During Learning Trek last week, as we made our way through the Pink Beds of Pisgah, one of the students started talking about the ten things he cannot live without. A discussion ensued on the trail about one of our principles at the Outdoor Academy: Simple Living. We got to talking about what is essential for them outside of OA and how that has changed since they surrendered the air pods and technological conveniences. 

I decided to source this one from the crowd (the students). What are the things you cannot live without at home (be honest!)? What are the things you cannot live without here at OA?

At Home At OA


Music!!! – Streaming services 






Long Showers



Clothes — lots of them

Shoes — many pairs



Specific Footwear

  • daily pair, slip on pair, hiking boots

Thermos / cup with a lid!


Water Bottle 

Crazy Creek

Sweatpants and hoody

Clothes for the cold

Rain Gear




Bandana / Handkerchief 

Trekking Poles

a Killer CD


Coloring Book with pens/markers

Favorite Stuffed Animal


When students join our community, they agree to a simpler life, put simply, a life with less “stuff”. I think simple living is one of our most important principles. In order to delve into the experience of being an OA student, you cannot carry the physical weight of the clothing in your closet much less the metaphorical weight of ongoing texts, snapchats, insta DMs, or whatever social media you chose.

After fielding answers from the students, I realized that it was easier for them to come up with items they cannot live without here at OA. You will see that the list is longer. These results can send a mixed message, but I think the reason for this is that there is a greater need for the items they bring here. Each possession should serve at least one true purpose. They will trust those hiking boots to get them through Pisgah and for the trekking poles to take some of the load of their backpack off of their knees. If they want to listen to the music they love, they have to bring their own CD and choose which songs are most important. Perhaps that stuffed animal is a small comfort that makes them feel more at home. 

I value what simple living does to this community. It does not mean life here is simple, but it makes room for so much more if you adhere to the principle.

By Ellie Quinn