When I was young, my mother would take us camping just for a quick overnight in the mountains that surrounded my childhood home. She would load up the tents and sleeping bags, my brothers, the dog, and me. We would head out for a day of fun and a night of adventure.
We would set up camp and then the exploring would begin. Climbing the rocks and trees. Splashing in any sort of water we could find, and then inevitably a game of make-believe would form bit by bit. We were robbers or pirates. We had to rescue the dog or one another from certain danger. All the while, climbing and jumping around. Our imaginations fully engaged.
At night we lit the fire and cooked over it. We roasted marshmallows until our stomach ached, and tried to tell the scariest story. When the fire faded, and we were properly scared, we hit the sack we huddled together in our tent to stay warm.
The morning came and we crawled out of our tent to the smell of bacon, eggs, and a pancake feast. We gathered around the morning fire to get warm and watch my mom expertly flip a pancake in the pan over an open flame. The pancakes never burned! Then we scrambled for a little more exploring around until my mom called us back to head home. Solemn, we left our fun behind to go back to all the realities that met us there. School, chores, and just the plain mundane days. My brothers and I waited impatiently for the next time we could go camping with our mom.
Camping Into the Teen Years and Beyond
As I aged camping was a way to gain some independence. I got my driver’s license and would take off for a trip with my brother. Eventually, we had our friends tagging along and the adventures seemed endless.
All through high school my friends and I would seek the outdoors for fun and recharging. I didn’t know it at the time but the great outdoors calmed me. Camping took the stress of school and family pressures away. It brought me back to myself in a way that I never could understand at the time.
Into my early twenties, I continued to go camping, but this time with boyfriends. I’m not proud to admit this, but I would judge them on their skills. If they couldn’t light a fire or hike through the mud how the heck could they be a go-getter or provide for me if they couldn’t light a fire? I know, not fair to those city slickers.
This testing proved to be beneficial when I met my now-husband. We went on a crazy three-day camping trip together. Along the way, we forgot the tent poles and had to sleep out under the stars freezing. The dog took off after the grazing cattle and we had to chase her down. It was a mess. However, he could build a fire and he could navigate the backcountry roads like a pro. Through this trip, and many like it, I think we formed equal respect and admiration for each other. I think camping laid the foundation of our now twenty-three-year marriage.
This proved we could work together to solve problems. I found out he was a horrible cook and we discovered, together, camping became a way to reconnect and be quiet together.
Three Months on the Road
When we had children, we introduced them to camping early and often. They have grown to love it too. I’m not sure they recognize the benefits, even if they would never agree with you, of building a fire and sleeping close to the ground. Or even that they love it as much as we did. However, I think when they are in the mountains, smelling the campfire, some part of them gets it.
The pandemic hit and sometime in July of last year, my husband suggested that we downsize and head out on the road. I don’t think he thought I would do it. After all these years together he should have known better. I took his idea and turned it into a full-blown trip.
We gave away furniture and donated clothes for months. Then we emptied our house into a storage unit. We hired a management company and rented our house out for five months. I’m not sure how it happened. Tiny step by tiny step we moved forward. Refinancing the house, buying the camper. Finally, at the end of January, we headed south. We made our way to the Texas Gulf Coast. For the next few months, traveling our way around the south and up to Washington D.C.
As we traveled to each new city, it brought on round after round of that explorative excitement that I craved. The people we met were kind and inviting. We set up camp and went forth. Every new place had a different feel and expectation. In the evenings we would sit out and talk even if we couldn’t have a fire (everything in the south is wet). The daily reconnection bonded us.
Because the camping trip never ended it shifted from nature and connecting to the earth into problem solving and tolerance. Sometimes we did well there and sometimes we didn’t, but all along we learned to appreciate each other.
What I learned
1. The smell of clean, moist air settles your soul.
2. Waking with the sun inspires you to do…whatever you want, whatever you need to.
3. Disconnecting from the world quiets your brain so you can focus on what is truly important and resets your brain.
4. Being a bit bored helps you appreciate what you have.
5. Problem solving in an uncomfortable place creates new ideas and broadens your imagination.
I know having wild places for us to escape to is one of the most important mental resets we need. Without my early introduction to the wilds, I’m not sure my teen years would have been as pleasant or fun. Take the time to disconnect from the world and reconnect to each other. Cook over a smoky open flame. Feel the earth at your feet and inhale. I guarantee your mind will settle and you will find parts of yourself you never knew were missing.
Here are some of my favorite recipes:
This one is prepped and ready to go for the evening when you are setting up camp:
1 lb. Hamburger, divided into 4
1 onion sliced thin
Tin foil, 4 square sheets
Season hamburger with your favorite spices and put 1/4 pound on each sheet of tin foil. Pat burger into a patty, pile with onions and carrots then wrap tight.
When you get to your favorite camping spot and your fire is roaring, place packets around the parameter and turn them over a couple of times. Cook for about 10 mins or so and then serve. I like mine with ketchup but any sauce will do. You can use the foil as a plate too, so no dishes either!
Here is a link to a few more easy foil recipes!
Interested in more camping? Look here That Glamping Life: Trading in My Tent for a Different Kind of Adventure
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of The We Spot, it’s employees, sponsors, or affiliates.