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Is It Worth It to Be Inconvenienced?

Off Air

“Oh no! My favorite TV program isn’t on!”

What is the one modern convenience that you couldn’t do without? I see on many discussion boards people detailing the possessions they have sold or the services they have surrendered with the intent on using the freed up money to pay off personal debt. Ken Ilgunas even went so far as to live in a van to save money while attending grad school at Duke University. You can read his incredible story here.

Frankly I think we don’t truly appreciate our modern conveniences. I guess that is only human – our natural desire to take things for granted. We don’t give a second thought to getting a glass of cold water, pulling up a webpage or driving across town. In many parts of the world those things don’t ever happen.

Nobody likes to be inconvenienced. But I’m going to make the radical suggestion today that, on occasion, it might be good for us.

If you have been reading here recently you know that Mrs. Luke1428 and I have been preparing to take our four children on their first camping trip. It has been really exciting purchasing our gear and planning out our list of activities. We planned a four night excursion just an hour south of where we live, just in case we had to come home early because of a camping meltdown.

All in all we had a great time! (I’m just happy we survived.) However, upon reflection during the week, these three thoughts kept coming to mind:

1. Camping creates much more work for an adult than it does for a child

2. Camping is a really tiring activity (see #1)

3. Camping forces you to rethink routines and appreciate the conveniences of home.

On point #3, here are some ways I was slightly inconvenienced while on our camping trip.

1. Food storage – Coolers. I remember one of the camping rules we had growing up was that we were not allowed to open the cooler. Coolers need to stay cold and having a kid opening it every two minutes to get a snack does not really work. At home it doesn’t really matter. The refrigerator keeps items cold and frozen by using electricity to power its cooling agents. Not so at the campsite. Ice became my best friend, as we had to manage keeping the food cold.

2. Food Security – Animals. If a camper leaves a loaf of bread sitting out at night they may have some unwelcome guests at two in the morning. So every time we left the campsite we had to move our tubs of food into a vehicle so the smell would not attract wildlife.

Bullseyes over the fire3. Food Preparation – Cooking. No microwaves. We only had a small, two-burner Coleman stove and some items to help us cook over the fire. And cooking over a campfire can be a challenge in that it requires just the right degree of heat. Too little flame and the food takes forever to cook. Too much flame and you will burn breakfast.

4. Meal Cleanup. Surprising…there are no automatic dishwashers at the campsite. The dishwashing must be done by hand. (Note to campers: This is a great kid job!) And there is no automatic hot water at the campsite. We had to heat all the water for cleaning dishes.

5. Restrooms. It was about a 90 second walk to the bathroom from our campsite. Better not leave too late – you might not make it.

6. Sleeping. Tent camping brings with it many sleeping challenges, the most notable of which is nighttime noise. If you have ever spent the night in a tent you know how loud nature can be and that noise helps create a restless night of sleep.

7. Protection From the Weather – Surviving Thunderstorms. On day two, we were met with a severe thunderstorm at about 10:00 p.m. In our home, that would not be a big deal, but thunderstorms in a tent are nerve racking. We had to spend about an hour in the van as the thunderstorm passed us by.

There were a host of other inconveniences like insect control and lack of air conditioning that we had to face. We were by no means really roughing it as we still had nearby water, electricity and cell phone service. We even had my iPad so the kids could watch a movie in the van during the thunderstorm.

But being in this environment for just a few short days made me appreciate more the conveniences I have at home. I also believe it was good to force my mind to think through alternative ways to accomplish tasks. It’s easy for our minds to go on autopilot as we work through our daily routines. Sometimes getting away from those routines is good mental stimulation.

So was it worth it for me to be slightly inconvenienced for the week? Absolutely! Seeing the joy on our children’s faces as they stuffed their mouths with Smores each night made it all worthwhile.

Is there a convenience that you could never give up? How do you keep yourself from taking things for granted?

Next Post: Investing Made Easy: The What and the Why

Prior Post: Marathon Training and Writing Mental Blocks

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  1. Mike@WeOnlyDoThisOnce says

    Especially great if you can bring this philosophy into your everyday life: surmount any obstacles instead of viewing them as unavoidable pains.

