“I hope something terrible happens that changes our perspective on life forever.”
That’s the tongue in cheek text message I sent to Geoff, the organizer of the canoe trip, the day before we set off. It quickly became apparent that the universe failed to pick up on the sarcasm.
We set out in pouring rain and it hardly stopped during hours of canoeing to a camp site on Tom Thomson Lake in Algonquin Park (about here). The rain soaked through sleeping bags, it created a lake inside our tent, and worst of all, it messed with a medical device that one of us sorta needs to not die. That sent two of our group desperately canoeing away for help before dark fell, while the other two of us stayed to guard the camp and await rescue.
There are some perspective-changing things that go through your mind while lying awake on a cold, wet ground, unsure if your friends are okay and how you’ll get out of the middle of nowhere. Stuff like “I’ll never take for granted how comforting it is just to have telephones around”; “how could I have ever complained about stuff like doing laundry, when I should be happy just to have dry clothes”; “I should just tell people how much I care about them, because life is short.” You know, the usual stuff everyone knows but often doesn’t really feel.
All of us got home safe, a bit earlier than expected but the short time we spent there was an exciting adventure that I’ll never forget. And the thing is, now that I’m back home, maybe I do appreciate being able to crap without a horse-fly biting a chunk of flesh out of my ass, but that stinky damp camp laundry is still sitting there unclean. Which perhaps highlights a defining human trait: adaptability. We can think and do what we need to in order to survive even the most dire circumstances with our physical and mental health intact. But once we’re back in cushy modern life, we go back to taking it for granted and striving for more abstract – and often shallow – goals than mere survival.
Still, I like to think that I’ll appreciate life in civilization just a little bit more than I used to, sweat the small stuff less, and care about what matters more.