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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The North American life

I really do not miss owning and driving a car. We have just returned from a thousand mile trip through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Quebec and Ontario. And whilst the driving has been fairly troublefree, and the kids mainly quiet and well behaved in the car, it's still a lot more fun to go by boat. Somewhat slower though.

Personally, I've not been away from the boat for even a single night since the Canary Islands, November 10th 2007. How does that feel, to be sleeping in a bed that doesn't move, living back in the 'real world'? Well, somewhat sadly it's like riding a bicycle but less fun, you never forget and it is depressingly easy for the live-aboard life to slip away and the rest of the world to reassert itself. It's like taking off the comfortable, well worn casual sweater and changing into a suit or uniform, adapting to the expectations and behaviours of the mass market.

Suddenly we are in a rental car, the footwells full of candy wrappers, cardboard cups of weak coffee covered by tiresome plastic caps. We drive along wide, uncluttered highways passing through stunning countryside and there must be a million great walks, vistas, villages and other things to see along the way. Blink and you miss it, much to the children's frustration. we've stopped saying 'hey look there's a.....' because by the time heads are raised from books or video, the sight has passed and the accusations begin. 'I can't see didn't tell me quickly enough...can we go's all your fault dad...nick, why do you do that?....' and so on.

The interstates and autoroutes give way to urban Montreal, a nightmare maze of crumbling 1960's concrete roads, bridges, intersections and construction populated by experienced, aggressive city drivers who know that to get from one road to the other requires a three lane slide in less than half a mile and any space more than half a car long is more than enough to let them in at sixty miles an hour.

I'm getting old, because whilst our accommodations were perfectly fine - an interesting farm B+B then the generous use of the basement flat in Gesa's sister's house - I no longer sleep particularly well during trips like this. The kids see their cousins so rarely that bedtime routines are a mere memory but playing till near midnight is not a recipe for quiet bedtimes and restful days.

We take advantage of Montreal's plentiful shopping malls. Both in Laval, where Gesa's parents live and across town in Lasalle near her sister's family, the expanse and range of stores never fails to shock me however often I see it and know it exists. When places like Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire have multiple megastores within a mile or two, it's not hard to see just how much the modern economy depends on massive consumption of cheap goods and never-ending shopping. Even with our constraints of space on board, we still succumb and walk out with more than we went in to buy. It is a lifestyle that increasingly depresses me and I resolve more strongly to break away from our retail weaknesses when we set up home in Canada.

So I'll write these resolutions down now, because telling our readers about it means that we're more likely to actually follow through, just like we did when planning this trip.

1) Buy less and buy quality. Quality is cheaper in the long run, and real quality is timeless. No more no-name ebay bargains.... (exception - temporary items allowed, e.g cheap furniture pending upgrade)

2) Ask 'do we really need this'. Items of desire allowed, but a rational explanation required.

3) One in, one out. What does this item replace? Strong reasoning needed if the answer is 'nothing'

4) Where does it live. Everything must have an accessible, sensible storage place. And that place isn't a bigger house...

Well, good intentions anyway so ask me how it's worked in ten years time.


Blogger Julia said...

Peter and yourself are so cut from the same cloth! I am trying hard to consume less...both food wise as well as frivolous spending...not easy...but always trying!

8:03 am  

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