My foray into lifestyle minimalism was catalysed by a happy memory of an accidental hike in the Lakes with my partner.
On a warm, bright afternoon halfway through our holiday, we stopped in a supermarket, bought lunch, and made plans for a two-hour walk around Derwentwater. We had sandwiches in our backpacks and a rudimentary walking guide in hand. It’s funny, now, how our poor sense of direction meant the walk soon extended to a nine-hour hike through all sorts of weather and terrain, and how, fortuitously, a chance meeting with a seasoned walker atop a rainy hill may have literally been the only thing stopping us walking off the edge of a cliff. But for all we know, we had enlisted on a two-hour stroll and might visit a pub on the way home.
The day was resourcefully simple and memorably beautiful.
Yes, it was dangerous. Yes, we were muddy and, yes, by god I was tired. It was emotional, too – by turns we were groaning in misery as our legs stiffened up, quaking and clambering precariously down rapid descents, laughing hysterically when we had waited at the jetty and realised our state of boatlessness, crying furiously when, as a storm whipped around us in the eighth hour of our walk, my partner wanted to delay our return to take some photos. Not to mention we were assaulted by rain, sun, wind, sleet, mud, cloud, and sunburn.
My partner’s diabetes means we are never far away from the various artefacts of his condition. Armed in public with sweets and small cartons of emergency juice, we live under the rubble of insulin vials, clear plastic tubes, cannula kits, ketosticks, Roche manuals, faded pharmacy bags; the beep and whirr of his insulin pump is a sound I can now practically sing along to. I, myself, have limitations imposed by joint pain and fatigue caused by two long-term conditions and autoimmune disease. I have tendency to rely on taxi rides and hot baths to keep myself sane, and I know I can live over-cautiously.
Today was different. For a few long hours we were living according to the contents of our backpacks and a faded paper map which we still keep for posterity. Sitting halfway up a steep ascent, surrounded by sheep and molested by bleating goats, my sandwich was a reward and a treat. My bottle of water was something I rationed and cherished. My fleecy jumper was my lifeline. I was able to interact far more meaningfully with everything around me. I was liberated from my sense of personal limitations and countless distractions. All we had was each other, the frankly unreliable map, and a mediocre meal-deal sandwich. I had never felt more alive.
We were of course delighted to finally approach the Theatre by the Lake. I remember how, like the creatures which crawled out of the sea, we staggered, desperate and muddy, toward the light and warmth and the jingle of cutlery and murmur of interval discussions. We wolfed down olives and bread and hot tea with gratitude, and felt truly enveloped in privilege and luck and wonder as we stepped inside the warm glow and were able to change our shoes. As, later, we sat and ate a pizza in the torrential rain of Bowness, hair sticking to our faces and clothes covered in mud, I reflected that my nine-hour walk in the woods had been the best day of my life.