The last week has taken us to wine tasting in Blenheim, to a couple of days in Nelson next to the biggest, awe-inspiring beach you can imagine, and finally to Abel Tasman, the national park.
Most of our camping to date has been in parks that also provide a huge number of facilities for families, most of which we haven't needed to use, they've just been in convenient places for us to stay. The warm showers and cooking facilities have been great, and it's been a really useful way for us to get to grips with camping with a baby.
Our most recent stop in Abel Tasman has been entirely different. Our camp is the only one on the trail you can reach by car, and it's run by the DOC, so the facilities are super basic (toilet, cold shower), and we're now literally cooking on gas (by the tent that is). We're completely off the grid here, no wifi, our phones don't work (which fills me with a little fear as we go off on long walks with Otis, despite us being wholly prepared), and you can't readily drive in and out of the park, as it's an hour on a dirt road.
Staying in places like this makes you realise quickly how little you need to actually be happy. Packing in the first place for a trip like this is a challenge, particularly with a baby, as you're attracted by gadgets that you're convinced you need to keep them happy as they travel. Ultimately much of what you're packing for them is to ease your own guilt, rather than it truly being a necessity. After you're away for about a week, you realise quickly that you could post half the stuff back and you wouldn't notice.
Couple that with the knowledge that you have a ton of stuff packed in your own loft; even more in your parents loft (my clothes mostly, so I can dig into them for a half year swap out in June when we're back), and you start to wonder what all of this stuff is actually for. One of my favourite books I've read in the last couple of years is Stuffocation, by James Wallman, a friend's husband. It talks a lot about the simplification of life, of what material goods you really need, and the power of experience. It was one of the prompts for this trip, but now that we're really living it, it really does make me realise how powerful a concept it is.
I won't lie and say I'm not going to still love clothes on our return (wherever that may be to), but there is a power in having such a limited selection that you barely think about it in the morning. Apparently it's the reason why people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg always wear the same thing. We have been creative with the food we're cooking through having very little to spice it up, but somehow we're really enjoying our dinners without the vast number of cook books I own at home. Our evening entertainment hasn't touched a box set, and is mostly chatting about our day and new plans, and how we feel about our family and our future.
Even Otis seems to understand the concept. He's far more enamoured by playing with the saucepans and spoons in our tent, or by grabbing the various fruit and veg we're using as we make our dinners than he is by the toys we bothered to bring.
The simple pleasures suddenly become amazing too. A cold glass of wine with our simple dinner is such a treat. Our house that we're renting at home went into profit the other day, so we treated ourselves to an inflatable mattress for the tent. So, so amazing! Slightly different to the extravagance that would have been a treat in London.
It all sounds a bit worthy, but it's really not. I'm not by any stretch saying that we won't want to live somewhere nice, or own nice things again. But we have had the odd conversation about the concept of living in a caravan (once we realised that one next to the most beautiful beach we've been to would cost you about £4k a year to live). We've both been surprised how little we've missed our home comforts, and how apparent it becomes which items are really important to you.
We're already planning to ship home some belongings before we hit Australia (sorry Mum and Dad), and discussing how we super streamline before we hit Asia and we're back packing properly. Having to carry everything you have, rather than just ditch it in a car quickly makes you want to have as little as possible, but it's not just that. Our priorities are changing, and fast. We're learning to live in the moment, something that is firmly reinforced by having all of our time spent with Otis. Kids know how to live in the moment in a way that adults forget. They learn something new (in his case, he can now do peekaboo with a blanket, and thinks it's hilarious) and it's all they can think about, and all they want to do. Watching that makes you realise how quickly you let the important stuff slip by in your normal life.
Living in the moment doesn't really mean having the right car, the big house, or the latest bag. It really isn't about belongings at all. Neither of us are sure exactly where this re-prioritisation will end up, as it's a stark contrast to the life we've been living in London, but we're pretty excited to find out.