Living an Inconvenient Life

I asked a friend why she hated camping, wondering if there was something in the equation I am missing. She said it wasn’t just having to deal with the weather and the bugs, though she didn’t like them at all. It was more the inconvenience of the experience. Nothing was . . . well, nothing was convenient.

cleanWe live in a society of convenience. Most of us live in solid structures, with roofs and walls that keep out the weather. We can adjust the inside temperature, our personal “weather,” however we wish, no matter what is going on outside our walls. Body wastes are quickly dealt with by the push of a button, so we never have to consider how our bodies work — the in and out of the various substances we call “food.” We neither toil nor spin (most of today’s “work” is far from backbreaking, taking place in front of various machines that remove one sort of toiling out of the equation, and add in another sort of toil — toil by tedium).

We don’t even have to entertain ourselves — there are televisions and computers, movies and shows, books, music. All available to us at the touch of a button without having to crack a single drop of mental sweat.

I am certainly not adverse to convenience. I have lived a life that while not exactly luxurious, has certainly been one of comfort. Not financial comfort because I’ve never had much, but physical comfort. Warm beds, even when they were simply mattresses on the floor. Piles of comforters to snuggle under. Stacks of books ready for perusal. Good food made from scratch.

And yet . . .

There is more to life than comfort and convenience. Or at least, that’s what I surmise. I am still in the zone of comfort, though I am preparing to step out into the raw world to see what it has to offer. Maybe nothing. Maybe I will hate the inconvenience of it all, the struggle to stay warm without electricity or heat, the attempt at living a more wild life. But the truth is, I love the idea of it, and I especially love the preparation and how it makes me look at everything from a different angle.

When preparing for an extended road/camping/hiking/backpacking trip, you have to look beyond the daily conveniences and find other ways of doing simple things. Some people take to RVing, but that is not for me. RVing seems like more of the same — convenience and comfort, though in a mobile setting. I’m more interested in the basics. What I need for survival. What comfort I can’t do without. What is important, and more importantly, what can be left by the wayside. (Figuratively speaking, of course. In a “leave no trace” philosophy, one leaves nothing by the wayside.)

It seems silly to have amassed a carload of gear in what is supposed to be a trip into simplicity, but there are vast numbers of goods to make things even simpler. Tents. Sleeping bags, pads, and quilts. Ready made food. Tiny but functional stoves. Emergency equipment and rations. Although I have a vision of myself as another Peace Pilgrim, setting out with nothing but a comb, toothbrush, map, and pen, I am smart enough to know that I don’t have the faith such a venture demands.

Someday, perhaps.

At the moment, doing a more traditional trip is still plenty wild for me, especially considering my lack of experience. I do know how to use most of the gear I have, though. I know how to walk. Know how to be by myself.

Oddly, the thing that worries me the most about living an inconvenient life is what to do with all the time freed up by the simplicity of it all. I don’t intend to drive more than a couple of hours a day. Can’t sleep more than eight hours. Am unable to walk more than three or four hours. (Even less if I am carrying extra water and a few items in case of emergency.) Assuming the inconvenience of setting up a home every day takes up another hour or even two, there is a whole lot of time leftover. A minimum of eight hours.

What does one do with such a surfeit of time? No movies, no books, no music to fill it. No dance classes. No housework (not that I do much of it now). No errands. I will have pencil and paper, of course, but still, there will be one heck of a lot of time for . . . I don’t know what.

I guess I’ll find out.


(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

8 Responses to “Living an Inconvenient Life”

  1. Becky aka TXBX Says:

    DRINK! Drink in the life you haven’t yet enjoyed doing in your ‘past’ life, and savor the excitement you feel about your future. Enjoy slow coffee, sunrises, sunsets, bubbling brooks, watch a flower unfurl, watch a spiraling bird of prey, Now that you are feeling prepared, remind yourself to ‘not look back’, advice from my dad in my first days of retirement.

    Dad said, “When you decide to travel, do it with anticipation! Savor the moment, and you won’t have to ever look back! If you have to look back, you aren’t fully enjoying the moments you have been planning for in the years prior to today.”

    He was absolutely right, but I had to learn that by making a few of my own mistakes. I’ve even revisited some places I missed when I had a ‘destination’ in mind! (Thanks, Dad!)

