The world, my bag and I

6th Dec 2013

Some years ago my wife Caroline and I saved hard, rented out our house, put a stack of possessions into storage, packed a couple of rucksacks with climbing and camping kit, and boarded a plane.  We spent an amazing year climbing at venues in many beautiful parts of the world, meeting loads of great people and seeing stunning sights.  We generally had a ball.  Of course, the money eventually ran out and we reluctantly headed home.  
After our tenants left we headed back to our house.  We walked into our little lounge, sat on the sofa, and looked around.  Already the house looked cluttered compared to the wide open spaces we'd enjoyed and we knew there were at least a couple of van loads of possessions still waiting for us at the storage unit.  Immediately our carefree life was starting to feel more complicated again.  
For the last year our home had been a tiny tent and our rucksack contents had happily got us through the whole trip.  We'd had to replace a rope that got chopped by a falling boulder and we'd kept a tiny rock from every crag we visited. Otherwise, we had the same few T-shirts we'd headed off with and even the socks we'd taken, although holey, were still serviceable.  Why, if we could live happily all over the world with so little did we over complicate our life at home with so many possessions?  
Since then I've had many more trips and the process of travelling out of a single bag has become a great pleasure in my life.  I love the simplicity of washing my socks in a mountain stream, carrying a mirror the size of a playing card and generally surviving with the basics.  Each night I can pull my little nylon home out of the bag and spend a comfortable night before it all goes back in again to continue the journey.
Some trips necessitate a base camp and that's a chance to build a slightly more luxurious mobile home.  There might be chairs, a washing line, small table or a solar panel.  Occasionally there's even a mess tent to socialise in.  Even so, at the end of the trip it all goes back in the bag and I leave my temporary home to return to the more complex life I left behind.
Of course I'm not so naive as to think that I could lead such a simple life all the time but I do wish I could get closer to it.  On overseas trips I often try to look at the lives of local people to get a better sense of whether this is possible. This year I've taken trips to Peru, Morocco, Tanzania and Nepal and nowhere seems to have such complicated home lives as those of my family and friends.
In a home I visited recently in the mountains of Nepal the family had no television, computer, washing machine or similar items that at home I'd view as essentials rather than luxuries.  They washed their pots on a small platform in the garden and cooked home grown vegetables at a leisurely pace while at home I stack the dishwasher and eat far too many convenience foods.  They worked in harmony and lived together in a single space yet seemed to want for nothing.  But, of course, if I offered them a TV or more western style luxuries I suspect they would probably jump at the chance!
I am really attracted to the simplicity of their lives just as I am drawn to the beaming smiles on their faces.  But will these experiences change me?  Will I sell up and live in a tropical beach hut?  Not a chance.  I will strive to simplify my life where I can but I also thrive on the variety.  As my current vidit to Nepal draws to an end I'll look forward to the convenience of throwing my muddy clothes into the washing machine and watching a You Tube video or two.  It's just that I'll also look forward to when the time comes to pack up my duffle bag again and head off for another dose of that simple life medicine.
Posted by Paul