I have a list of things that I like doing. It’s a simple list, not very long, to refer to when I’m bored or need a quick pick-me up. Running, reading the newspaper, watching sport all rank pretty highly on the ‘the list’ and are activities that can usually be done anywhere anytime. ‘Island life’ is also on the list but doesn’t fit that same criteria. Sure, Australia is technically an island so anytime I’m on the mainland I’m also experiencing Island Life but what I’m really referring to is the type of Island living experience you get when there’s a fair amount of effort required to get to an offshore island. Tommy Hanks might’n’t have had the greatest experience of Island Life (wasn’t entirely his fault though) but for me, living on an island is up there with one of the top life experiences.
What do I really mean by ‘Island Life’? Well in basic terms Island Life refers to all the activities conducted, both physical and philosophical, that are possible on an small island along with the acknowledgement of the removal of activities that usually fill up Normal Life. On an island surrounded by water it’s possible to have a swim every day, morning and night, at any beach you want. It’s possible to circumnavigate the island and explore every part of it. You can appreciate viewing a whole entire skyline with no other landmass in sight to disturb great sunrises, sunsets and watch the weather roll in. You can roll around in the nude if you wanted to. If it’s a really small island you can keep tabs on anyone approaching the island. You are in control of your life.The only priorities for the day on Island Life time are the most basic elements of life as a human, eating and sleeping, anything else is a bonus.
So what activities do we acknowledge the removal of? Using cars to get around, heading to the hustle and bustle of the shops to get food, work in the traditional sense, the chance of a pop-in from friends, family or the postie. There’s also usually no TV’s, large computers or electricity wires and other public services and infrastructure. Life is decluttered and simplified. Clean and minimalistic. The way it was for a long bloody time before we got all excited with inventing gadgets and what not.
A week ago I was reminded of how freakin’ good Island Life is on a sea kayaking work trip out to Goose Island off the coast of the Yorke Peninsula. It was with a Year 11/12 Outdoor Ed Class from a nearby school who were making their first voyage out there. Trips like that don’t happen often and take a fair few emails to get organised, plus a fair bit of psych from their Outdoor Ed Guru and teacher (kudos to you Tyler). On the paddle out there I was building my own psych for relaxing on the island and enjoying the aforementioned activities of Island Life. I also started to reflect on whether the journey is the important part of Island Life or is it a mental state that can be achieved through willpower and the exercise of a fair amount of discipline. Being on a physical island surrounded by water means you are visually reminded by the fact that you are surrounded by water and there is no escape. Maybe it’s in our human DNA to know that we can’t travel far across or through water. But what if I came by a massive boat to the island and it was only a five minute ride back to the mainland? What if I pretended the ocean wasn’t a journey-impeding body of water and was actually just water (i.e. remove the belief that it’s the ocean and it’s difficult to cross etc.)? Would I still be able to zen-out and achieve Island Life Nirvana?
After pondering this dilemma for a little while I came to the following conclusion and more questions…
1) Island Life can be achieved through will power alone. You can live a simple life where all you have to care about is eating and sleeping in a lot of different places, it doesn’t have to necessarily be on an island. Being on a physical island, especially one where it take a while to travel to, helps with relaxing into Island Life but is not essential. Imagine the Island as the gym and Island life as working out or exercising. It’s possible to exercise anywhere yet a lot of people pay extra money to go to a special place filled with gym equipment and positive vibes to help them get their workout done. It’s the same with Island Life.
2) If we take the above point as gospel, can we even create our own islands in our minds that we essentially live on to help regain focus with our lives? It’s simple enough to extrapolate Point 1 and pretend that your own home, a secluded camping spot or an Alpine Hut deep in the backcountry are all possible places to embrace Island Life. But what about extrapolating it further and having Island Life as a mindset instead and interpreting everything that you see, do, touch and taste as facets of your own private Island Life. Now let’s not get too silly here and start pretending there’s a whole Virtual World going on in your own head, that’s dangerous and downright ludicrous. All I’m suggesting is I wonder if it’s beneficial and possible to use Island life as a way of simplifying people’s lives and ridding them of their extraneous worries and responsibilities.
3) For the crescendo, I’ll use myself as an example. The main goals I have at the moment all relate to my pursuit of being a better Outdoor Athlete. As such, in my head, and now in your head too if you’re playing along, there’s a little island with sand, a palm tree and a lovely bunch of coconuts.For something else to join me on my island, a thing, a person, a race, a goal, most importantly though, a thought, it has to be relevant to the Outdoor Athlete Pursuit. A pair of new running shoes? Bring it on. A fast food salesperson with two Big Macs? Probably not. A thought relating to how fast the competition is in tomorrow’s Pichi Richi marathon? Also probably not, it’s my own damn race and their own damn race, it’s an individual sport and individual islands. For me, and there are probably some education professional who would classify this as some sort of visual learning strategy, being able to create scenes in my head helps a lot with working out whether something is useful or not in my life. For others it might be different, but I’d recommend at least trying it.
I digressed down a rabbit hole there from where I started with explaining Island Life. That’s one of the joys about trips in the outdoors, you never know where you’ll end up both physically and philosophically. Any who, the experience of Island Life in the physical sense during my trip to Goose Island was a great reminder about what Island Life is and how I can replicate it to some degree without the actual island (slightly contradicting what I wrote at the beginning but it’s my blog and I can contradict myself however many times I bloody want). Don’t worry, I still yearn for Island Life in the traditional sense and am always scheming of ways to return to some of my favourite islands from the past like Pearson Island, Althorpe Island and others across Tassie and SA. I wonder what philosophical nuggets I’ll come up with on those future trips…