The Curious Result of Not Paying to Do

There's a distinct but little documented or researched area of human behaviour that concerns what we pay for and the expectations and experience that lead and stem from such an activity. Note here that it is activities, with the emphasis on the doing, not product or service that is under discussion.

Imagine setting out to climb a mountain. It's nearby and all you have to do is cycle, or take a train and hike out, or take a car if that is your proclivity (I'm not trying to be provocative but merely to point out that reflexively relying on a car for transport is a culturally accepted solution but in other, more critical light, may not be a good solution at all for a voluntary, recreational activity.) In essence, getting to the mountain is at low cost. Let's say it takes an hour.

Imagine, then, getting to the base of the mountain, perhaps putting up a tent to store one's things until you get back, and then setting off for the summit. It's not huge but there are some loose rock screen slopes lower down so you're wearing tough boots, and you take a rope and some rock gear to tackle a section of granite wall to the summit.

You climb the mountain. Get to the top. Survey the view. It is glorious. It is a normal day with blue sky and clouds but from that vantage the country looks new and fresh and exciting. You can see a pair of eagles soaring below. The settlement in the distant looks like a toy town laid out in miniature. You feel like a god.

And, carefully, you descend the mountain to arrive at your tent as the night sky repairs the last tears of dusk lit distant cloud.

The experience has not cost you a dime. Perhaps a little wear and tear on your boots but, well cared for, they will last another five years.

The mountain wasn't busy. You saw less than a handful of people, and just one other on the higher reaches of the mountain. Probably because it took a little bit of skill to negotiate the upper wall. You used the rope but free climbed most of it. Skills picked up from a childhood in a wealthy nation where the standard of living provided enough free time and resources to develop skills just for recreation. And a culture that allowed for - nah, encouraged one - to embrace exploration in the footsteps of one's heritage, and to test oneself heroically against danger, a lingering yet live permeate from Ancient Greece. None of which you think of as you stand there, in cool early morning air the next day. Looking up.

Imagine how you feel.