On Scarcity. (Reflections from the wilderness.)

This year on our annual dad/siblings wilderness camping trip we decided to go hardcore.

One of my brothers (the only one of us who’s actually hardcore) planned out our canoe and portage route to reach a beautiful, secluded lake. It’s only accessible by portage or plane – there’s no road or even direct boat access. Meaning we had to carry everything we were going to wear, eat, sleep in and use, as well as our canoes. For over 10 km, cumulatively. One way.image

My sister and I carefully crafted a meal plan, packing all the food we’d eat for a week into a small barrel. We had basic meals of rice, quinoa or noodles with canned vegetables, stews or beans, oatmeal, bannock flour, some spices, root vegetables and a few snacks.

We all really, REALLY love to eat. It’s fair to call it a defining family characteristic. My mom is the type who buys fresh meat from organic farmers to fill two freezers, makes homemade jam and whips up full-meal-second-dinner-like midnight snacks for us. Just cause. We talk about the food we’re going to eat at our next meal…while we’re still eating the first one.
So, we may trudge through the wilderness with canoes on our heads, sleep without mattresses and pillows and wash clothing/ourselves in lakes without complaint. But lack of snack food?!?! Yea, there was some hanger. (Hungry+angry=hangry, FYI).

Conversation often revolved around the meal plan and the lack of choice it presented. There were no extra snacks to satisfy our many cravings and we were conscious of the need to ration quantity. We were no where close to going hungry. But were unusually aware that we could run out of food.
Basic survival – questioning whether you’re going to have enough to eat – is a daily reality for millions of people. The opposite – consumption of what we want, when we want – is ours.

Practically speaking, it’s strange to choose scarcity. I understand why my mom, who experienced terrible starvation and deprivation, has no interest in coming on these trips with us. She doesn’t get how living with less, when you don’t have to, is.. vacation? For the rest of us, it’s almost exhilarating to embed ourselves in situations where we’re reminded of our own mortality and vulnerability. But we enjoy our break from excess, precisely because we know that we’ll return to it. 

We will likely never experience true scarcity. But the fascination with testing our ability to survive, hopefully causes us to question the blinding power of limitless consumption. Everything you have in the wilderness is more precious. We split thick rope into three so there was enough to string up a shelter. Started rationing toilet paper when it was getting low – a conversation about using leaves actually occurred. And oh, how we savoured our last pot of hot chocolate (we ran out mid-week) on a cold, wet night. This is really a conversation about value. And while value might seem dependent on supply and demand, it doesn’t have to be.  



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