Everything I needed to know about simple living I learned in a tent on top of a mountain surrounded by wolves

Until I lost my rooftop, I could not see how the moon floats along the sky.

For those of you who didn’t already know this, I once spent a month in a tent on top of a mountain volunteering for Mission: Wolf. And while I was not actually surrounded by wolves, there were enclosures with wolves in them semi-circling the area where I was camped.

In order to get to M:W, you have to make it through thirteen miles of dirt roads and then make it up a very steep hill. I saw one RV get through, and there’s a bus that M:W takes around, but most of us slept in tents or tepees or in small lofts. There were two bathrooms: one for staff and one for visitors. One shower. Two kitchens, one outdoor and one indoor. No climate control in any buildings aside from the wood-burning stoves. No electricity aside from what the solar panels pulled in. Completely off the grid.

If it was cold, you piled on more blankets and more clothing. When it was warm, you thanked [insert deity here, if applicable] that it was dry heat and you curled up in the shade. When it rained, you ran like a ninny for the bathroom or your tent. I fell asleep when it got dark because there wasn’t much to do once the natural light was gone. Consequently, I woke with the sun and that was the best month’s worth of sleep I have ever had in my life, mattress or no.

I lived the entire month in a three-man tent. I only had my bedding, my clothing, some books, my mp3 player (mostly went unused), and a few other things. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the tent. I spent most of my time outside, leading tours, feeding wolves, doing projects, talking, whatever. There was no TV, no video games, very little music. I would wake up with the sun, wander to the bathroom, grab my book and curl up on the couch in the staff room cursing the cold and waiting for everyone else to get moving. Then we’d talk for an hour or so, drinking coffee or juice and eating, and then we’d start the day. There was only one clock, and it was only used to prepare dinner.

Since everything was solar-powered, electricity was at a premium. You showered once a week. That was it. You wore your clothing two or three times (the older staff, in a row) and washed it in cold water only and line-dried it. Personal use of the computers was limited.

Simple? Very. Austere? Hell no. And although it might sound like a hippie commune, it wasn’t. We were ordinary people volunteering in order to help care for wolves and to help teach people about wolves. No “Kumbayas” around campfires (in fact, I only ever recall one campfire) and I doubt many stereotypical hippies would willingly carve up dead livestock.

It was a month were there wasn’t any extraneous bullshit. You had what you needed, and not a lot else. I certainly didn’t miss anything, aside from my mattress. I certainly didn’t miss clocks, deadlines, or pressure. I did what I could do, and that’s all anyone asked.

I’m not about to live the rest of my life like that (I do enjoy some luxuries) but it was a good reminder that most of the baggage we accumulate throughout our lives (both mental, physical, and spiritual) isn’t necessary. We can be perfectly happy without it.


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