the lengths we go to to be human


Most of us live urban lives. We drive in cars on sealed roads, work inside often climate controlled offices and spend our evenings inside at home – usually anyway. Make no mistake, cities offer us a lot. We live where we do because we enjoy the opportunities that a population centre offers. We like the sophistication, progress and being where things happen.

But we have some basic inclinations that do not find satisfaction when there is concrete under our feet and conditioned air in our nostrils. So we do strange things. We buy canvas or aluminium sheds and take them to ‘parks’ where other people have done the same and we set them up and live in them for short periods of time. Strange really. Its certainly not motivated by comfort and convenience. But we love it. I mean, really love it.

I sat outside at our rickety little table sipping a coffee tonight just watching people go about their evening camping activities. We’ve written before about the different kinds of tourist park users, but for tonight’s reflection I’ll simply categorise them as holidayers or nomads.

Holidayers, and you see them everywhere during holiday seasons (funny that), fill their days with activities. Tonight the families across the road gather around the TV to watch the rugby and the days are defined by serial activity, not unusually to keep the kids busy. The nomads, retirees and backpackers sit. And sit a bit longer. Usually all that is required is a chair, and a little table. Sitting is not very complicated. Reading material comes in handy. So does a cup of tea.

We could sit, or watch the rugby, as the case may be, in the comfort of our lounge room. So why do we sit outside, in the dark and the breeze? Why do we chose to use the 30 year old public toilets before going to bed when our perfectly good renovated bathroom is sitting somewhere miles away in our perfectly good home?

Because, among other reasons, being human is about being connected to the environment. There is something about the wind in our hair (at least those of us who still have some). There is something about not wearing shoes for days on end. I like not shaving every day. I like the simplicity of wearing the same clothes throughout the day, including for a couple of swims. I like being outdoors when the sun sets and (well almost) when it comes up again. I like that the weather conditions affect everything. It might not be ideal but its real, and it is what it is.

Last year, while in our caravan at Byron Bay in the middle of the year it rained a lot. Raining and camping don’t go together well. People had a great time. They problem solved, waited, improvised and laughed. The inconvenience of it all is substantial, but we and most others will roll up again. And again.

One of my favourite ad campaigns in recent years, made me laugh audibly every time, was Toyota’s ‘bad things happen indoors’ series (here’s one). Cracks me up just thinking about it. And it cracks me up to think about this phenomena that we so enthusiastically participate in, where we leave the comforts of our homes and go to extraordinary lengths to feel like we are connected with the environment. Going to places that represent freedom and pleasure, where we remember in our bones an important part of what it means to be human.

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