In 2 weeks’ time I’m going offline. We’re moving and we cancelled our contract, then had to stay longer than planned. Now the wifi we’ve been borrowing is going away.
The thought of not having the internet, frankly, scares me to death.
I admit it, I’m hooked. My website needs me; I have to apply for jobs, look for homes; I’ll miss seeing what my friends are doing. As soon as I’m away from the net I think of 50 things I should have checked, shared, found out or done.
But just a fortnight ago, I was sitting in a tent in the middle of nowhere, perfectly content to read a book while my shoes dried out in the sun. In fact, we’d just hiked up the second-highest mountain in Wales, in a howling gale and pouring rain, wearing none of the ‘essentials’ hikers nowadays wear. My fella, who had forgotten his coat, even carried his umbrella past the huddled hoards of sniggering (properly dressed) hikers and made his way to the top.
We survived. Not only that, exercise, fresh air and more than our fair share of giggles ensured we enjoyed ourselves to the full. Sure, a good set of waterproofs would have been nice and the hot shower at the end was the most welcome gift in the world, but that didn’t stop us having fun at the time. And when I settled down for a rest, I was the happiest thing in the hills.
That day, the internet didn’t even enter my mind.
The point? We can survive with a whole lot less than we think.
Over the last 5 years we have been ferociously saving money. Not just putting a little aside for a rainy day, but doing less, buying less and skimping and cutting back wherever we can. By now, almost all of my clothes are second-hand, most are wearing thin and I just had my first haircut in over a year.
As a lifestyle choice, self-denial stinks. I don’t recommend it unless you have something pretty amazing you want to achieve (we’re almost there!), and even then I’d warn against getting too used to going without. But the implications of learning what you actually need (which ain’t so much) can blow you away:
- You learn what is actually important to you, and what you don’t really miss when it’s no longer around. Out camping, the urge to use the internet fizzled away. Back home, my panic about leaving the Alps has faded – I most missed my garden and friends. The things that really matter are often simple, personal, and free.
- You learn what you need to survive. On this journey, we’ve lived without hot running water (or any running water in the bathroom), central heating (in the Alps!), an oven, a TV, yet I’ve had more time feeling happy and content than ever before. I now know I’m fine with a garden fork and a pair of secateurs.
- You learn to accept help gracefully, from strangers and friends. Sometimes I feel immensely proud of how much money we’ve saved, but I know we could never have done it alone. Hand-me-downs, call-backs – showers! – moral support, places to stay… these have been offered willingly and received without shame. And accepting help is part one, but finding ways to give back for free is the most fun of all.
- And, most wonderfully, you discover an ability to innovate, create and solve problems head-on. We heat water in the sun and on our wood burning stove; we’ve cooked pizza in a huge metal pot, landscaped our garden by recycling rubbish that was already there, downloaded films, grown our own veg, made our own bread and cooked staples in bulk (stuffing the freezer to the gills.) It’s absolutely amazing what you can find in ‘reduced to clear’.
It’ll all be OK
So, inconvenient as it may be, our brief stint without contact with the outside world will be survived. Chances are, apart from not being able to update YOU, the internet probably won’t be missed. Then it will be over and I’ll see nothing has changed.
Perhaps we will have taken the opportunity to go out and make the most of this location for the last remaining days, enjoyed each other’s company some more, done a few more jobs in advance of the move… You lose something, and something is gained.
And why does this matter?
Because too many of us think happiness must be later; we struggle to earn, learn to ‘make do’. Because so many people get rich and don’t have what they need. Because we’ve tied up our happiness in money, and it’s simply not true.
You’ll find happiness in discovering who you are – what nurtures you, what makes you happy, what makes you tick. It’s in finding out how creative you are, how imaginative, and experiencing the fun of starting from scratch. It’s knowing that people are more important than things.
Sure, money’s useful, helpful and great fun to spend (I’m certainly looking forward to it!) Having it, you can make a whole lot of difference in the world. But – just at bit, just for a short while – I highly recommend the gifts of going without.