Nick Rosen |
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Ditch the rucksack

The first in a regular series from Ditchmonkey the Sotheby’s employee who sleeps in a field to raise money for the Woodland Trust.

So what’s it like to have nothing?

Well I don’t strictly speaking have ‘nothing’ — when I spend such a vast amount of time lugging all that I do own around on my back, it sometimes feels as though I have quite a lot. I have given away almost everything I used to own. Now the things I still possess are heavy with potential.

What I do have in my life right now is just about as little as I can get away with. And to be honest it still feels like too much. I have found people around me incredibly generous and things that I need seem to appear when needed.

So what do I mean by saying that the things that I do possess are heavy with potential? There are two aspects to this: the immediate and the future potential. Owning little requires adaptability not just of oneself, but also of one’s possessions. My rucksack is not just a means of transporting possessions but is also a seat, a windbreak, a handy way of knocking items off shelves in packed shops, a conversation starter, and, when carried for a few miles every day, a fine way of keeping fit.

Most of the things that I have will have been used for tasks other than that for which they where originally designed. There are a few things that I carry about with me that I have never used — yet I still carry them about just in case, like my first aid kit. The future potential of my possessions, or rather lack of them, is a lot less practical and, currently, very vague. By having cut back to virtually nothing I will be free at the end of the 12 months living in the woods to rebuild my life according to my own design. Currently the hope is that the design will be one of minimum environmental impact and maximum fun.

I have taken to giving things that I don’t need away. Most of my friends though were a little suspicious that what I was doing was actually using them for storage and would be returning to collect these ‘gifts’ at some later date. The good thing about giving things that are no longer needed to people who may well need them is twofold, firstly it saves waste and secondly it tends to result in invites to dinner. I have also been on the receiving end gifts, of unwanted possessions from others, and I have been deeply touched by people’s generosity, I know that ultimately I have been given things that people do not want any more but it is still heart warming when someone turns up with something that I need but can’t necessarily afford to buy. Invites to dinner all round then — nettle soup anyone?

The problem with all this living with less is that it seems to be addictive; I am constantly trying to find ways of cutting back I guess this could be due to my not wishing to have to carry so much about with me. To this end there are a couple of projects that are due to start in the not so distant future, one of these is to collect and purify rain water and thus saving the need to carry water, another is to find natural foods. I was speaking to a local chef at the weekend and we are going to go foraging early one morning and find what we can that is edible. Already I have been eating some berries and I feel that there may well be a Sloe Gin theme to this years Christmas presents.

Ultimately having nothing is a rather liberating experience. I remember one assembly at school the headmaster gave a speech about how the happiest time of his life had been when he had been travelling through America and all he owned was the clothes he wore and the few possessions he carried. I have to say that I agree; it seems that I might well have learnt something useful at school.

So what do I have in my rucksack well, by far the bulkiest item is my sleeping bag. That’s the only must-have everything else is an extra. I leave my work clothes at the office which is great and means I can shed my work life like a skin before I leave each day. But I always keep a spare set of clothes in my rucksack, for when I get soaked. Then there’s emergency rations, first aid kit you’ll have to come back next time for the rest of the list.

You can donate to the Woodland Trust via a link from Ditchmonkey’s own blog diary .

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

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