    Be alert, watch the road ahead, and when you have the slightest inkling or suspicion there will be something around the next bend, slow down and prepare to stop in your tracks.” Write your plans in a sand calendar that’s expecting a harsh wind, and you won’t feel like you must change them. When you are all packed up, go back and get one more thing! Consider some old books you were going to donate or perhaps a hummingbird feeder as your ‘extras’.

    The best experiences happen when you least expect them, but you have to keep the doors open so they can happen! As I was growing up, we ‘travel-camped’ to national parks, with old army cots, kerosene lanterns, and mosquito nets. Everytime we crossed a state line, we stopped and walked around, always imagining that we had one foot in each state! We lay under the stars telling spooky stories and ate out of a cardboard box my mom had prepared before leaving home. Back then we fed the bears in Yellowstone through car windows, and if there wasn’t an ‘outhouse’, we looked for a bush!

    When I was a child, time flew by when I was in tune with nature. I delighted in watching an egg hatch, looking for animal ‘families’, making mud pies, and using a straw and swirl a ‘doodle-bug’ out of his work building a lair. We tried to whistle into the wind, and find a place to create an echo. Even today, I still do things that brought me pleasure as a child, and delight in the sound of an echo bouncing off of canyon walls. You are preparing for the beginning of a wonderful time in your life! You can never ‘prepare’ enough, because that’s part of the fun!

    I just spoke with an old RV friend who told me what a group of them do in the vicinity of Yuma, AZ. They leave their cars, trailers, RVs, or camp-outs, and pack a picnic. With food in hand, each person drives out into the middle of the desert, sits out their lawn chair, and chat with others till the sun falls low on the horizon. At dusk, they pull out their picnic meal and eat before it’s totally dark, then, put all of their items away in their vehicle,
    …….and like clockwork, they wander out into a special spot in the desert where they can no longer see each other’s face, or their vehicle. At that time, they claim to be able to feel akin to nature, and while looking at the moon, they all begin to howl like coyotes! Then, I suspect they all giggle afterwards at the pure absurdity of the fun and freedom!
    (I dearly hope to do that with them in the next year! I can’t imagine how much fun it must be to feel so totally liberated and do things I would never have done elsewhere!!) Perhaps I will see you there!

    When you have a whole day, consider cooking in a solar oven. Internet research and Youtube will give you instructions, and all you need is a cardboard box, shiny foil, and a sense of adventure! Solar ovens make good slow-cookers!!

    Many people are finding tranquility in adult coloring books. You can find them at Texas’s Walmarts for less than $4-$5, and while the intricate patterns will relax your mind, excess time will disappear too quickly. “Coloring” is the new ‘Valium’ for people of all ages., I ordered mine off of Walmart’s website, but I’ve seen them in the store, too. Consider being a rock-hound, or some type of hobby linked to the experiences you will find down the highway!!

    How exciting that soon you will be writing your own adventures in the blog!

    Come through Texas and I will take you to dinner!!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You are very poetic. I love your suggestions and the way you describe travel, making the journey sound as wonderful as I hope it will be.

      For sure we will meet! I bet we would have a lot to talk about.

  2. Wanda Hughes Says:

    TXBX has some good ideas! Bill got me a coloring book at Wmart and it’s a great way to get away frome the computer for me. Rockhounding is fun! I can send you ideas of places to check out on your travels and point you to what you might find there. You can send the rocks on to me…LOL. Becoming a bird watcher and creating a life list of birds you’ve seen is fun as is identifying plants native to each area. You will find lots to do, I know. I’ll be looking forward to hearing about all the things you do and see and feel,

  3. leesis Says:

    that time, when you have nothing to ‘do’ is the most precious time of all Pat!

  4. Rhonda Says:

    I admire you so much. I’ll never do the things you are about to embark upon, because roots. Mom, kids, grands. But I sure do drink in the spirit of this adventure, and I’ll be admiring you from afar. At one time, you said you were going to go through Louisiana. If that’s still part of your course, I’ll happily board you for a night and treat you to a great meal or two. North Louisiana, that is – Shreveport.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      The main reason for doing the trip is that I have no roots. I’m sort of looking for roots in rootlessness, if that makes sense. Yes, I will be going through Louisiana. Would love to ttake you up on your offer!

  5. frederick anderson Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your first respondent Becky’s advice – or at least the first word of it. Do, indeed, drink. At least three doubles before breakfast and the equivalent before lunch. You’ll find the time just melts away and you won’t care about the discomforts. Whiskey is the camper’s friend.

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