If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we purchased a pop-up camper trailer this year and have been camping quite a bit. We’re starting to get into a groove with packing, hooking up the trailer, setting up the campsite, etc. We’ve learned a lot and are making those new, unfamiliar tasks more routine. This is allowing me to better realize and appreciate what camping is all about. And, I've learned that it's about more than what I thought. There are some powerful life lessons you learn from camping.
On this past camping trip to Oscar Sherer State Park, I reflected on how I was a bit of a different person when camping than I am otherwise. And that most people probably are as well. The whole experience of camping, being outdoors, setting up and breaking down your site, not having the conveniences you have at home, and more, make you think and behave differently.
So, while on the trip I made a list of attributes or behaviors that I felt that most people would demonstrate more so while camping than they would otherwise. Or, at least I believe that I do. I think that behaving this way while camping can help us behave that way more of the time. Or perhaps it's just that we like the way we are when we're camping.
It may be one of the reasons, although somewhat subliminal, that people enjoy camping so much. At least for us, I believe we are experiencing some personal growth while enjoying each other and the great outdoors.
Natures Powerful Life Lessons You Learn From Camping
We all learned these life lessons when we were kids. But camping is a great reminder and makes us very conscious of them.
Attributes and behaviors that come out while camping
This is especially true for us as we have a pop-up camper with no air conditioning or TV. So, we spend almost all of our time outside the camper except while sleeping. We do sit around our campsite and enjoy each other, some music, etc. But for the most part, we are doing something all the time. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘keep it movin’. As we age it’s very important to keep our body in motion. Inactivity is a killer. Having said this, we do notice that folks with enclosed trailers or motorhomes tend to spend more time than we do inside their RV perhaps due to the amenities inside versus outside. This is a bit perplexing as they did come presumably to enjoy nature. For us, camping brings out the desire to walk, hike, bike, kayak, or just explore. Even multiple activities per day.
One of the lessons you learn from camping is to remain calm. On most camping trips something that we didn’t expect is going to happen. It’s going to rain when we’re setting up. Or a raccoon will dig into our trash bag while we go for a walk around the campground. Or the stove won’t light as it's supposed to. If similar mishaps occurred while at home, I would tend to get more upset. But while camping I just take it as it comes. One thing Shirley has pointed out is that the days move slower. At home, you look up and it’s noon already. While here it seems you get more out of a day. Maybe it's because everything is calm and unrushed.
We’re being a lot more physical than normal when camping. Unhooking and leveling the trailer, setting up the campsite, hiking, biking and generally being active. Throughout these activities, we stay in the moment and pay attention to what we’re doing to avoid even small injuries like hitting my shin on the trailer hitch. Yes, I’ve done that, and it hurts. Certainly, when we’re hiking in an area with bears we take precautions. In grassy areas, we look for snakes. We think before we do something. We take care of and are mindful of our surroundings, our companion, and our self.
At Lake Griffin State Park the campground host came around and warned us about a bear that was close by. That night Shirley was awoken to the sound of the snack bin outside the trailer being dragged across the dirt. I heard her yell and woke up. My immediate thought was that it was the bear! It was just a raccoon. But needless to say, the snack bin now gets locked in the car at night.
I think of myself as a considerate person anyway. But while camping, consideration of others comes to a new level. Especially considering your camping companion. My companion is my wife Shirley. She is extremely organized and methodical. Everything, and I mean everything has a place and it needs to be in that place. So, I’m considerate of how she wants things to be. I’m also considerate of the fact that this is her trip too. What does she want to do, or not do? We are also considerate of our fellow campers. The distance between campsites can be up to 50 yards but in most cases, it’s more like 50 feet. And sound travels better in the outdoors, especially at night.
This is huge for me. Contentment is one of the best life lessons you learn from camping. As I am getting older, I am becoming more content. But camping helps me take contentment up a notch. It may be because I am not working. I am not as connected to the world so I tend to let go and put a whole bunch of things in the category of ‘I can’t do anything about that right now’. So, I just let it go and realize that whatever it is, it will be there for me when I get back. I am content to just be. To just be camping with my best friend. Be making sure she is having a good time. Be appreciating nature. And, let the troubles of the world be without me for a while.
Perhaps a good example of being content is that I sleep better while camping. I am typically not a good sleeper from the standpoint that I only sleep about 5 to 6 hours a night. But while camping I fall asleep quickly and get in a good 7+ hours. And I feel great the next day.
