The Privilege of ‘Roughing’ It

Something that has stayed with me since leaving Miami almost a year ago is simple living. I am certainly no longer living as simple a life as I once did, but I find myself thinking through my expenses often.

One of the many lessons simple living taught me is to value experience over tangible items. Just today I was reminiscing about the weekend when my housemates and I went on two different road trips. We drove through some of the Keys and watched the stars and the next day we drove west to Naples and saw dolphins in the waves.

Last year, as Christmas was approaching, my best friend from high school*, Hope, asked me what I wanted for a gift. Not having any possessions that we truly needed, we promised that our gifts for each other would be to save money for a future trip together.

It was hard to narrow down a place to visit. In November, we were in Asheville together for a concert (staying with some of my YAVA friends!) and we decided to kill some time by exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway. While looking at an interactive map of the scenic route that goes through the Virginia and North Carolina portions of the Appalachians, each of us had a moment of clarity – this road was going to be our trip.

We decided we would camp along the Parkway to save money. We did save money. I’m so happy we did not spend $80/night to drive 15 miles off of the Parkway each night and stay in a hotel. Between what our families already owned and what friends kindly lent to us, we were pretty much set on camping gear.

Throughout the trip, I couldn’t help but comment on how even camping felt a bit like a privilege at some points. The hatchback all of our things could fit in? The four-person tent for the two of us? Gas stove? Wireless internet at one of the campgrounds? All of these were items of privilege that made camping comfortable for us. In our hometown of Durham, many who are homeless “camp” in the woods each night out of necessity and here we were taking time off from our jobs and driving hours to sleep outside.

Despite these thoughts, I do not regret taking that trip. It gave me time to catch up with my best friend, journal my thoughts, get some reading done, and spend time in the nature that I craved for so long in Miami. We hiked up mountains and through cow pastures. We saw waterfalls and soaked in natural mineral water. We went kayaking and horseback riding. For the first time in a while, I felt inspired to blog. The trip was a great way to begin this stage of transition for me.

While going through our pictures and my journal, I can continue to add onto my experience by supporting national and state parks programs so others can have the opportunity to learn about and be in creation. I can persist in helping my local homeless population find housing. I can encourage friends to give their ‘old’ gear to nonprofits and outdoor consignment stores. I can work on taking advantage of my privilege to help others.

*We’ve known each other since middle school. Adolescence was hard on us.

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