Caitlin Schanaker
July 04, 2015 8:13 am
When I was little our family would head out for “family camp” every spring. All of my aunts and uncles and cousins would pack up their trucks and campers and my grandparents would hop in their RV and we’d all meet somewhere around the border of Arizona and California for a full weekend of endless play.

The sun was hot, the water was cool, the inner-tube was called Big Bertha and our sunburns were our constant companions. The war wounds of a childhood summer. We’d hike and discover and get oh so dirty, and we’d stay far away from the grassy bit of marsh that was rumored to house snapping turtles.

I remember carefully packing my belongings, which included a bathing suit, various comfy clothes and of course my walkman, the only technology I possessed at the time. It held Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On because obviously that was the ballad of my life.
Last September, my husband and I decided to plan out our very first camping trip together. It brought back a lot of memories. I hadn’t been camping since those sweet summer days of childhood. Needless to say, it was quite different going camping as an adult. But despite the little challenges and our multiple whoops-es and moments of dear lord we need to write our parents a thank you letter, I am a firm believer in camping and chasing out that wild heart in us.

This is why we camp, ya’ll.

1. COMMUNITY

Even as an introvert I absolutely love group gatherings. I prefer smaller ones, of course, but there’s something incredibly refreshing about joining together with people you love over a meal. At its heart, camping is just a string of days connected by meals. How about we wake up and have breakfast? How about we laze around until lunch? How about we eat an entire bag of chips while we dream about dinner? Don’t forget to snack on this granola while you collect more firewood.

It’s just a dreamy commune. You cook the baked beans, I’ll do the dishes. Togetherness, camping style. Let me spray your back with bug spray! The entire experience is dappled with groups of other families, too. You can sit around your fire and hear the distant giggling of children (which sounds a bit creepy, but really, it’s delightful), and catch wisps of your neighbor’s Latin music across the trees. Everyone doing their thang, separate but together in the joys of weekend bliss.

2. HAMMOCKS

Holy happy body cradle, hammocks are amazing. My husband is an angel and found a striped hippy hammock for $20 at Walmart, and I now want a hammock in every room of my house. I felt as if my years of life had slowly erased the unadulterated joy of hammocks from my memory until that weekend. We were reunited and it all came rushing back. Sure, they’re hazardous. Sure, the ropes can slip off the tree and you can fall flat on your back (just ask my brother), but I promise you they are doing their darndest to make your life a friggin’ dreamland. Lie back in your cocoon and let the sunshine lull you right to sleep.

3. FRESH AIR

Don’t try and tell me you don’t enjoy fresh air. Nobody walks out their front door on a beautiful day and says, GROSS! AIR! GAH! I know people say “I don’t really enjoy the outdoors” but c’mon. You can’t die from blue skies and sunshine. I don’t think.

Camping doesn’t have to be hiking and paddle-boating and running around in circles just for the heck of sweating like a barbarian. I like camping best if it involves no exercise. It’s totally an option. It’s an option I demand, actually. Because hammocks. 

4. HEAR ME ROAR

Perhaps the best part of camping is that it’s rather rewarding. There are so many opportunities for creativity and innovation. Like my husband’s hand-washing station (a family ingenuity), which was constructed using a gallon jug of water, a golf tee, some hosiery, and a bar of soap. Cleanliness is the most exquisite of camping accomplishments.

When you finally do get that tent up, it is the best darn tent in the universe. Camping is just like creating an awesome blanket fort in your living room, but it’s outside and actually habitable for a few daysYour amateur 5-year-old self is so jealous. All those homey touches and hard-earned adjustments will swell you with pride. That tarp ceiling perfectly shades the card table. That clan of spiders plotting your demise under the stone benches didn’t stand a chance against that flaming stick.

When you sit down to eat that fire-cooked meal, you are king. When you close your eyes and can smell nothing but earthy smoke and roasting marshmallows, life has never been sweeter. In the cool evenings your sweatshirt is your best friend, your makeshift bed is a cozy hideaway of s’more-filled dreams, and your campsite is a place of ragged victory.

5. WILD AND FREE AND FIRE

There is no dress code. You forego makeup (if you want to), you don a weathered baseball cap, you unplug, sticking the phone in your suitcase and replacing it with a great book. No pressures, no deadlines, no expectations. You chat and laugh and play board games. You brush your teeth because this isn’t prison, guys, it’s just a woodsy weekend.

Lookout because I’m gonna drop some knowledge. Unplugging is one of the most incredible gifts we can give to ourselves, our friends and our family. I’ll refrain from saying “in this day and age” but you know what I’m sayin’ up in here. Put the phones away, make it up as you go along, tear yourself away from Google for a sec and try to answer a few questions by yourself.

Bring out your inner caveman and throw the corn straight on the fire. Eat 517 s’mores because it’s good for your heart (not true) and soul (definitely true). Don’t let s’mores become obsolete, youngins. Go on a journey to find the stars and think of stories you haven’t told in a really, really long time. Reconnect and recharge and be wild and free and fire.

It’s why we camp.
(Image via)

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