Shane Newman examines the hidden brain button in our constant efforts to maintain a work-life balance. Flick the switch and we are launched into a free world of adventure at a moment’s notice…

This ascent isn’t an easy one, it just won’t fucking let up and the mud isn’t making it any easier. The light is fading fast and my headlamp is buried deep in my pack (which is far too heavy and only getting heavier).

I’m worried that if I stop, my legs will cramp and I have no reason to stop, I ran out of water hours ago… I was sure I’d find a stream running down here somewhere…

It’s now 6 pm, Sunday evening, I’m in my room with the heater on, surrounded by pillows that just 24 hours ago I would have paid anything for and soon I’ll doze off, only to be woken on Monday morning by the sound of my alarm. The switch has flicked back quickly.

Monday, back to the world of emails and sales calls, timed lunch and sneaky coffee breaks… the only remnants of the weekend are my aching muscles and a beard that smells vaguely of a campfire. But this world is different, it keeps my mind sharp.

I share my stories of the weekend with co-workers throughout the day, who question my sanity when they call me crazy, but I find satisfaction in knowing I can do something that they never would.

This world of business-fashion provides a stark contrast to that of the weekend past.

By Thursday my mind is wandering…

I can’t concentrate on a simple task. I open the world wide web of inspiration to flick the switch back for just a moment and see what my friends of out-there have been up to.

But it’s not enough and soon I’ll run to the outdoors again where I will find these friends. Friends who don’t define themselves by their titles, diet or which team they barrack for.

The outdoors is a great equaliser of people in that sense and it quickly weeds out the weak…as for the lazy, I wouldn’t even think of inviting them in the first place.

The surplus of luxuries I find in the city will quickly fade away on my weekend, where the simplicity of finding drinkable water is enough to elate me.

Don’t get me wrong, I find time in my home-box and work-box comforting. I like my coffee made just so and I’m subconsciously taught in my work to judge people on what they wear. But the darkness that surrounds the campfire can cleanse me of these evils in a heartbeat. Exploration is a wise old teacher in that way.

I don’t hate the other side…

For now it helps keep me more than sane, it keeps me sharp. But the question keeps tugging at my shirt sleeve, do I need this kind of work-life balance? Could I find a work-life balance that represents one close to that of my weekend. A life of pleasure and pain?

It’s something I’ll continue to think on. But for now, whichever way the switch is flicked, I’m happy to have a present worth remembering.


shane article shots royal national park