Houses are good. Houses are really, really, really good. And if you want to fully appreciate the wonder and marvel that is a real house, I suggest not living in one for a while. ‘That’s fine’ I hear you say ‘I love camping’. And I agree with you, I love camping too, or at least I used to. But somehow there’s a difference between camping on holiday and camping as your main residence while you work full time, shop, cook and try to keep the tent or caravan clean, remember to always pack gumboots in the car so you can walk down the muddy driveway when you get home, and generally be a lot colder, wetter, and more uncomfortable for an extended period of time than you can ever remember being.
As well as providing a solid floor, walls and a roof, houses are brilliant because they’re usually supplied with a whole heap of services – like plumbed hot and cold water, electricity, a sewerage system, phone and internet lines, rubbish collection, etc. Only when faced with living without these things does one realise how useful they really are. For example, instead of electricity, I run a generator to charge a deep cycle battery which powers the lights in my caravan and my laptop. I also have a gas camping light, as the 12V lighting in the van is quite dim. The fridge and stove run off gas, on a separate cylinder. There are frequent trips to get more petrol, and to refill the gas cylinders.
I collect my water from the local cemetery (nothing creepy, they just have taps there for watering the gardens). As for waste – the plan is to build a composting toilet but for now it’s flushing toilet luxury at work and shovel/squat at home (okay, I KNOW this is more information than you really want to know, but I want to be honest in this blog, toilets included). General rubbish is taken to the bins at work (tip: if you have a rubbish bag that contains prawn peelings, do NOT forget that it’s sitting in the back of the car for three days. There is still a whiff of off prawn as I drive around days later).
All in all, it’s not too bad, and I’m getting by pretty well. It does make you think, though, about the advantages of abundant electric light, hold and cold running water, heating, and power for any electrical gadget we want. Having these services literally on tap, or at the flick of a switch, provides convenience and choice, and creates lots of extra time where you would otherwise have to ‘chop wood, carry water’. I moved to country Tasmania because I was looking for a simpler life, with less consumerism and impact on the planet. There’s no doubt in my mind that unless we humans radically change the way we relate to the planet, we are paving the way to our own destruction. And yet…and yet…things like electricity and cars are so damn handy! It’s hard to imagine participating in modern Western culture without them. And I like my computer, my ipod, my mobile phone, nice clothes, and going on overseas holidays. I want to be honest about this conflict in myself here, because I think it’s the same conflict that the human race is experiencing on a wider scale. It’s a big subject, so I’ll expand on it in future posts. For now I’ve got a generator to start and a gas lantern to light.