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March 2021 Issue
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The tramping pleasure of doing nothing

Matthew Catting doing nothing.

Deputy editor Matthew Cattin recommends we all slow down a little and enjoy the benefits of doing nothing.

I’m reading a book about hurry, by John Comer, and it’s making a world of sense. It describes the ailment ‘hurry sickness’, a term coined by a pair of cardiologists to describe the constant state of haste plaguing modern society. Symptoms include feeling there is never enough time in the day, irritation at any delays encountered and the urge to rush tasks to completion. Tail-gaters, queue-jumpers, power-walkers: this could be you.

The book also details how the modern world feeds and exacerbates hurry sickness. With phones in our pockets, we rarely have moments of boredom – opting to scroll apps or message friends whenever we are faced with a short wait for a coffee or appointment. Social media plays a role too with its barrage of FOMO-inducing highlight reels a constant reminder of the places we need to visit, restaurants we need to book and people who are overdue a catch up. Where previously news was delivered just once a day and TV was scheduled, the modern world provides 24/7 news and infinitely accessible TV shows and films. Try as we like, we can never consume everything, and we’re often feeling out of the loop or like we need to ‘catch up’ on the latest shows.

Food scientist Roger Harker and I discussed why food tastes so much better in the outdoors – a question we pondered when writing Wilderness’ first food issue. He wondered if it could be as simple as the lack of distractions in the backcountry. Perhaps, also, it’s that trampers know there is very little to do once dinner is over; no Netflix to sneak in before bed, no bedroom to clean or instrument to practise. Hungry and undistracted, we can pay attention to our meals and savour the moment.

Tramping is the antithesis of hurry – unless of course you are racing the sun. It’s a chance to leave our hurried lives behind and escape the madness of social media and current events. It’s so refreshing to get to a hut, drop your gear on a bunk, and realise that for the first time in weeks, you have nothing to do. And perhaps that’s why we love it so much. When hurry sneaks its way into our lives from every corner, it’s no wonder we find so much peace in a simple hut miles from the road end.

So what’s Comer’s solution to a life of hurry? Embarrassingly, I’m yet to find out as I haven’t found the time to finish the book. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s tramping.