weekend warrior, the other way around
As a kid who spent summers canoe tripping around the Canadian wilderness, I used to look down on the Weekend Warriors. These urbanites would load up their cars with gear, don some stupid hat and a lifejacket that didn’t yet smell like mildew, and spend 72-hours max connecting with nature.
At the end of the weekend, sunburnt and satisfied, they’d blast the AC all the way down the 400 and settle back into their colourless urban existence. Sure, I lived in the city 10 months out of the year, but I got to feel superior to them because I was out there for all of July and August with the mosquitos and the bug juice and the starry night skies.
This month, I am a weekend warrior…in reverse. I’m spending my weeks working at Berridale, an organic farm in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours west of Sydney. I pick berries and weed garden beds for 8 hours a day, “shower” in a swimming hole and sleep in a tent in the Megalong Valley. I subsist on a peanut butter-heavy diet and wear the same thing every day.
On Friday afternoons, I haul my backpack and my filthy aching body onto a commuter train, pass out for a couple of hours with Sigur Ros on my headphones, and arrive in Sydney to spend 72-hours max connecting with culture.
I’m a reverse weekend warrior. And it works. I feel more balanced this month than I ever have before. I used to say I wanted to work at something where I’d use my brain for six months of the year and my body for the other six months, and this is about as close as I’ve gotten to actualizing that lifestyle.
I get my fill of sunshine and eucalyptus scented mountain air during the week. There is lots of quiet reflective time, without cellphone reception or a computer. The kookaburras laugh as I weed endless rows of blackcurrants and kangaroos dart out in front of the car on the way home from work. Alpacas munch on the compost heap. The berries are delightful: tiny strawberries that taste like bubblegum, raspberries so ripe their kernels crumble when you pick them. It’s an antioxidant smorgasbord! There are a few other workers on the farm, and we alternate between friendly conversation and meditative silence as we work.
On the weekends, I stay on the pull-out couch at my friend’s luxurious apartment. I bust through the door and head straight for the shower before I can even talk to him. Swap my mud-caked blunnies for wedges, and I am transformed from a country girl into a city girl. Instead of being outed as a Weekend Warrior by pasty white skin with more glare than an aluminum canoe, my farmer’s tan outs me as an Urban Weekend Warrior.
I spend two or three days soaking up the city – eating in the Chinatown foodcourts, going to clubs and concerts, brunching with friends. I stay out late and sleep in. I swim laps in chlorinated water. I drink lots of coffee and fiddle with my iphone on the subway.
But on these urban camping trips, I notice I’m pounding the pavement with a slightly slower step and a more tranquil gaze. Even in downtown Sydney, the mountains have a hold on me. Sunday evenings, I head back to the Blue Mountains, with my one outfit freshly laundered and a restocked bag of muesli.
Like a Weekend Warrior throwing the tent in the garage until next year, I turn my cell phone off and stash it in my backpack, already nostalgic but ready to settle back in to daily life on the farm.