Camping: one of life's teachers
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
North Dakota is definitely known for its winters but summers are its best kept secret. As a child, I did not grow up camping. I did not appreciate the long summer days ND had to offer. In fact, I was one of the least outdoorsy girls you would meet. I hated bugs, being too hot or too cold, and was unsure of lake/river water as I preferred a clear pool regulated with lots of chemicals (😂). I was going to be one of the last people to take up camping.
But as our boys grew older (now 11, 9, and 7), we wanted to give it a try. We know the few years left with them are precious and because they all love the outdoors, I knew I needed to have an open mind.
So, we got a camper last year. We found something we could afford and bought it outright. We handed over our cash and haven’t looked back. After two seasons of camping, I can see it transforming my life and changing my family.
I have discovered many things about myself. I may not have ever had this opportunity had we not taken up the camping life. I do not know if other people discover this too or if I am an oddity. But either way, my lessons learned from camping are probably some of the best I’ll get in my life.
It’s all worth it. It takes hours to get ready to leave on a camping trip. Hours. The first time we went, we got to the lake at 10 pm, just in time for the last bits of sunlight. Josh and I definitely questioned ourselves throughout the supper hours: maybe we should wait until morning, the kids are hungry and tired, I’m not sure it’s worth it today. But we both knew one thing: once we were there, it would all be worth it. We woke up to sunlight, birds, and fresh air on our faces with a lake just a few steps away. The kids were still sleeping so we made our coffee in our little 5 cup coffee maker and snuck to our chairs. We sat together in the sunrise, sipping coffee, enjoying the stillness of the water. Our coffee conversations are some of the most important to our relationship and they seem to be even better in nature.
I underestimated nature. I do not know if it is the world we live in or if I would always have been so drawn to these things, but I get a different kind of energy than anywhere else. We spend our days walking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and sitting. Nature is healing and it is healing me. I didn’t know I needed healing or that nature would be the medicine and I certainly didn’t intend this when we bought our camper but nonetheless, this has occurred. The sun gives me energy. It calms me. The water balances and centers me. The bugs bring me bug bites. This is part of nature I could do without but have learned to endure for all the other benefits.
It’s not just a bonfire. There is nothing like a bonfire in ND summers. You do not need a camper or a lake for this one. You just need a fire pit, a few good friends, and some drinks. We end every night with a bonfire, s’mores, and beers. I could stay out watching the stars until 2 am (sometimes I do). The darkness and stillness of the night allow a person to just be. I don’t have a ton of thoughts during these times; just a true sense of wonder, awe, and appreciation for my life. I feel small and connected to a vast world.
Simple is the way to go. We have made a rule that we do not bring iPads on our camping trips. Surprisingly, not one of them fought about this when we announced it. This is my favorite rule, EVER. The highest tech we have is a TV and DVD player for rainy days and night time movies. Recently, they rented movies from the library. Movies like The Sandlot, The Goonies, and Space Jam (the original). I LOVED the giggles I would hear from these old films! It felt like we had stepped back into my own childhood, into a simpler time. Without technology, the boys are bored more often which means they are more creative too. Dax used the cushions from the table to build a fort in our bed. Brayden bought a dollar store camping themed word search book and is obsessed with finishing it. Zander brought his stuffed animals and arranged them in his bed for movie time. Chess and checkers are the current games of choice. Without technology, we have lived a simpler life; one that was so needed for all of us.
We are still imperfect. Camping is awesome but it certainly does not transform us into a Brady-Bunch type family. My kids still fight. They get bored. They whine. They annoy me at times. I get frustrated with their behavior and get mad at myself if I lose my shit. BUT, they also reconcile their fights. They find something to do (outside) when they are bored. They create new games with each other. They apologize and so do I. We are still the same flawed humans but we are experiencing something new together, making memories. And since I was a child once, I know memories are usually more rosy and untainted with these imperfections. Brayden and I kayaked across the lake to a friend's campsite. It took us over one hour and I wasn't sure he would make it. On the way we talked a lot and I asked him what he loved most about camping. His response was “I love doing this with you. I will remember kayaking with you mom.” I will remember it too and I understand this moment solidifies our decision to get a camper was a good one.
Life is all about lessons; it is the greatest teacher of all. Whether you are a camper, outdoorsy fanatic, or inside-my-house lover, I hope you are able to discover things about yourself during these magnificent ND summers. Summer is (hopefully) a time to slow down, be with family, and take it all in. God gave us these long days for a reason; it might just be this. Camping is my current teacher. It is transforming me into a nature lover and healing my soul. Both things I never knew I wanted or needed but both in which I am so grateful for.