexity and baggage of everyday life? Is it living outside, engaging with the surroundings, paying attention to the world? How do I distill it down to it’s essence and then apply it to everyday life?
Simplifying and tidying my material possessions is one way, and something that I want to do already (I just need to actually do it). Spending more time outside is something that needs some work, given my lack of appealing outdoor space at home. Watering my plants gets me out, and I enjoy it. It also satisfies that ‘paying attention to the world’ thing – watering by hand means I look at and notice my plants (I swear my eggplant grew since yesterday, btw). I want to put a bench out on the front porch, but it’ll have to move in winter (the gutters there are completely rusted away). And I think another, really important, thing is the sitting quietly. With a book or some crochet, or just watching the world, but getting away from the distractions of the Internet, or the messy fridge, or what to do before that meeting on Thursday, watching time pass and letting it go. I guess I need to write a to-do list…