April 22, 2013


I live in a bubble.

You don't know until you go out of your comfort zone and are confronted with the day-to-day reality outside your bubble.

The past two weeks I've been away from home. The first week was spent at a wilderness experience camp with CelloPlayer's class: mostly, they learned to build fires, which was a necessary thing as it was mighty cold all week and those fires were all we had to warm ourselves on. There was no heat in the cabins. It was a beautiful place, hilly, with no cell phone reception. It makes for a close connection to the land, that yielded kindling and wood for those fires, and pine tree tea (loaded with vitamin C). The people who run that camp have a palpable and deep connection to that place; they are warm, capable people, unafraid of anything. Not that they are extreme survivalists; but if civilisation disappeared tomorrow, they would be just fine.

That week on the land was closely followed by an experience which was as far removed as you can possibly get: a road trip I took last week with CelloPlayer and with my dad, who is visiting us for a few weeks. My dad used to build roads through jungles, working under primitive conditions: he has probably slept under bulldozers to stay dry. But now he's 86 and past that sort of thing. So for this trip we stayed mostly at roadside hotels. And we searched for fossils mostly at road cuts: no hiking for miles to get to the treasure.

One naturally gravitates to like-minded people, and so the friends in my bubble tend to be green-minded, energy conserving, organic-eating folks who live with their eyes open. It's not an easy way to live, but that's how we choose to do it. It's far removed from the road-side life in the mainstream, with its disposable tableware for breakfast and it's fast-food outlets. After a day and a half CelloPlayer declared a moratorium on greasy food. I'm so proud: what a sensible preference for real food! The rest of the week, we had work hard to find food that's not laden with grease, sugar or both.

I'm seeing the importance of the "meatless Monday" concept: many of my friends eat meat only on Mondays, so to speak. But where daily meat is the norm, even giving it up for even one day a week is a big deal. We had a hard time finding vegetarian food on the road, even at family-run restaurants that weren't fast-food joints.

Photo Ross Uber

In the mornings, my gluten restrictions made it impossible to partake of the free breakfast offered by the hotels: the bagels were probably the only option that wasn't super-sweet. Even the oatmeal was sugary. I tried for yogurt but it was strawberry flavoured and also super-sweet. In the end, I bought a bag of granola and had that for breakfast, washed down by watery coffee.

Not surprisingly, people are large.

I know: that statement makes clear in how much of a bubble I live, that I should not have daily evidence of the obesity epidemic sweeping the country. I can only shake my head at the size of food portions, and at the fact that those portions are finished in a single sitting - and followed by dessert.

And of course, locomotion is never pedal. Farm country is filled with large pickup trucks with varying ailments, each proclaimed by its characteristic loud noise as it proceeds down the road. In farm country you need wheels to get anywhere. But I've also watched a couple load their minivan at a hotel, drive the fifty feet to the office, and leave the engine running while they go inside to check out. That's before spending all day sitting in that minivan.

To be fair, that's what a road trip is: you sit in the car a lot. But that doesn't mean you have to drive around the hotel to get to the front office. On the other hand, I'm blown away by the rather well-appointed exercise room at every single one of those hotels: most well-used by the guests. It seems like a monumental waste of energy to create friction on a wheel. Don't those exercise rooms make you feel like a rat?

Still, it was a nice trip: once on the quiet back roads, the greening countryside was beautiful. The fossils were hard to find but interesting, even though CelloPlayer was disappointed not to have found the elusive trilobite. And now I'm happy to be back at home eating real food. But my eyes are opened as to how far we collectively have to go to get to a sustainable life.



You may also like:
1. Climate Justice and Our Shopping Choices
2. How to eat locally in winter?
3. How the Dutch got their Bicycle Paths
4. Drive like your life depends on it - it does.



  1. Great Blog! It's true...wander away from the city, and it's a whole different world. Good luck fitting your cello into a coupe :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'm getting over the shock now - but of course, I'm back in the bubble.
      As far as a coupé: once it's me and CelloDad and only one cello, a coupé would do us just fine.

  2. My husband and I have said since before we had our kids that when our kids are old enough we want to do a cross country drive with them to show them the more remote sites the country has to offer that you might not get to see otherwise. I hope we have more fuel efficent car by then too :)

    We never did road trips as a kid so this is going to be an experience for me too. Great to see you got to do a trip with your Dad!

  3. I hesitate to say it (being CelloMom and all) but there's nothing like a family road trip! And as long as you fill the seats in your car to capacity, the per-person carbon emission can be comparable to that of a European high speed train (see my post of 15 Oct 2012).

    When I was young it was my dad who did all the driving on our 6-8 week road trips; it's great to be able to return the favour.


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