Getting it all away from you

September 6, 2022 Comments Off on Getting it all away from you

There’s a happy marketing myth that travel lets you get away from it all. The sales pitch is that once you’re in a different locale, and the more exotic/bragworthy/costly the better, you will be able to distance yourself from the stress and the irrelevancies that consume life. When you get away from it all you arrive at some esoteric mental destination that lets you focus on what really matters.

You return from the journey–it’s never simply a trip–more relaxed, more focused, more centered, and more able to deal with and reduce the nattering negativity, the droning pettiness, and the time sucks of meaninglessness that occupy most of waking life. Like all successful marketing pitches, this one is a scowling, howling, stinking lie wrapped around a tiny nugget of truth.

The nugget is that different environments can help us see, think, and behave differently. Notice the word “can”? Doesn’t mean “will.”

In its most basic form, modern life is dominated, overwhelmingly, by things and services. Cars, houses, gadgets, clothes, TV, shopping, dining, and most everything on the Internet occupy the vast majority of our waking time. And the farther away from those things you get, the more clearly you realize that distance packaged as “travel” doesn’t diminish the domination of things one iota.

Nowhere does this play out more clearly than in outdoor travel, which has become an exercise in taking everything with you, and in never being far removed from food service, Internet service, and lodging. No one seems to care that the more things they take and the more services they avail themselves of, the less time they will have to experience the introspection and recalibration that they ostensibly set out to engage in. Nowadays a true camping experience requires an amazing array of things, none sillier or more emblematic of the non-escape than the changing tent.

The idea that you require complete privacy to change clothes when outdoors is astonishing. Is anyone even looking? And if you are so asses-to-elbows in your campsite, are you really camping? And even if someone sees your drooping gut and white ass for a fleeting second or two, so what? And finally, don’t you know how to change in your tent, camper, or car?

It’s this last point that underscores the utter uselessness of the changing tent, without denting its position as a must-have item, as it recreates the total privacy you have at home. It may seem like the cost and hassle of setting up that one extra item is minimal, but each add-on adds up until your car is packed, the roof is laden with a giant carrier, extra coolers are lashed to the rear bumper, and you’re towing a trailer.

But here’s the shock: No matter how much you bring, you’ve always forgotten something, which is why you need proximity to a store, and after a few badly cooked meals everyone starts whining for a Big Mac, which is why you need proximity to fast food, to say nothing of the fact that the alcohols will always need replenishing long before trip’s end.

What gets recreated is the very thing you left, and what gets left undone are those extended bouts of solitude without which new realizations can never arise. I’m far from being a minimalist and am not even sure what such a person is. What I do know is that the shared consumerist algorithm of “too much is just enough” will always deliver less, never more, and that you can’t clutter the rustling of the leaves with changing tents and Yeti coolers while still expecting them to do their magic.



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