how limited water, food, and internet can be good

Our trip through Canada to Alaska has been educationally gratifying. My mind has soaked up the opportunity to learn about the Klondike Gold Rush and whaling industry of the late 1800’s and the Steamboat era that soon followed. However, another aspect of personal application has been a lesson on limited living or: how limited water, food, and internet can be good for you.

A NEW TRAVEL APPROACH

In many ways, this road route has differed from those that we have done in the past. For one, we are traveling with another family for an extended amount of time, sharing the ebb and flow of travel days, trip planning, and potty break pullout stops. For another, we don’t have a pre-scheduled itinerary with campground reservations stretching into the weeks and months ahead. Instead, we have a general overview of our route and every few days we review the next leg of our trip and make tentative plans for our upcoming stops.

limited living
Photo: Last original bridge from the Alaskan Hwy

This method of travel is made possible due to advanced planning on my husband’s part who worked to ready the RV for extended dry camping endeavors. The beautiful thing about dry camping is the cost (often free if you are simply parking at a roadside pullout) and the flexibility (Want to stay longer? No problem! Ready to leave sooner? Let’s go!).

limited living
Photo: A view of our solar setup

LIMITED WATER

However, all this flexible freedom does come at a cost: limited living. Our resources (primarily water and tank storage capacity) are both finite and rationed. This affects obvious things like showers, laundry, and dishes as well as less obvious aspects of everyday life such as house cleaning, toilet flushing and cooking. Forced frugality of our liquid liabilities keeps us acutely aware of each decision. We scrutinize, prioritize, and allocate water as necessary. Wants and needs are weighed and measured. Showers are exchanged for baby wipe body cleanings. Clothing is worn and re-worn until noticeably dirty, and deep cleaning housework is put on hold for the time being.

limited living
Photo: A boondocking tradeoff glacier view

The tradeoff, while at times inconvenient, is worth it. We also understand that our situation is temporary. When our laundry basket begins to burst and our greasy hair begs to be washed, full hookups are often within a days drive (or two).

LIMITED INTERNET

Another temporary tradeoff is internet availability. While traveling through Canada our cell plan allows ½ gig of data usage per day before throttling our speed down. To be honest, this restriction didn’t register in any concrete way prior to crossing the border. Would this mean I’d run out of reasonable speed after checking email, uploading a few photos, or one short Instagram video? I wasn’t sure. To stay conservative, my “limited living” plan has involved putting my phone in “airplane” mode when not in use.

Despite my conservation efforts, a text alert often makes its appearance sometime late afternoon saying something to the effect of, “You’ve sucked up your allotted internet, you’re done now.” In theory, the Internet is still available (just at a slower speed) after that ½ gig, but in reality, it is just as useful to wait until the next day before trying to do anything productive. Regardless of my efforts to abstain and minimize data usage, the remote environment that we’ve been traveling through has offered up numerous extended limited living opportunities due to a complete lack of phone or Internet connectivity.

LIMITED FOOD

Our recent segue to the town of Skagway taught me another level of limited living. Here, residents enjoy a beautiful view tucked within the tight coastline of Alaska’s panhandle.

Highway 2 brings traffic in and out over White Pass and one lonely barge delivers the entire town’s food supply every Tuesday. A late Sunday visit to the town’s grocery store quickly illuminated the most popular shopping list items from the week. Gaping holes in the canned goods aisle became restocking beacons for the upcoming delivery.

ACTIVE APPRECIATION

Of course, the world can offer more dramatic tales of limited living that could easily outdo these examples. Rather than trying to make a statement of perceived “hardship,” my point is simply this: often what we have in abundance, we take for granted and that which is strictly limited or requires rationing, we learn to cherish.

This holds true for freedom and family, health and happiness, water and food. And it’s just as true today as it was in the late 1800’s (minus the cell coverage). Equally true is the fact that there are particular joys that can only be discovered in those restrictive places if you have the eyes to see them. A loose travel itinerary allows for freedom of flexibility. A lack of abundant water leads to creative conservation. No cell coverage equals less screen time and more outdoor exploration. And no grocery store canned beans could signal a chance to instead try something entirely new. So in a sense, limited living has the ability to force us out of our comfort zone and into a place of active appreciation. With this in mind, I’d better brace myself for a season of exciting excogitation* and dutiful discovery.

Photo: poor internet=good campfire

excogitate |eksˈkäjəˌtāt|
verb [ with obj. ] formal

  1. think out, plan, or devise: scholars straining to excogitate upon subjects of which they know little.
  2. to study intently and carefully in order to grasp or comprehend fully: a season of exciting excogitation 

How about you? Have you experienced a time of limited living that brought about greater appreciation? Tell me about it!

2 thoughts on “how limited water, food, and internet can be good”

  1. LOVE! Dan and I stopped in Skagway three summers ago on a cruise celebrating our 20th anniversary. I wanted to see Alaska, and my only requirement was to stop somewhere included in my novel, JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’ S MINE. Skagway was it!

    We’d like to close up our home at some point and spend a year there…

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Oh how wonderful! How new of a concept was Jasper at that point? Had you already started it? Funny story: after visiting Skagway my youngest son was reading a book he’d brought in the car and he suddenly burst out with excitement, “Mom, look at this!” He hands me the bookmark you gave us with Jasper on it. “It’s about the gold rush!” he tells me. I’d totally forgotten that you’d written a book about it! Now I really want to get my hands on it. I checked to see if it is on Scribd (this is my latest helpful book website) but they don’t have it. I’d really like to get a hardcopy rather than an ebook anyway because my daughter doesn’t really read ebooks but we keep moving so fast from place to place that it’s not very easy to have things shipped. Maybe I could pick it up in a bookstore in Anchorage. Did they carry it in any of the stores in Skagway or Dawson City and I missed it? That seems like an awesome place to have it sold!

      Skagway felt so closed off from the rest of the world with the one highway in that just goes right into Canada that we weren’t tempted to live there but it was sure fun to visit!

      Sending hugs and hellos, Heather

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