A couple of posts back I mentioned living on the side of a mountain in a tent on the island of Corsica for some weeks over the summer.
This wasn’t glamping or even what you might call prepared camping – we did this in the most basic way possible. When I look back at the photos I marvel at how easy it was to adapt to a life that would probably have turned off the most staunch minimalists for it’s extremity.
As the time of year in which to reflect back draws upon us, I can safely say that it was the most enjoyable time I have had in recent memory. Sure, there were a couple of things that worked in our favour – the sun, the location, the season that was in it – but because of the enforced minimalism it really had the potential to have turned out a lot worse.
Here’s why living in a tent just north of Ajaccio was the best thing I think I’ve done all year.
We had nothing.
We had our tent, which was on the top of an extremely steep hill, a massage mat from Thailand which acted as a mattress and a single sleeping bag as a blanket. Accessories included a small torch but other than that when it got dark, that was it. We had a single chair and a small stool outside and no kitchen utensils save for spoons and a knock-off swiss army knife. We had also barely brought any clothes because the summer was already promisingly sweltering in mid-May. I brought four books and a notepad.
In the absence of plugs, technology became a bit of nuisance actually and it was more hassle to source a power outlet than it seemed worth. So our days were filled with silence even if we spent the whole time talking. There is silence you only notice when you declutter your life – even the things you think are essential – and strip it right back to what you can live with. You’d be surprised at how willingly you seem to want to give up the distractions we call essential once you give your brain and body the choice.
No Alarms, No Artificial Light.
As someone who usually falls asleep to the sounds of the radio, or uses YouTube playlists to drown out the snores of my boyfriend, my weeks in the tent immediately forced me to drop those habits.
First of all, there was no WIFI unless you paid for it, so using YouTube wasn’t the most convenient and secondly, when you are using an iPhone surrounded by the blackness of the natural night it does tend to bother you. My brain very quickly adjusted to the natural rhythm of day and night and so when habit crept in and told me to open my phone at midnight, I found myself truly disturbed by the LED screen light.
My phone, though I did certainly use it, became obsolete in some of what had been its everyday functions. I rarely struggled to go to sleep as my body wound down with the sunset and I woke up with the sunrise in the mornings. There were no shrill sounds from either of our phones, no artificial light from any lamps or computers we would have otherwise left running.
All of that brings me to the next point.
A Better Sleep Than Any Other Time in my Life.
I am sure that stress has a place in the reasons why I did sleep better in the tent but I wouldn’t let that argument alone dismiss the benefits that my sleep cycle received from our mountainside abode.
Yes, I was on holidays but I have lived many holidays and I have yet to experience a healthier sleep cycle that left me feeling as refreshed and rested as this one did. I am certain it had to do with the lack of distractions available and the way that the natural loss of light simply forced us to go into the human equivalent of computer sleep mode.
I would actually say that most of my nights normally seem like being constantly in sleep mode without fully entering a stage of complete shut down, of total rest.
In Corsica, I didn’t (as I usually do) wake up the middle of the night, I had no nightmares and when I woke up I set myself up right for the following night’s sleep by not immediately checking my phone for the news or switching on my computer. The first thing I had to do was go outside to the sight of the sun rising over the beach in order to make my way down to the bathrooms.
I Learned to Appreciate.
When we first bought spoons it felt like Christmas. On the night of the blood moon some Swiss neighbours, who had pitched a fully equipped tent some way from ours, saw that we had nothing for our drinks and offered us some plastic coloured cups and it will remain the most genuine thank you I will give this year.
I appreciated what I had considered necessities and that is something seriously worth experiencing. When we left and went to a family house on the island I found myself laughing about how happy I was to have a private shower, a kitchen, too many places to sit down when the floor would really have been just as effective.
Living in nature also makes you a much more compassionate person. While I would have squashed spiders before the weeks in the tent, when I found a pretty large one sharing the shower cubicle with me, I breathed my way through any fear and continued to wash my hair, unafraid.
I can recall hours that I spent sitting on the ground watching the lizards scramble over the trees or the nights when we would hear such noises on the hood of the tent. When a small frog hopped its way into the bathrooms on another day I reached slowly for my camera because I realised with a kind of disappointment that it would be months, perhaps forever, before I would be this close to a frog again.
It sounds silly but it did more for me than reading about deforestation and the global climate catastrophe on my phone in a café.
A Clear Mind.
I didn’t need to make an effort to meditate, didn’t need any app on my phone. I woke up in a natural silence and fell asleep in one; if I didn’t talk for hours and sat on the beach just observing, the process of allowing thoughts to slip over one another without my judgement simply happened.
When what you see first thing in the morning are a forest of thick, lush trees and the sea beyond the cream sand, and what you hear last thing at night are the patter of insect feet on the tent or raindrops or nothing at all, it tends to flush out the noise we accumulate just from living in the ways we allow ourselves to.
I had no conversations to process, no glances or actions to analyse, nothing sinister or complicated to wonder about at all. My days were reduced to sleeping, eating, doing whatever it was that we did and returning to a place of nothingness each evening. When we did go out (twice, to a beach party) I found myself so full of energy, and so willing to receive positivity, that I don’t think it would have mattered where I was that night.
We know, we must know, that what we think is necessary to our lives is not so. The luxury is in letting it all go and in understanding what it really is that keeps us truly going.