Camping and spending time outdoors enriches our lives when we are lucky enough to have the chance to pack up the car and hit the road. Hopefully we get a handful of nights tent camping in the woods each summer to remind us what it's like to hear a stream and crickets while we fall asleep. The feelings we get while being outside have proven benefits to our mind, body and souls. In the modern world, it is easy to get carried away with the conveniences of technology, so let us consider bringing the lessons and ethics of outdoor living back to the city to help develop a more fulfilling and sustainable lifestyle.
One of the most obvious things that stands out when we compare life at home to life on a camping trip is how we use far less resources. It is widely known the average American uses four times the resources per day than the world average, but where do those things add up? One example is how we heat up our homes rather than ourselves in the city. While out camping, we would simply increase our resistance to cold with sleeping bags, sweat pants, socks and hoodies. We wash our dishes by hand with small amounts of water and soap rather than using the overly-sterile dishwasher. We sit by the fireside and camp lanterns rather than using a bunch of overhead lights. Long story short, it's kinda funny we are only willing to "rough it" while camping even though we find it fun and refreshing at the time. Why not bring those same lessons home? Your utility bills will never be lower and your diminished carbon footprint on the earth will be appreciated by all.
Another great and proven benefit of camping is the ability to hear the sounds of nature while we drift off to sleep. John Muir once built a small cabin over a creek and left a few floorboards missing so he could see and hear it while lying in bed. If you do not quite have the same set-up at your house, then look for a nearby park to have a picnic while quietly listening to the birds. Sound is one of our most neglected senses, but it has a much greater effect on us than many realize. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the ability to open a window and hear anything besides the city. In that case, there are endless varieties of free or purchasable options for re-creating the sounds of nature in your personal environment. It might not be as good as the real thing, but it is impossible to deny the soothing effects of listening to a small water feature in your home or to listening to nature and meditation music on your commute to work.
Cell phones are great! They could save your life, give you vital information, or lead you to the hard-to-find trailhead. One of the great things about camping, however, is turning off the phone or even being away from coverage. A subtle yet even more important aspect is unplugging from the news media rollercoaster. Taking a break from hearing about every little bad thing that occurred today around the globe is a really good thing. We are more present when we are away from media, and besides, our happiness is determined by what is occurring directly to us rather than what is happening to everyone else. Unplugging can be a liberating feeling and a good lesson about learning how to filter, block or avoid the vast amounts of information we are bombarded with when we return to the city.
Camping reminds us all that we are very lucky to have the luxuries and technology that make our lives much safer and easier than just a few generations ago. The flip side of this coin, however, is that we also are taking things for granted that are not certainties. Most of the things we consider "normal" today have only been experienced by the smallest margins of people historically. Another way to look at is how fantastic a hot shower feels if you haven't had one in a few days, how a warm meal hits the spot after a long hike with only some trail mix, and how a real bed feels like heaven after a few days in a tent. We have been so used to fulfilling our every desire instantly for so long that the excitement tends to wear off. You will never love and appreciate your home more than after spending a week in the bush.
I can't imagine Teddy Roosevelt would be very happy if he were around today. The Rugged Individualism that he and many others of his time preached as the reason America was so successful has largely fallen to the wayside. Most of us can't start a fire without a lighter or matches, most of us can't procure our own food without a grocery store. I understand these things do not matter much in our modern world, but it's a risky game of reliance. Outdoor living forces you to be resourceful and aware, knowledgeable and creative. Going outside, talking with old-timers and doing research can teach us so much about our world. Learn about plants and flowers that can be foraged, becoming a skilled fisherman, basic first aid, how to build a simple shelter, ride a horse, and countless other things that even our great-grandparents probably needed to know how to do. These skills will enrich your life, tie you to our past, and they are also just downright fun to learn and practice.
We believe good things come from people spending time outside. It’s about more than standing on the mountain top. It’s about nourishment and learning. It’s about protecting what sustains us. It’s about building relationships with the outdoors and each other. LEARN MORE and share the pledge to Adventure Like You Give A Damn.