Skip to content

Shop until you drop

I wish writing about the looming trip into town, civilization, and being among people had a therapeutic and calming effect.

I wish writing about the looming trip into town, civilization, and being among people had a therapeutic and calming effect.

My first foray of the year among traffic and shops is approaching fast, and so is the stress that goes with it.

To be sure, I am really looking forward to visiting with friends and eating ice cream and fresh fruit, but cramming a year’s worth of shopping and appointments into two annual excursions is nothing short of a nightmare.

The difference between the quiet and entirely self-governed lifestyle in the bush, where our daily schedule is completely determined by us and to a large extent the weather, and the bustle and noise of town is truly crass.

Living in the bush tends to turn people into a self-reliant, independent and quite self-absorbed breed.

It is a squirrel-like life where summers are spent in busy preparation for the coming winter, stockpiling food and supplies in amounts that will last into the next summer.

Friends who come visiting exclaim how cheap a lifestyle this is. The entire time they are here, they do not spend a single cent. Of course, a short visit does not reveal the entire picture.

One can live as lavishly and extravagantly in the bush as in the city: bringing in fresh fruit and veggies all the time, investing in a complex alternative energy system, and outfitting the cabin in a luxurious manner.

Then there are as many degrees of living simply in the bush as there are in town. Here or there, the options are diverse and governed by what the individual considers comfortable, and what the disposable income is.

To be sure, in the bush money is saved daily that in town might be spent on going for coffee, having a dinner out, going to a movie or concert.

It can seem like living on nothing when there are no trips into town for months on end. Until the day of the dreaded town trip.

On these few occasions a year, the supermarket seems to have a revolving door as endless shopping carts are filled with entire pallets of food and the receipts tally up to scary amounts between $1,000 to $2,000.

The hunt for enough pasta, lemon juice and flour to last a year is bad enough, especially when there is only one forlorn package when what you need are 24 and visits to another nine shops that day before closing time are vitally important.

The crowning nuisance of it all is getting all these goodies back to the secluded cabin in the woods.

Moving more a ton of supplies three or four times to get it to that home in the wilderness is no fun — first from the stores into the car, then out of the car, into the boat or plane, out of the boat or plane and into the cabin.

I suppose squeezing a year’s worth of consumerism into a few excursions is a terribly efficient way of shopping, eliminating the dozens of trips a normal person takes to the store.

Depending on how remote that wilderness home is, it might even be more carbon-friendly than a country residential lifestyle.

But it does surprise people, probably mostly of southern or urban extraction, that there is hardly a bush person to be found who lives truly self-sufficiently off the land.

We are all quite firmly tied to the local and global economy, and be it only for our desire for coffee, clothing, tools and hardware.

To be sure, if push came to shove, a simple homestead could sustain the very basics of life, but even the most remote bush hermit is still linked by some sort of trade items to the rest of humanity.

Maybe this is partly what always gives me pause on the abhorred shopping trips to town.

For 10 to 11 months of the year I lead a cocooned existence in the woods, live off our stash of supplies, and am preoccupied mostly with the wilderness devoid of humans around us.

It is always a rude awakening to find myself madly rushing through the stores in Whitehorse in a crowd of shoppers, and piling my carts full of gum boots, nails, cheese and fruit with the best of them.

It might be less stressful and more bearable if I went out more often and split the shopping into more trips.

But in the end, I much prefer more time spent at home in the bush to a more relaxed, but more frequent, shopping experience.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.