For about two years from 2013 to 2015 whilst I was doing a full-time academic job I decided to live primarily in a tent. This is the only blog post I wrote about the experience. For me self-inquiry has always been a better route to understanding the world than my academic inquiries.
What is an adventure in happiness? For me an adventure in happiness is about being willing to try something new to find a more fulfilling way of living. At the start of the summer I decided to live mostly in the hills in my tent. I’m still here.
A tent is a perfectly adequate shelter
I have a strong desire to demonstrate to myself and others that I don’t need very much to live a rich, meaningful, and satisfying life. A tent is probably as about as minimal as one can get – but it is a perfectly adequate shelter to protect me from the wind and rain. And then coupled with a good sleeping bag I’m well protected from the cold too.
My sleeping space may be quite small but I have found it is quite enough as outside I literally have the whole world.
So is this a successful adventure into happiness?
Well as I said I’m still here…
The simplicity of my current lifestyle is hard to beat. Each evening I find a new spot to pitch my tent (preferably one where I have a good view of the sunset or the sunrise), I then cook myself a decent dinner (a freshly prepared dahl or curry are my favourites and food is always worth taking the time on), and then I settle down for the night in my warm sleeping bag with my thoughts from the day and a good book. The only electronic device I normally have with me is my head torch.
Sometimes it’s the light that wakes me up in the morning. Other times it’s the birds. I lie there waiting-thinking-pondering about the world around me. Eventually though I sit up – I pack my life up and roll down the hill to start a brand new day. It’s a commute to work that doesn’t tire and on occasion I might even deliberately make my commute longer than it needs to be by climbing a hill or two and soaking up that fresh air.
Connection and stability…
However sometimes within this way of living I can feel lonely – sharing is important to me. Whether it is sharing the sunset or sharing some dinner, or even just a story or two, these are simple things I can miss sometimes. There is also a lot of instability – where will I sleep that night, will there be wind, rain or someone strange disturbing me in the night, what do I do if something goes wrong far up in the hills?
Although the feelings of loneliness and instability worry me they have brought with them some interesting insights. First, whatever life is chosen, whether it is living in a busy city or solitary, loneliness and instability never actually seem that far away. But for the first time in my life I find myself confronting that feeling of instability – I now appreciate that only so much stability can come from the things I have surrounded myself with and I’ve forced to develop a greater stability within myself. Home has become a state of mind and not where I decide to pitch my tent. I also value and appreciate connections with others much more than I used to and take more time to celebrate them when they are present. The help and support I have been offered over the months has amazed me and the opportunities for a greater quality of human connection has actually probably increased.
It’s not about the tent – it’s about small individual steps to greater fulfilment
I’m not saying everyone can or should live in a tent – we all have to take our own path. It is always difficult to find our own path. I have consciously and deliberately chosen to live the way I do – a simpler way – in an attempt to find more fulfilment – it is always a risk, always an adventure! I recognise that in many ways I am privileged to be able to do what I do and I am grateful for the support that I have around me.