We recently had a week where everything went wrong. The washing machine broke, our hot water system died, we ran out of gas, and to top it all off we ran out of water.
A few years back, each one of these events alone would have been enough to leave me panicking.
But this time was different. We hooked up the old twin tub, did without hot water for a few days, survived the freezing nights by adding layers and snuggling under blankets, and bucketed in water from a nearby tap to wash the dishes and flush the toilet.
It seems living in a shed last year toughened us. A year without the luxuries of heating and running water taught us to make do. We discovered how little we really need. Sure, bucketing in water and heating it up on the stove to wash the dishes is a hassle. But it's not impossible.
The experience reminded me of why I love camping, and in particular, multi-day hikes. Camping, especially if you have to carry everything on your back, forces you to pare back to basics. It reminds you of how little you need to survive. Of how little you need to be happy. Some of my most memorable moments are cooking dinner on a tiny portable stove or tucking into a bag of scroggin while sitting, exhausted, with friends.
Carrying days’ worth of water reminds you just how precious drinking water is and teaches you to use it sparingly.
I once watched a Buddhist monk wash his alms bowl. He carefully poured less than a handful of water into his bowl and slowly used his fingers to wipe the bowl clean. He then used another small handful of water to rinse. His bowl was spotless.
It's good to be reminded that endless running hot water is a luxury - not a necessity.
These days, our camping is in the comfort of a camper van. But these trips still remind me that it is possible to stay warm by layering and snuggling. And that everything we need can fit into a van.
Our recent chaotic week of living without has reminded me that it's good to be a little extreme every now and then. To push your boundaries and move beyond your comfort zone. Living without gives your true self less to hide behind and can boost your confidence in your own abilities.
I think that's why I like environmental challenges. For example, living without single-use plastic or wearing just six items of clothing for a month. I like that challenges push me beyond my comfort zone and that afterwards I settle into somewhere better than before.
So perhaps next weekend, consider rugging up and heading out for a hike, picnic or camping trip. Or challenge yourself even more. Turn off your water mains for a day, jump into the freezing ocean, or climb a mountain. Simply because you can.
I suspect that we are all a little tougher than we think we are - and realising that is a powerful thing.
Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 21st July 2014.
Some housekeeping: A change to the Little Eco Footprints inspiring reads page.
I often stumble across inspiring reads that I think you would like too. Rather then send them off into the social media abyss, I'm old-school and list them on an inspiring reads page.
I've started including little notes about why I found a particular article inspiring and a teaser quote. I've contemplated doing a weekly round-up post, but rather than fill your crowded in box or feed with an additional post each week, I like the idea of the space being there for you to pop over to and browse whenever you have the time and feel like some inspiration.