26 February 2013

Buying a dream

I am a sucker for toys. Just like a bowerbird collects blue objects I love gear.
Some might say however that stuff means nothing if it doesn't get used.
But is that true? 
Sports Room "After"  
gear closet?
A collection of toys for the sake of just pure possession is often viewed as a pointless consumeristic decadence and I tend to agree. But I also see the other hidden side of the reason why often individuals find pleasure in just "owning stuff".
Let me tell you about my experience of a few years in retail at the largest outdoor gear retail chain in the world.
I used to manage the bicycle department in a massive shop and occasionally I would mingle on the floor and help customers with their purchases.
There were some genuine outdoor type guys that needed gear and pretty much knew what they wanted and knew how good/bad the offerings in the store actually were.
The vast majority  of people tho that came through the door were clueless and wanted gear for what they thought would give them a lifetime experience.
Him: “I saw this program on TV about Mt. Whitney; I want to go there. What do I need?”
Me: “Sir, what experience do you have in the outdoors?”
Him: “I walk my dog to the park and I play baseball. I am a real outdoors lover”
Me: “Hmm, OK, let’s see…”

I love their enthusiasm, the candour with which they approach life and that they have a dream.
They would ask me what  gear I use when I go in them “out of doors” places and inevitably they would buy the exact same product from the store. I knew that there was also no point in telling them that some of the gear that I had was home made or that it was no longer available, so I kept quiet ; who was I to disappoint them?
I also knew that they were not buying equipment to go to the mountain, they were buying a dream. 

A few years later, returning to Australia, I started sea kayaking.
The first kayak that I bought was “expedition” capable. I knew very little about paddling and even less about seamanship. My new (to me) kayak was large, had a great big rudder and even came with a sail. I knew I was going to be paddling and exploring far away places in about a week or so.
Fortunately reality checked-in before I got in trouble and I learned that the sea is not a forgiving place where I should really prepare myself before dreaming too big.
I recently read on a sea kayaking forum about somebody that wants to paddle from Australia to Papua New Guinea soon. His experience so far: paddling a few hours on a calm lake :-)
My second kayak was also a large big-guy boat, for expedition use of course.

Impex Assateague at Fraser Island (c)
Eventually it hit me: who am I kidding?
I rarely go away for an overnight paddle and maybe once or twice a year on a camping trip for a week or so.
I soon realized that that mighty big boat is not the best suited vessel for my day paddles. 
Just like those big stompers that my customer was now buying in my store, with a cart full of top end gear worthy of a Himalayan assault. He would have been better off with a lighter and nimble boot that would not give him blister the size of dinner plates, but I knew I could and should not convince him. He was dreaming.
And that is how far his dream went.
I saw him a few months later, now winter, in my store again. I asked him and he told me that he never got to that mountain: “Things got in the way”. I will do it next year, for sure.
All he wanted now was some full suspension bike because he was going to compete in a 24 hour mountain bike race.
I should have known: Discovery Channel showed a piece on that a few nights before. 
I loved that guy: he was enthusiastic about his dreams (and keeping my biz healthy).
I knew that the bike, just like his “Everest” jacket, would have a special place in his home.
Every so often he would open the wardrobe and look at the jacket and sigh: one day... 
Dreams is something money can’t buy, for everything else there is MasterCard.
Oh wait a minute, people are buying “dreams”
Some say that traveling and buying gear are the only two sure ways of converting dollars into happiness.


  1. Gnarly the philosopher?
    Nice post (and very ordered gear closet), just one thing missing, why most paddlers keep buying and using for a few hours paddle a boat that is for expeditions?

    1. for the very same reason that so many people buy 4WDs to drive exclusively in urban environments, because we all dream of one day to go on that mighty expedition

  2. by far, living the dream is more satisfying but for most people, buying the dream as you call it, is as close as they get.

    I am also a dreamer and sometimes I live the dream and sometimes I simply dream.

    before you began kayaking, you dreamed of visiting remote locations under your own power, perhaps inspired by kayaking pics or videos.
    you bought your dream. an expedition kayak.
    even though it took you a long time to use that kayak for the intended purpose and you only use the dream boat for 1 or 2 trips a year, when you go to your shed to fetch your surf or day trip kayak dont you look at that expedition kayak and smile just a little at the memories and dream a little more?

    perhaps for those who can only buy the dream, simply owning the gear and never using it for whatever reasons is a frustration OR a way of keeping a dream alive.

    nice post.

    dreamertess :-)

  3. i very much agree with you about the "expedition” capable"

    i have a valley nordkapp & necky chatham 16

    i rarely paddle with the nordkapp

    thank you

  4. Reality writing Gnarly, but selecting the 'cover shot' was a… Master-stroke! Pink colour golf bag, small size snowboard boots and not a single photo of a dog??? But most importantly, you would never frame-up anything, which wasn’t shot by a wide-angle lens…

    1. yeah, nice image.
      My "pretend" gear closet would not have snowboards: I telemark. And that does looks like a chick's place with the cushion on the couch and all very orderly and shiny... :-)

  5. I think it's great to dream, whether people get there or not. In fact, sometimes it's better to never achieve the dream, so reality doesn't sour it. But dreaming and doing and living, what a recipe for fulfilment. Great post Gdog. :)

  6. I really appreciate the folks at my local store who convinced me that I didn't need a huge pack for weekends to week-long trips, and talked me out of more expensive boots than I needed. I actually got out and built some skills to support my dreams, and they've gotten a lot more business from me over all.

    1. I am glad you had knowledgeable staff helping you and you were prepared to listen; that is usually a rare case, for both instances.
      More of a long term goal than just a simple dream?

  7. FINACES AND TIME are major hurdles when planning for any upcoming adventure. Gear can become expensive with up-front cost, operating costs, and maintenace costs. Because of this it is important to be wise (and frugal) about your spending, since this will directly result in the length of your adventure. If you spend too much on gear, you won't be able to eat good food, or worse yet, you will have to delay and/or cut your adventure short due to lack of finances.. Though it is very easy to fall into the dreaming category of collecting for "some day."

  8. That was a fun read. Good insights Gnarlydog. I suppose part of the idea on this gear thing is that at least we're all trying. We not dying. Like Lennon sings in "Beautiful Boy", Life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans.

  9. Hear, hear. Very nice post. Spot on!


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