This weekend I had the privilege of trekking out into nature, hiking up a mountain, and camping among the pine trees. My husband, our friends, and all of our dogs carried our camping necessities for the weekend in only the packs on our backs and hiked five miles up and into the wilderness. We fell asleep under a spattering of stars, the sounds of crickets lulling us to sleep, and awoke to the view of Mt. Hood standing before us.
I mean it when I say that camping is a privilege. It is disappointing that even though we pitched our tents in the middle of a forest without having to pay a campsite fee that it was still expensive. It is insane that sleeping on the ground, pooping in a hole, and not showering for two days is costly. The cost comes from fuel to get to the trailhead, freeze dried food for all meals, and not to mention all the camp gear needed to survive a weekend in the woods, which means, tents, burners, sleeping bags, mats, backpacks, boots, socks, jackets, gloves, etc. Some people cannot afford to take the time off to go be in nature or cannot afford to buy the gear needed for it. So while it’s easy for advertisements to promote “getting out in nature”, the actual task of getting there is not available for everyone. Comedian Jim Gaffigan says it best in his stand-up bit titled “Camping”:
My wife always brings up that campings a tradition in my family. Hey, it was a tradition in everybody’s family until we came up with the house. Some places you have to pay to camp, you have to pay to sleep outside. That’s got to be insulting to the homeless people.
While I recognize camping, like minimalism, is a privilege, camping this weekend showed me just how important choosing minimalism in my life is. I was living this weekend with only the necessities for survival: only enough things to be warm, fed, and hydrated, and yet I experienced more joy in two days than I had nearly the whole summer. I had limited physical items, but I also had the people I loved, views that were indescribable, and no cell service, which meant no distractions. I do not want a life like a bag of potato chips, filled mostly with air, I want it filled to the top with delicious, savory chips! Meaning, I want a life that is spent spreading kindness and having adventures instead of wasted scrolling on my phone and shopping to fill the void of a mediocre life.
My phone, my wardrobe, my household decor, and my anxiety are just some of the things that I have let become excess and distractions that keep me from being able to relish life and to prioritize what really matters. I have the privilege of living a life with excess, but with that privilege I have lost site of what really matters because it is under a pile of (figurative) shit that does not add meaning to my life. It took a short trip into the wilderness to remind me that I can not only survive, but thrive with only the essentials. Sitting under the canopy of stars, the outline of the mountain shining under the moonlight, a small creature in a huge world, I realized that with all the distractions gone there was just me: raw, unadorned and even so, I was enough.