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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 28 - What to learn from camping

Mount Carleton Provincial Park. JSM, 2015

For those who are contemplating a simpler lifestyle, taking the plunge can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there is a way to test the waters and see if you can gain something from minimalism: go camping!

And by camping I mean the real thing: in a tent, without amenities. But if that in itself is too big of a step, you might want to start with an intermediate option. 

Last week, for example, we rented a log cabin deep in the woods. For about twice as much as it costs to simply pitch a tent in an unserviced campsite, we had a rustic cabin about 12' x 18', with one room containing bunk beds (bring your own mattress and bedding) and a wood stove, and one small screened porch with a table and hard chairs. That's it. The four of us (plus the dog) lived there harmoniously. We did spend most of our time outdoors. But it occurred to me that such a simple setting was more than enough for comfort and well-being. It was so remote (we had to drive 60+ km on dirt roads from the closest - and small - village to get there, and to carry everything on foot for the last kilometer or so) that we only had nature and each other to stay entertained. That was not an issue whatsoever.

Mount Carleton Provincial Park. JSM, 2015

If you are ready to rough it, then I cannot recommend tenting enough. Especially in remote areas, away from the hustle and bustle of busy campgrounds. Some national parks are so popular they are louder than my own backyard (which is surrounded by forest, admittedly). Try and find a secluded, quiet spot­. You might have to walk or paddle to it, but believe me, it will be worth the effort. As for the equipment, our tent is 8' x 8' plus a small screened vestibule. It is just big enough to sleep the 4 of us and the dog + fit our respective, minimalist bags. Other than that we carry a small propane stove, some flashlights and a couple items for basic cooking/eating. It works perfectly fine. The only thing on my wish list at this point is a lightweight hammock. This is where we camped recently:

Kouchibouguac National Park. JSM, 2015

So. You found a quiet spot and have basic lodging/sleeping and cooking equipment. Now what? Well, now, the fun begins. 

  • Let the simplicity of everyday life infuse you with what really matters. First, strive to stay reasonably dry, warm, hydrated, fed, and rested.
  • Disconnect from all technology. No screens. No phone (where we camp, there's no signal anyway). Heck, no electricity at all. If you are addicted, er, used to technology, it might be hard for the first 24-48 hours, but past that, you will experience a level of calm and serenity that can only be achieved when you are unreachable.
  • Take time to appreciate your surroundings: shades of blue. Shades of green. Wildlife. Wonderful scents, sights, sounds. Witness the birth of a rainbow. Listen to the sound of the rain. Spot wildlife.
  • Enjoy a reconnection with loved ones, or, if you travel alone, with yourself. Long conversations by the campfire or long meditations by the lake come to mind.
  • Learn to appreciate the comforts of modern life by not having access to them; better yet, realize they are by no means necessary. I have, for example, developed a deep gratitude for a lukewarm shower that drips more than it pours every 3 days or so. Come to think of it, it's more than enough. There were four of us and no one stunk. In the same vein, why change your clothes every day? (I make an exception for underwear, which I do change daily, but then again, I am a high-maintenance diva.) 
  • Don't give a sh** about the way you look. Plus, if you're scary, the bears won't come close.
  • Chop wood, carry water. Work hard but move and talk slowly. When food and shelter are assured, exhaust yourself on hikes.
  • Go to bed tired (a good tired), so that you will absolutely not mind that you are sleeping on a mattress one inch thick. (If there is a nice pine needle cover under the tent, you will actually sleep like an angel on a magnificently scented cloud - true story.)
  • See ten million trees at a time (literally):
Mount Carleton Provincial Park. JSM, 2015

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. I camp ever summer in north central Nebraska. It's very remote there, and no cell or internet in the area we camp. Each summer though I see fewer and fewer real campers. These days it's all about loading all the furniture on the patio, and hitching the patio up the 30 ft. trailer. Pass.

    My tent, which I rarely sleep in, doesn't even have a floor. Dirt; the original floor.

    Yes, camping is very good practice for minimalism. And minimalism, good practice for camping!

  2. Camping. It is the best thing in the world. We do all sorts of camping. Some in tents from a canoe, others in a big family tent and we also have a 20' camper. Reconnecting and learning that less is more is awesome.
    My friend and I are preparing for a garage sale. As many times as I go through this house I am able to simplify a bit more. I love that.
    Have a blessed week.

  3. I once stayed in a small log cabin at the beach. It was built in the 1940's in North Carolina and moved to Crescent Beach Florida. That structure withstood numerous hurricanes over the years and had no damage whatsoever! I felt very safe :-) It is surrounded by million dollar homes now, but will probably still be there when they have all blown away, lol

    I have gone camping, but I don't need to go anywhere to lose the conveniences of electricity and water. When the big storms hit, all that stops.

    1. They used to build things sturdy! :-)

      We also lose power and water whenever a hurricane comes our way.

  4. Oh my...that brought back memories of camping trips with our daughter. One AMC Gremlin two backpacker tents and sleeping bags and a bare minimum ....those cars didn't hold much. We had lots of fun though.

    1. That's what strikes me each time: how much fun can be had with so little.

    and had never ever framed it or thought of camping as a taste of minimalism.
    <3 <3