March 12, 2024

What Living in a Teepee Tent in the Scottish Wilderness Gifted Me.

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In 2021, I spend about four months living in a teepee tent on Knoydart—also called Scotland’s last wilderness.

It is a peninsula that can only be reached by boat or by a two-day hike.

I didn’t plan on living in a teepee tent. It was the by-product of under-prepared larger plans.

My previous work exchange (which I already extended to three months) had came to an end, so I looked for new adventures and emailed the ranger of Inverie about volunteering or work exchanging opportunities. The ranger, Finley—one of the most down-to-earth and cool guys I ever met—replied back and invited me (and my then-partner) to volunteer for the ranger office and the community gardens. Of course, we took the chance.

The first night was terrible. We pitched the teepee on the campsite, but the wind was so ridiculously strong that it blew away and broke the tents of several campers. Somehow we got lucky, probably because of the thick central pole and the fact that two people were in the teepee, holding it down with their weight.

The next morning, we moved the tent into a secluded area I found between the trees just right behind the campsite, where it was protected from the wind but still reached by the sunshine. (Later, I was told that one of the previous rangers used the exact same spot for his yurt. How awesome is that?)

We were supposed to have an accommodation (and at one point we got a room in exchange for work at the bunkhouse), but I realized, for me, it is way better to live in the teepee than in a dark room, so I moved back in the tent while my ex stayed in the room. Also, we weren’t on good terms anymore.

By the end of my four months, I called the teepee my home. I had learned many valuable lessons by living a simple lifestyle. I met some of the most amazing and inspiring people, saw some of the most beautiful places, and learned a whole lot about myself as a person. Though I don’t have the teepee anymore, all of these lessons I learned from living simply and nomadically (up-settled as I like to refer to my way of living) in my tent continue to apply to my daily life ever since.

1. I need little to be happy.

This is something I discovered prior to moving into my teepee. Back then, everything I owned fit into a 90-litre hiking backpack and a smaller 30-litre daypack that I could easily carry around with me as I traveled. I already sold most of my stuff before returning to Scotland, but if I live in a tent, it limits me even more to carry only the essentials I need to make me feel comfortable.

I washed my clothes in the river nearby and took my baths there at the end of each day or dipped myself in the (most of the times) ice cold ocean. I mainly ate the same food day by day (having Celiacs and being vegetarian on a secluded island with a wee store with tourists price doesn’t allow a great variety) that I cooked over my little camping cooker and foraged half of my ingredients.

The less I owned, the happier I felt. It was like the things I possessed not only filled my living space, but they also took up space and crowded my mind. The less I own, the lighter I feel.

Without the distractions of electronics, much more of my time was invested into living in the present moment, connecting to myself and nature, and being creative (funny enough—on my computer, writing). I enjoyed investing more into the conversations and relationships with the locals, hikers, and from time to time with the tourists, as well as a closer connections, and learning about the natural world around me.

I love the freedom that comes from living with less.

2. Life is perfect just where you are.

Most of my life I wished to be somewhere else, dreaming about adventures and expeditions I would take. This stopped the moment I started to travel the world, but usually the feeling circled back around when I stayed too long in one destination. Living in my tent made me realize how easy it is to create a home and to take it with you wherever you go.

Until you are able appreciate the beauty of where you are right now, you’ll never fully find the beauty you’re chasing. Everything is amazing just where you are. Take time to enjoy it.

3. But if you don’t like where you are, move.

Living life up-settled in a piece of waterproof nylon grants you the freedom and mobility to move your “home” as you please. As I mentioned in my introduction, we moved the teepee after the first night, and even after a couple of days I spent in the room in the bunkhouse, I moved back into my teepee. If you are in an undesirable place, you can move until you find a better one.

In life, sometimes we get stuck in undesirable situations (jobs, relationships, places, and so on) that make us unhappy. Life in the teepee has taught me that no matter what happens, you always have the option to change where you are and where you are heading. Sometimes it may take a bit longer to find courage, but in the end, it is always worth it.

4. The best things in life are free.

And the best thing in life is feeling free. There’s nothing like the feeling of finding a perfect spot on a rocky shoreline, spending the morning watching the waves and the dolphins playing around, listening to the birds chirping, while drinking coffee you just cooked over the fire, and reading a book or journaling about the memorable experiences life offers you.

The morning when you wake in the crisp morning air, with the song of the first bird, the first honey-colored rays of sunshine playing on the canvas of the teepee as it peaks through the leaves of the trees…as you’re tucked into your sleeping bag. No alarm clock, no duties, (a thin) roof over your head, you’re (mostly) dry, you have food to fill your belly with, and all the freedom of the earth to decide what you want to spend your time with that day.

Oh, the good old free life! Solitude, nature, being barefoot, warm rays of sunshine, coffee, a good book.

5. Time is a precious gift; don’t waste it.

When I set out on this journey, I fully intended to document my adventure with videos for YouTube and TikTok. I wanted to share the experience and the lessons along the way, but I was basically off the grid the entire time and my phone was turned off. My daypack got flooded with my laptop in it… you can guess, it didn’t survive for long after that.

At least once a day, I would trek up to the lounge in Inverie and log into their Wi-Fi to check the weather, email my accountant, upload pictures to my Instagram, and my articles to peacefuldumpling.com. I stuck to the bare minimum since the teepee was about a half an hour walk from the lounge and it was raining most of the time.

I took notes daily of when I logged in and logged out. I spent 70-90 minutes on my phone doing a handful of tasks. Then I thought about how many times each day I do that at home where I have a unlimited Wi-Fi. I thought about how much time I was wasting staring at a screen instead of experiencing life.

When I wasn’t staring at my screen because I was actually working on something (I wrote several articles a week and I was working on my first book), I intentionally took every opportunity I could to engage in life around me: watched the sun rise and set, engaged with people in deeper topics (when I could), learned as much as I could about composting, gardening, botanics, and nursing plants (and even hunting, yes, as a vegetarian).

The internet is a wonderful tool to stay informed and connected, but if we’re not careful, it can consume us instead of us consuming it. I turned off the notifications on my phone about eight years ago, and recently I deleted many apps from my phone and set a limit on my phone usage, too. (My phone blocks non-essential apps if I reach the time limit I have set for myself.) It’s too easy to pick the phone up when I have a minute of downtime and get sucked in for an hour.

6. Connect to what surrounds you.

I find it interesting how little people know about the natural world around them where they travel and even where they live. Nature is incredible and I think it’s a shame to travel anywhere without even putting in some effort to learn more about what’s around you.

In Knoydart, when I volunteered for the ranger office I had the chance to go on guided nature tours with Ranger Drew, who happened to be a botanist and a student of Gaelic language. I learned in-depth from him about the landscape, the flora, and the fauna surrounding us.

7. Spend time alone.

I have spent a lot of my time (sometimes months) with people. Everyone needs time to be by themselves. When I had no other chance, I used the canvas of my teepee as a barrier from others or spent a whole day galivanting. The time to be by myself became sacred. Journaling, yoga, meditation, walking, or sitting in solitude by the river bank gives you those opportunities to recharge and process life.

Something I am certainly guilty of from time to time is when I have so much on my plate, when I am constantly surrounded by people, that I don’t take out time (or not enough) to be with my own self, and go all crazy in the end, so I take extra efforts to connect with myself in solitude whenever I can.

I hope this inspires you to get out there, step out of your comfort zone, and learn something new about the world and yourself. Though you don’t need to move into a teepee or a tent to apply these lessons in your daily life, but you might as well give it a try and see what your own takeaways are.

It’s probably time for me too to invest in another tent.


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