Last week, my family and I went camping (more to come on that experience). I’m sad to admit it’s been a while since I’ve slept in the great outdoors and when I snuggled into my sleeping bag, I realized that I have missed the experience.
Some people are surprised to find I like hiking and camping. I guess I don’t come across as the ‘outdoorsy’ type of girl if you meet me in certain situations. But just because I can rock a dress and heels doesn’t mean I can’t pull off a pony tail and dirt under my nails! There is something about being in the great outdoors that soothes my soul. Remove the traffic congestion, row upon row of houses, and several hundred people in a condensed location, and the world gets a little less crazy. Of course I also enjoy the luxuries of technology, a house to come home to, and more. I won’t pretend I don’t. But it’s so nice to step away at times, breathe in some fresh air, soak up the soft sounds of birds and the swaying trees, relax the mind. There are a lot of reasons I like to camp (and admittedly a few reasons I get ready to come home). Here are my top ones:
1. Anyone can camp. Seriously, you can. It doesn’t matter your background, financial status, education, relationship status, gender, or age. Even physical ability tends to matter less – yes, it helps to be in shape when on a rigorous backpacking trip but tent camping near your car is fairly easy for most people. Even I have accomplished some cool backpacking trips with a titanium rod for a femur. I feel that people become equals when they pitch a tent.
2. I learned to embrace another part of me. I love being a woman and feminine. In my job, I’m focused and professional. And yes, I prefer to shower daily but I’ve learned to relax (why else did man invent baby wipes and hair ties?). I do find it funny when I think of the thousands of hours spent at a horse barn….my best days were spent riding horses, cleaning stalls, pitching hay and polishing tack. I guess when you’re doing what you love, dirt and sweat cease to matter. I feel that way about being outdoors.
3. There is so much to learn. I joined an outdoor club years ago to make new friends who also enjoy outdoor activities (and I was blessed to meet some amazing people). The club teaches some classes to help people learn new skills. While I knew some of the basics, it was due to watching others do the activities. I wanted to learn to do these by myself. So I learned to build a fire, filter water for safe drinking, pack a backpack to meet my limitations of carrying weight (due to the rod in my leg), use a variety of camp stoves, cook a menu of easy meals, and much more. I learned that my leadership skills easily transferred to group situations in the outdoors. And I learned that everyone, from the small child to retired person, has something to contribute.
4. It builds confidence. While it was fun and great to learn the skills listed above and more, the most important thing I learned is that I can take care of myself. I’d prefer not to be in the woods alone unless it’s a planned solo outing, but I know I have the basic survival skills. Ever since my cancer surgery put restrictions on weight I can carry and activities I can do, I’m often self-conscious about not being able to fully participate in activities or needing someone else to pick up my slack. Having confidence in other skills lets me feel like I’m an active member of the group. Shortly after I joined the outdoor club, I helped teach a backpacking class. My intention had been to meet new people but I quickly realized I could actually teach people some new skills! I particularly found myself gravitating to women who might not be eager to trust themselves in the wilderness or who needed encouragement in embracing their wild side. I mean, really, who likes to poop in the woods? Sometimes we all need some support.
5. With the right company, every trip is fun. I’ve enjoyed some awesome adventures in the outdoors. From camping throughout Michigan to Montana to Alaska, my memories span. While the weather hasn’t been fabulous every single moment, the company thankfully has been. My husband and I have some of our best conversations by the campfire and on the trail, even the time we thought we were lost (we weren’t!). When it rained for hours during a backpacking trip to South Manitou Island, three of us girls told stories and giggled the entire time in our tent. Despite misty, chilly temps one day in Alaska, my friend and I pulled on rain gear and had an amazing time “meeting” animals at a conservation center. Who you’re with can make or break a trip. Choose wisely. And don’t discount the fun and adventure of solo camping. There are great benefits to taking some time to yourself. Plan appropriately to ensure safety when you’re traveling alone.
What are your reasons to enjoy camping?