Its school holidays at the moment and my 13-yr-old daughter and I decided it would be fun to go camping for a few nights. Having never camped before and being somewhat a creature of comfort, I asked a friend if I could borrow some gear to make our first experience as comfortable as possible. He delivered.
A week later I had more camping paraphernalia laid across my driveway than a small troop would need for a tour of duty in the remote wilderness (and we were only going camping across the road from where we live!). Amongst the assortment was:
- a 4 person tent
- 2 foam mattresses
- 2 sleeping bags
- 2 swags
- 2 chairs
- 2 headlamps
- a giant tarp to create an outdoor roof
- a pile of 8 foot steel poles to set up said roof
- a large military duffel bag of nylon ropes of varying thickness to secure poles
- a folding picnic table with 2 benches
- a hammock
- a camp kitchen
- a cooking stove
- a propane bottle to fire up the stove that was big enough to cook hot dogs for a corner of America on the 4th of July
- a “campmate” satchel filled with cooking utensils, knifes and gadgets (including measuring spoons and cups … in case either of us wanted to follow a recipe while we were camping???)
- a toaster, an egg pan, 2 pots and a cooking rack
- 3 cutting boards
- a broom and dustpan
There was more, but you get the picture. And then another friend of ours loaned us a camp fridge for the $300 worth of food I bought that included:
- Enough oranges to cure a small community of scurvy
- Enough apples to bake a few pies for Thanksgiving
- 6 lemons
- a bunch of celery that was so big and so long you could have used it as a cricket bat
- about 20 carrots
- 3 avocados
- a bag of spinach
- a bag of rocket
- 2 loaves of bread
- a dozen eggs
- 2 cartons of oat milk and 1 carton of coconut milk
- 3 different types of dips
- 2 different types of cheese
- a pack of butter
And that was only what needed refrigeration. I won’t even bother to list the contents of the huge packing box that was filled with pantry items and dry goods.
Did I mention we were only going camping for 3 nights?
Did I mention we were only going camping across the road from where we lived?
It took us 2 trips to transport all of the above plus all of our own personal gear (which included a bike, a surfboard, a boogie board plus a lot of other completely unnecessary personal items that we won’t mention).
Once we got everything over to the other side, both Grace and I immediately felt the heaviness of all that “stuff”. Instead of making either of us feel comfortable, we both felt burdened. I looked around at all the piles of bags and bins sitting on the ground and felt a wave of sadness wash over me. This wasn’t fun. This wasn’t enjoyable. This was nothing more than a perfect reflection of an idea that’s been holding me down for years – more is better because having choices gives you options. I’ve been a chronic over-packer most of my life. While I pack my thoughts often go something like this, “Well… what if we go out to dinner?” or “It might rain” or “Well, this would be nice if we get invited to someone’s house” or “If that gets dirty than this would be a good back-up” and “Oh! That’s cute! I never wear it but I might wear it on holiday” and so on and so forth until I almost always end up with a bag that’s heavy enough to create uncertainty at the check-in counter when the “Place your bags on the scale” command is given. I’m almost always within 2 kgs of maximum weight and I almost always return home with at least half of the clothes I brought untouched.
So, here we were at the campsite on our inaugural camping trip and I realized I didn’t want anything but the bare basics, plus comfortable bedding (that’s the one thing I’m not skimping on. No way.) And as soon as I realized I didn’t want all this gear camping, I realized I didn’t want all the stuff in general. I suddenly felt in my body that the accumulation of material possessions as a means to security and freedom was one of the principal beliefs that had been imprisoning me and making me insecure, like I wouldn’t be okay if I didn’t have 2 sleeping bags AND 2 swags plus an entire kitchen and half a supermarket for 3 nights of camping.
I spent the next hour schlepping almost everything back across the road and in the end, we had a tent, comfy bedding, 2 chairs, the camp fridge (I have to say – those things are VERY useful), a pair of citronella candles to ward off the mozzies, a lantern and a deck of cards. And we had the best time! We decided we LOVE camping and we also decided, less is more.
I know this is a lesson I have personally been learning for a long long time. I have had such a materially abundant life and while I am ever so grateful, I also see and feel more clearly than ever the double-edged sword of relying on anything outside of myself to provide comfort and security. All of it has been a barrier between me and the freedom and joy I seek, which is always available (and for me, my God is Nature).
Our 40-foot container of household goods recently arrived from America and I’ve decided to put the entire contents of that container straight into a storage unit. It feels SO good to have a blank slate and to be light on my feet. It’s time to fly, to be free and to sleep under the stars. It’s time so start culling all the red herrings that have disguised themselves as “security” but have been standing in the way of the peace I crave.
Happy campers know the secret. Travel lightly and carry a big stick.