One of the great things about Canada is how freaking huge this country is. People from other parts of the world have a lot of trouble grasping the reality of the enormity of this nation, coupled with a lack of population density. If you’re from Europe, Asia, the US, or even from Africa, it’s difficult to conceptualize the vast emptiness of most of this country. Huge chunks of countryside with almost no development or human impact.
The upside to that, for someone like me, is the relative ease with which you can drive for an hour or so, starting from a densely populated city like Calgary (with a population of over a million, it’s a much bigger city than most Americans or Europeans realize, if they’ve even heard of it), and end up… Nowhere. Completely cut off in a way that isn’t possible in Europe or the U.S. Not only distant from any significant population center, but in areas so sparsely inhabited you can’t even get any cel coverage. A few years ago, definitely within the past decade, that would have been an easy thing to do just about anywhere. Now, it is an increasingly hard thing to do. Cellular coverage has become ubiquitous throughout the developed world. It is actually a challenge to find places in the U.S. or Europe that isn’t blanketed with some sort of coverage, except for some very small pockets of “dead zones” – and even these are becoming rare.
Here… Drive for an hour or so away from a city in most directions, pitch a tent, and open the glovebox and chuck in your phone for the weekend, because it won’t be any good to you. And that is ever so wonderful and liberating. Maybe, given my last post, the joys of disconnecting have been on my mind more lately. More truthfully, it has always been something I have enjoyed. The ability to head out and just turn it all off.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Luddite. I enjoy my modern conveniences, and unlike a lot of neo-hipster environmentalists and fringe animal rights activists, I am deeply aware of the costs we must pay as a global society in order to maintain a relatively high standard of living for the population as a whole, and the costs to natural spaces and wildlife. On the balance, I’m Ok with those trade offs. Can we do a better job of managing our resources so that we have less impact on the natural world? Certainly. Would I be willing for us to sacrifice any of the quality of life mankind has worked so hard to achieve over the past few thousand years in order preserve the natural order? No. That would be a middle class conceit. It is the conceit of idle suburbanites and white collar workers who have never experienced poverty, true poverty, and cannot understand its deprivations. What people who have never gone hungry fail to understand is that while they can easily sacrifice 10-20% of their wealth, standard of living, and quality of life… For more than half the population of the planet, you know, the ones that live in poverty, or on the edge of it, such a sacrifice would be brutal, dangerous, and quite possibly fatal.
If it comes down to a choice between saving a human and shooting Bambi, in my world, it is no choice. Bambi’s going to take a bullet.
In an indirect sort of way, that brings me around to what it is I get out of camping. First and foremost, I get a needed disconnect from the buzz and hum of everyday life. Nothing puts all the crap you go through on a daily basis in perspective as taking a serious step away from it. Getting out of cel range, pitching a tent, and having to sleep rough and cook over flame, not having the opportunity to jump online to google the name of that character actor, in that b-flick, you know the one?… It has the ability to show you exactly how irrelevant a lot of all that really is.
The other thing I get from camping is that its hard. As in, not easy. As in, a lot more challenging than cracking open the freezer for a TV dinner, wandering across the street for a bag of chips , getting warm by adjusting the thermostat or cooling off by turning on the AC. Sleeping in a nice comfy bed piled high with covers and pillows. Flush toilets. Showers… The list of things that, while you can technically live without but would rather not have to for any extended period of time, is rather long.
The long and short of it is, essentially, camping reminds you of all the things you have in this modern world that are good to have. It also reminds you of all the things you could just as soon do without.