People seem to either love camping or hate it. I know quite a few women, for example, who won’t go near a tent or even an RV, for that matter. I wonder if they’ve ever tried camping. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to be in the moment than spending the night surrounded by nature. Where else can the sounds of an owl hooting in the treetops or a rushing stream serenade you to sleep?
I didn’t grow up in a camping family. Instead, I discovered camping during college when friends and I would set up tents at a place called Phred’s Pharm in Southwest Virginia. I can still recall how tranquil it was there in the woods with the silent mountains all around. We left tests and term papers behind and found time to be ourselves.
One summer when I was in my 20s, I traveled through Europe with a friend. We carried everything we needed in our backpacks. I remember camping in Switzerland above the town of Montreux near a cold mountain stream. In the morning golden sunlight illuminated the storybook landscape, and every tree, every leaf seemed to glow. After splashing cold water in our faces, my friend and I made coffee and sat by the campfire. I don’t remember what we had for breakfast, but I’m sure it was delicious.
Food always tastes better when you’re camping. Maybe it’s because you’re more active and therefore hungrier. I’ve also heard that when you’re out in nature, you inhale more negative ions—electrically charged particles—and these can make your appetite increase. Plus there’s something about cooking on a campfire that connects us with our ancestors: the warmth from the flames, the smell of charred food, the crackles and hissing sounds the fire makes.
I remember when Peter and I took our kids camping when they were little. After we set up the tents, we’d go hunt for twigs and sticks to start a fire. Soon the flames would catch, and a warm glow would envelop us—maybe a little wood smoke, too. We’d start cooking dinner—perhaps some brats and corn on the cob and a salad from home. Whatever we ate always tasted twice as good—almost like a little magic fairy came along and sprinkled our food with fairy dust to make it taste better.
Peter and I always brought along a blow-up mattress, but our boys didn’t mind sleeping on the ground. We’d snuggle under sleeping bags, warm as we could be, and drift off into peaceful slumber.
Later Peter and I graduated to RV camping—a real bed! We camped a lot when our kids were young, not just up and down the East Coast but also for a few wonderful months in Europe. I miss camping, but one day I know we’ll sleep with the owls once again.
Plan a camping trip soon—even in your backyard. Make s’mores, sing songs, tell stories, and have real conversations with your kids. One more thing: leave your cell phones behind and disconnect for a change. You’ll be glad you did.