Off the grid

I often yearn for a simplified life. In between my lust for new clothes, the latest electronic equipment, fancy furniture and something to fill my time every waking hour, I find myself wondering if I would be happier without it all.

I have been known to peruse, longingly, the trendy tiny houses and creative people living out of Airstream trailers, and think how nice it would be to have the freedom to pick up and move at a moment’s notice, seeing the world from the comfort of my own, perfectly organized and pared-down home. Nearly immediately after considering such a life, however, my anxiety kicks in and I begin making a never-ending mental inventory of all of the “stuff” that I would most certainly miss in my day-to-day life.

This past weekend, we got to have a small taste of the simple life, courtesy of a few aging hippies* who teach me a lot, simply in the way they have lived their lives. As part of an annual (this was our second year) charity hike, we returned to an incredibly unique plot of land nestled in the mountains, named by its creators as the “No Bears” campground.

From what I gather in my brief chats with the regular inhabitants, the grounds were developed in the 60s (or 70s?) as a getaway for a group of friends who lived and worked “in town.” Over the years, this land at the base of a mountain (which we climbed the following day — but enough about 14ers, Erin!) was gradually personalized and built upon, maintaining the integrity of the natural surroundings, but also encouraging fun and a sense of serene lightheartedness.

Throughout the property are tongue-in-cheek references to recorded bear attacks in the area, using maimed teddy bears as a humorous scare tactic to keep the real thing out of their camp.

The hippies built several small cabins and teepees throughout the property, and to my knowledge, they are sparsely furnished and do not have any access to electricity, running water, telephone lines, and especially not WiFi.

For all the have-nots that this retreat might appear to boast, there is no shortage of comfort and sources of joy. With two outdoor kitchens, one sourcing mountain runoff as a means for rinsing (and drinking, I’m told, but only if you’re brave), and providing tables, utensils, grills and cooking tools for a perfectly cooked al fresco meal. A beautiful giant bonfire is situated under layers of high-hanging tarp canopies to ensure a comfortable meal and conversation, regardless of the elements, surrounded by wooden furniture full of history and personality, marked with carved signatures and notes from nights long past. Beer chills in the mountain run-off creek, and meticulously-built bridges connect campsites and cabins, dotted with outhouses and outdoor game set-ups along the way. There was even talk of a wood-fired hot tub (in which I did not partake), for anyone willing to do the work of chopping the wood and cleaning it when through.

While I’ve only had the pleasure of visiting this special getaway twice, and have not even nearly explored everything they’ve built there for themselves, I return home from these trips with that simple-life yearning revived anew. The conversations that can be held around a crackling campfire, with no distractions except the sound of the wind and a s’more on the end of the stick, it’s easy to feel like this is the kind of setting around which life should really be based.

But then, I curl up with my laptop in my comfortable bed, checking messages on my phone and making to-do and shopping lists for the next day. Why is it that it’s so much easier to accumulate and depend on the tangible “stuff” of life, than it is to reject it all and live without? Why, when I am well aware that life is made by experiences and people, do I still find myself always “needing” more things? Of course, I’m thankful that I’m blessed with the good fortune to even be presented with this problem, as many have to do without out of sheer necessity, however I also believe that people of all ages and income levels can face a struggle with needs versus wants. I don’t foresee this inner battle to abate as I get older, but hope that I continue to have the opportunity to challenge my ideals and question my way of life through inspiring experiences like these.

* Please note that in no way do I use the term “aging hippies,” as a derogatory term. Quite the contrary, actually, as these are the folks that inspire me to live a better life. Also, I do believe that they would use a similar term to describe themselves.

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