I like to think of myself as a pretty simple person. I don’t require a lot of maintenance or upkeep. I don’t require much social acceptance nor do I have any real need to be the absolute very best at anything. I like living a quiet, under the radar life filled with some cool travels and adventures that are enriching and rewarding to no one else but me. When traveling I honestly don’t need much more than an airline ticket (or full tank of gas) and a dry place to sleep for the night. Anything from a $8/night hotel in Peru to my little tent in the middle of nowhere will do.
But yep, on occasion I’ve stayed in some pretty swanky places. To be honest though, I sometimes feel more tired than rested when I leave those kinds of places. Valet parking, people taking my bags up and down and everywhere, deciding what newspaper I want delivered to my door each morning, tip now or tip later, caf or decaf, mineral water or spring water, turn down service or not, blah, blah freakin’ blah. The relaxing stay I’d hoped for is always fraught with silly decisions at every turn!
I like parking my own car, checking in without fanfare and I prefer taking my own backpack to my room and throwing it in the corner and being done with it. If I want a newspaper in the morning, I’ll walk to the nearest café for a coffee and pastry and pick up a local paper on the way. If I want something out of my car, I’ll walk out and get it myself instead of having to first check in with the valet, get them to go down and rummage through my things and bring me whatever I’m looking for, or worse, drive my car back up, let me look through my crap, then drive it back down — and then get to tip them for the privilege of getting my own stuff. Exhausting. It’s just not my style.
Maybe that’s why I like trail running so much. It’s simple, or at least it is for me. Put on my shoes, run. Done. But some people can make something as simple as that task as hard as hell. What music? Which shorts? Does my shirt match my shorts? Are these socks okay? How’s my hair? Cap or no cap? Sunglasses or not? Should I run with my friends or solo. Should I take my phone? Which high performance sports drink will get me through that grueling two miles around the neighborhood or indoor track at the gym? I get sick every time I see the complexity that people can pile on to something that should be so damn easy.
Fortunately I’ve been able to keep my own running very simple. In the evenings I generally just run the trails that are accessible from my house. I come in from work, change clothes in about two minutes, oblivious to whether the first shirt I grab out the drawer matches my shorts. That’s because I don’t really give a rat’s ass whether it’s inside out or color coordinated. I’m going out to run around on dirt trails and get extremely sweaty and dirty, not walk the runway at some beauty pageant.
On the weekends I run far, very far. Pretty much the same scenario on the clothing applies here. I grab my clothes in the dark and could care less if they match or not. All my running shorts (both pair) are black so that’s one less complication. Okay, living here in Colorado and the fact that it can be cold sometimes forces me to decide if I should wear short sleeves or long sleeves, but that’s about as complex as it gets. My weekend running venue consists of places I can run for one, two, three or four or more hours. We have mountains, therefore it’s going to be hilly, period. I don’t need to do a month’s worth of research to find the perfect green belt trail that’s close to a Starbucks AND without too much elevation gain (i.e. 10 feet vs. 50 feet). If the trail I’m running has 1,000 feet or 10,000 feet of elevation gain it honestly doesn’t matter. I just suck it up and run the miles in complete solitude and without the option of caf or decaf. I refuse to over-think things to the point of making the whole endeavour more of a chore than something healthy and fun.
Lately I’ve even let taking photos become a little too complex and predictable. Instead of capturing things as they happen, I’ve sadly started thinking in terms of photo ops. When I do that, it changes the entire reason I wanted to travel and adventure in the first place. Before, I’d roam around in some off beat place and find myself in sometimes “interesting” situations simply because that’s where fate/serendipity/good luck/bad luck delivered me. When it did get me into those interesting places, I’d bust out the camera and take a few shots. Unplanned, unscripted. Just life the way it happens and how I happened to see it when it did.
Taking photos this way (at least I think) maybe gives my work some legitimacy in that I was earnestly attempting to capture a fleeting moment or some happenstance situation, not some staged event. I’d put myself in the situation, first through the love of simple travel and adventure, NOT to be situated in the right place at the right time to capture a photo only as a trophy. If I let myself start thinking in those terms I’ll sadly become a tourist and not a traveler. That is something that is totally unacceptable in my world, totally unacceptable. When someone travels as a tourist things gets overly complicated because those people expect that things will happen according to a plan and are generally disappointed when they don’t. When you travel as a traveler, in the truest sense, you expect everything to happen but you don’t know what it is that’s going to happen…and you know nothing would ever go according to a plan anyhow. In fact, it’d be a crushing disappointment if things did happen in a predictable manner! It’s those unexpected circumstances that make the best photos (again, at least to me).
And yes, there’s much more daily complexity to muck the waters! Just today, after finally succumbing to the pressure, I’m replacing all my old Nalgene and Sigg water bottles. These are the ones that are bedecked with my favorite stickers, they’ve been traveling around the world with me for years, and at times they’ve taken a savage beating at the local climbing crags and surrounding mountains — but like trusted friends, they’ve never let me go thirsty. However, it seems that back in the day, in order to make those water bottles sleek, sexy and high tech, the manufacturers used a chemical that could kill me, or at least cause me to grow a third eye, or a second anus, or both. I’ve scoffed replacing them for some time just because of the principle of the thing, but I admit, the societal pressure finally got to me and I’m tossing them aside. Shit, I can’t even drink water without complexity.
And just the other day someone asked me why I hadn’t responded to a text they’d sent me a few weeks prior. Number one, I just got my first cell phone about three months ago. It’s a totally ghetto model with few buttons and even fewer “apps” — a term I absolutely despise. Donna got me the phone while I was away ice climbing, otherwise, I still wouldn’t have one. Anyhow, I told this person that the service plan I have doesn’t feature texting capabilities and that their transmission had likely been cast into the cyber toilet and flushed without being seen. When I told them I didn’t have texting capabilities they looked at me as if that second anus from the chemically laced water bottles had indeed materialized — right on my forehead. I’m sorry, but isn’t a phone designed to make a call? I hate phones to begin with and loathe the fact that that damn thing now follows me around like a pathetic lapdog. The only function I’ve learned to date is how to turn the sound OFF. I hate being connected. Too complicated. Grrrrrr…….
Since returning from climbing in the backcountry of British Columbia and being away from my routine to just deal with the true basics, I’ve really started thinking about how complex everything around me truly is. Some of it is unavoidable, but the majority is totally , TOTALLY self inflicted.
I think going and getting new water bottles today finally pushed me over the edge (again). From here on I’m going to re-evaluate everything in my life and toss out all the stupid, unnecessary complexity. Time to get back to the basics. Live simply. Run. Climb. Ride (my mountain bike and snowboard). Dirt bag travel. Van Morrison. Keep it real. Keep it simple. Drink the water.
Climb high. Run long. Paddle far. Live big.