Camping season has officially begun! For those of you who say, “Camping is NOT for me,” here are five reasons you should leave your comfort zone and try it out this year.
- Fresh air
If you live in a metropolitan or suburban area, the air you breathe daily cannot be considered “fresh air.” Although you may not notice it, the air in populated areas is laced with automobile exhaust, factory and business emissions, and other forms of pollution that come from living in a densely populated area. We don’t pick up on these because we have become accustomed to them. However, once you go camping in middle of nowhere, you will know what true fresh air smells like. You pick up the different scents of the trees and foliage, the water running through a nearby brook, the dead leaves and pine needles that form the forest bed. THIS is fresh air in its truest form!
According to the International Health, Raquetball and Sportsclub Association, Americans spend 2.8 billion dollars a year on gym memberships in order to get exercise. We spend countless hours on treadmills, either running or walking, and not getting anywhere. Hiking is free exercise. No gym, treadmill, or personal trainer required. Just throw on some hiking boots and set off down a trail. Maybe the trail leads to a fishing hole, or winds up a hill, or meanders to a waterfall. Maybe it just loops back to where you started. No matter what, you will get the blood flowing and inhale some of the fresh air described in #5. Two for the price of one. Plus, you get to see all the beauty of nature. We often overlook the natural wonders that are so close to home– woods, mountains, deserts, streams– whatever the terrain, you are certain to see things that you didn’t know existed in your area. The world is such a beautiful place, and hiking gives you a chance to actually see and appreciate all that it has to offer.
- Camp food
Some say it’s the air, or it’s the exercise, or even cooking over the open flame of a campfire. Whatever it is, camp food is some of the best food in the world. There’s something about camping that allows you to stuff your face until you are inches away from being grotesquely full without suffering from tremendous guilt. You can just work it off tomorrow while you’re collecting kindling to start the fire for the next meal. If you aren’t convinced yet, I have one word for you– s’mores. ‘Nuff said.
- Disconnecting from social media
In this day and age, no one can seem to survive without his or her smart phone. We must be constantly connected to the internet in order to receive our news, weather, and society updates. A recent article in Time magazine stated that the average American checks his or her phone 46 times every day. Camping in a remote location without cell service forces you to disconnect from your screen and reconnect with your surroundings. You talk to the people you eat with. You point out the woodpecker high in the evergreen tree to your fellow camper. You ask them how they like their marshmallows cooked for their s’mores. You may discuss more serious things, like politics, global warming, or the Common Core. You may discuss trivial matters, such as why you put the wood in a teepee formation when you build a campfire when your significant other uses a hatch method. The topic really doesn’t matter. It’s the fact that you’re having human interaction and building relationships. This is something we all desperately need to do more often.
Campfires have been around since the dawn of time. When cave men discovered fire, the first thing they did was sit around the open flame and stare at it. We haven’t evolved that much since then! Sitting around a campfire gives you time to reflect on the day. You can think about the hike you took and the great food you ate. More stars are visible in the sky when you are camping than you would be able to see on a clear night in the city or the suburbs; the illuminations from buildings, streetlights, and cars make the stars less vibrant in the sky over populated areas. But when you’re out in nature, there are very few man made lights to distract from the natural beauty of the night sky. You may even see your first shooting star! Also, campfires provide the perfect setting for storytelling. Here is a great way to start a group campfire story: one person begins the tale with a couple of lines, then each person around the campfire takes a turn and adds a line or two to the plot until it’s finished. This is a great way to include kids; they often add the funniest things! Campfires can easily last late into the night, because time flies by when you’re relaxing with good company and feeding off one another’s creativity.
All of these aspects of camping will make your relationships richer and your love of nature stronger. Your head will be clearer (as will your lungs from the clean air). I can also guarantee that when you get home, you will thoroughly appreciate your indoor plumbing! So go camping this season. The memories and benefits will carry you through the year, until you’re ready to plan your next wilderness adventure!