Go Camping

Call it wanderlust or some sort of idealist theory, but I have really been wanting to go camping lately. Sometime in my formative years my family would camp, and that timeframe quickly ended with trading the glorious outdoors in the middle of the night for the warm glow of the local Hampton Inn. This week my adult self decided to give camping another try. Who needs AirBNB when you have a polyester dome and the great outdoors. Besides, Pinterest makes camping look so glamorous these days, with their endless gourmet smores recipes and Taj Mahal inspired tents — of course I can hack it in the great outdoors.

In the spirit of Pinterest, I’ve gathered my top 5 takeaways from my first camping expedition.

1. Less is more

While preparing for this trip I quickly realized the constraints of packing. I exist in the context of endless options and opportunity — often to a fault. My logical self wants to pack the car as full as possible so as to be “prepared” for any impending situation — sudden downpour, killer bees, or alien invasion, the great outdoors can be unforgiving. Camping forces us to hone in on those things that are necessary to get you through this temporal phase. The limitations of space force decisions on that which is most important for the current assignment and leave behind that which is just fluff. And as I dig through boxes of stuff in my tent by the dark of night I realize, maybe next time I’ll skip packing the non-essentials for the ease of accessing that which is essential (hello toilet paper!).

2. Just get out there

Feeling like you’re in a rut? Change your context, if even temporarily. Do something you haven’t done before. Explore the world outside of your normal context. Artists of all types have often retreated to the woods for inspiration, but it is more than just inspirational. Nature is severe. There’s no controlling the temperature, the elements or the bugs and furry creatures. Nature magnifies beauty and discomfort. It’s the good and bad that shape character and define our experiences. And at the end of the whole expedition, you’ll have an Instagram feed full of beautiful pictures that skillfully crop out the overflowing trash cans next to your campsite.

3. I can take a three minute shower

There is no major revelation in this one just a opportunity to gloat. Chalk it up to my aquarian birthright but I tend to spend significant amounts of time in the shower. I have discovered, that when confronted with adversity (i.e. cold water and quarter operated showers) I can overcome this hurdle and bathe with great speed. I also discovered that I can calmly share a shower with a large moth.

4. People are weird

A camp ground is the only place where it is socially acceptable to walk around in your pajamas in public. It’s an other worldly experience, grown adults wandering around in flannel moose pjs and flowery silk kimono robes. Some people have camping down to a science, beautifully arranged campsites with all the trimmings and others… are just trying not to fall out of the tent every time they unzip the flap. When the air is still you can hear everyone’s dirty laundry as they yell at their kids or argue with their spouse over how to light the stupid camp stove. There is something comforting about experiencing strangers in their humanity. It’s easy to stay confined to our homes and cars and interact with others only on our own terms; when we’re fully dressed, makeup on and teeth brushed. Camping reminds us that people are just people, vulnerable and weird.

5. Camping should be temporary

Life’s seasons can be long and monotonous, begun with gusto but quickly waning to a dull roar. Our desire to go forth and accomplish can fade quickly as we get lost in the day to day and forget why we started down a particular path. The need to escape creeps in subtly and revelation fades. Camping is temporary, a subtle voyage into escapism. Camping out for too long can lead to a lack of revelation and a prolonged state of hibernation. It can also lead to people referring to you as “that crazy guy that lives in the woods.” Live your life, escape as needed. Change your context to gain perspective. Make decisions at camp and bring them back to real life.

Rise free from care before the dawn and seek new adventures. Let noon find you at other lakes. And night find you everywhere at home... Grow wild according to thy nature.

Henry David Thoreau

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