  2. Great post, and so true. You don’t notice half the things we consider part of daily life until they are gone (which is also why I’m not a camper). 🙂 It’s funny how many of the posters are mentioning air conditioning. I haven’t lived in a house with AC for about 20 years, but I’ve also lived in Seattle and along the beach in LA, so save for a few days I never needed it. I think first and foremost I would not go without running water. But there are a million close seconds of things I wouldn’t want to live without.

    • Lack of running water would be really hard to manage. I never had air conditioning growing up. We just used window fans to circulate air through the house. Once I moved to the South (with the heat and humidity), I learned what I had been missing out on. Kind of got addicted to it. That and southern sweet tea. 🙂

  3. John S @ Frugal Rules says

    We really are spoiled with many things and what we think of as hard work really isn’t. We went camping all the time when I was growing up and would be interested to do it when our little ones get a little older. In terms of what I could not give up…I think it would be air conditioning. I am so warm blooded by nature that I would probably pay just about anything to keep it. 🙂

    • I hear you on the air conditioning. Our upstairs air is currently waiting some repair so we have done without it for the last week. Definitely appreciate it more now that I’ve had to live without it for awhile.

  4. TacklingOurDebt says

    I use to go camping with my friends and I agree that I felt it was a lot of work just to have a nice vacation. I agree, that we do take a lot of things for-granted until we have to make due with out. One of the things I really disliked about camping was showering in the public washrooms and all the people walking around the campsite in the morning in their underwear just to get to the public showers.

    • I agree showers can be a mess. I’ve been in some really nasty ones. Fortunately, the ones where we stayed were pretty nice. I still wore my sandals in the shower though.

  5. I love my air conditioning. I am pretty hot naturally, so I love it. When we go camping (mind you we haven’t done this with out son yet), we go hiking, so we live off pretty much nothing the whole time. We carry everything on our backs, so you pack light. It really gives you a nice reality check.

    • I remember really enjoying the couple of times that I have been backpacking. You really have to watch out for #2 in that type of situation. We had a food pack stolen once by a couple of bears. We had them hanging in a tree but I guess not far enough away from the trunk. They climbed the tree, knocked down the pack and ran off with it into the woods. We tried to follow them to retrieve our food. Stupid! Eventually found the ripped up pack and of course all the food was gone. Had to cut our trip short.

  6. This reminds me of when I had surgery and I was basically bed ridden for five days. It was painful to get up or move around. We take the simplest things for granted sometimes. In my case it was just walking around and being able to eat solid food! I think it’s always good to get away at times so you have a renewed perspective on how easy we have it compared to older generations. We need to be reminded of it more.

    • Sounds like that was a real tough week for you. It is frustrating when you can’t even get out of bed. Health is something that many take for granted. I’ve learned not to because it can go at any time.

  7. Kim@Eyesonthedollar says

    There are lots of things we are spoiled about. I think our irrigation water will be turned off pretty soon because of drought. I’ve been keeping a bucket in the shower to get used to watering the plants with recycled water. It certainly isn’t as convenient as a sprinkler system, but does make me realize how much water goes down the drain when I take a shower. I certainly think showers are one thing I could not give up, though. My Mom remembers living without running water. She was #5 of 6 kids. They would run a washtub of water once a week for baths. The oldest kid would go first and they all used the same water! I’m sure you get used to whatever you have, but I would hate to have to bathe in dirty bathwater.

    • I remember hearing stories about dirty bath water from my father. I’m with you, it sounds totally gross. I think I would rather go without bathing or maybe just stand out in the rain.

  8. Holly Johnson says

    I love camping. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough!!! I don’t mind giving up modern conveniences while I camp because it’s my change to get away from the annoyances of technology =/

    • I agree about technology. I love it, but it’s nice to put it away from time to time. It’s a real challenge, especially for kids I think, when they are so used to having it at their fingertips.

  9. Laurie @thefrugalfarmer says

    Brian, one of the reasons we love camping is because it helps us to appreciate those modern conveniences. In our new homestead, and as part of our getting out of debt journey, we are working to forego some modern conveniences, both for the experience and the money savings. We hang dry most of our clothes now, and as of this next winter will be heating our home with wood that Rick cuts down from our own property. Inconvenient? A little. But I know that in the long term, we’ll learn a lot and appreciate things more too.

    • It was really funny when we strung out the clothes line between several trees near the campsite. Our kids had never seen towels dry on a line before. And they didn’t know how to use the clothespins to hang things up. They only thing they have ever seen clothespins used for around our house is securing open potato chip bags.


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