Another one of the valuable lessons you learn from camping is to be methodical. Because this is a temporary environment that we set up and break down in just a few days, it’s important to be methodical. I think about where I put things so I can find them later. I make mental notes about how to do something better and easier the next time. It’s actually fun to think of ways to do things a better way or come up with ideas to make our trip more enjoyable.
An example of how we learned to be more methodical and do some better the next time is setting up the camper during a downpour at Fort De Soto campground. With our pop-up camper, you slide out the beds at either end. Then you go inside the trailer and push open the awning. Because it was raining, we didn’t push open the awning right away as we wanted to get other things done first. That was a mistake. Because the awning was laying directly on the beds and not extended, water came in through the sides and got our beds wet. Now it’s step 1, slides out the beds. Step 2, extend the awning.
Normally I am somewhat observant. But I tend to have a lot on my mind. I’m a thinker so I’m normally thinking of something else when I’m doing what I’m doing. So, I tend not to be as observant of what’s going on around me. But while camping it’s different. The environment is brand new. It’s a new campsite, a new campground, a new ecosystem. There’s a lot of visuals to take in. By being more observant it focuses me on what’s going on right now. I have fewer thoughts about what happened or what might happen later. Plus, being observant helps me be more careful.
As mentioned above, the day moves slower. There’s no rush to be anywhere. So we tend to notice more. We stop to look at the trees and plants we’ve not seen before. Or maybe we saw them before but didn’t really look at them. We look at the sky more, especially at night. As we ride our bikes around the campground we notice what other people have done with their campsite and get ideas from them. On our last trip, we saw a beautiful purple berry growing everywhere at Oscar Scherer State Park. We later learned it is the American Beauty Berry and grows all over Florida. We’ve been here for 6 years and never saw it before.
When camping this is a big one of the lessons you learn from camping. As I mentioned, Shirley is very organized and methodical. I’m a decently organized person but I take 2nd place to her every time. To pack the stuff that makes the trip enjoyable and then keep your little trailer and campsite clutter-free requires organization. In a somewhat counterintuitive way, it keeps your life very simple for a few days. Shirley knows where everything is. I just know where the stuff is that I need to deal with. In that way, we’re not spending our trip trying to just find things.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say my patience level is a 6. That’s way up from where it used to be. I would have rated it even lower, but I’ve observed other men my age and I am definitely more patient than most. While camping, my patience level goes up a couple of levels I would say. The more that this transfers to my world back home, the better. Lack of patience and stress go hand in hand. Stress is literally a killer. It’s easier to be patient while camping because camping is all that you need to do. It’s not like you have to get something done quickly because you have a ton of other stuff to do.
At Oscar Scherer State Park the raccoons are very active and bold. We had one in particular that visited our site multiple times that we named “Rocky”. One of the nights we were awoken to our neighbor yelling at some critters to get out of his campsite. As I shared above, that’s happened to us. But this guy wasn’t trying to keep his voice down at all. He probably woke a lot of folks around us. Normally that might get me a little fired up. But I just rolled over and went back to sleep.
The whole experience of camping makes me more peaceful. I think this happens to everyone. By living somewhat like our ancestors for a few days I get more in tune with letting things be. By not having so much to do I become more centered and quiet inside my head. The noise starts to subside. I can think about things that I normally don’t without a bunch of other thoughts cluttering it all up. Deepak Chopra talks about this in The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. It would take a lot longer camping trip to reach what Chopra described in the book, “being in the gap”. But even a 3-day trip will get you moving in that direction. This is one of my favorite lessons you learn from camping.
Respect for nature comes to mind first and foremost. When I’m in the middle of it I realize that I am an uninvited visitor in the home of plants and animals. I am occupying a very small part of their space for a few days. Additionally, when you experience a torrential downpour from under your camper awning it gives you a whole other type of respect for the weather. Especially in Florida. It’s very different than looking out your window at home. And lastly, respect for your fellow campers. Regardless of the differences that I might have with them otherwise, we’re all out here because we love some of the same things about the experience of camping. We’re all trying to get a bit more grounded in our own way. I would never want to do something to interrupt that for another camper.
Nearly every decision I make while camping has some strategy behind it. When I do it. Why I do it. And how I do it. It may sound tedious but it’s another aspect of camping that keeps you in the moment. These are not necessarily life and death decisions. Although they could be. It’s more about how to do things that make the experience safer and more enjoyable. It could be as simple as covering the bikes with a tarp when rain clouds are overhead.
Make no mistake about it. Camping takes some work. If you want to lounge around then check into the Hilton. But the work is part of the trip. It is there to be embraced. A couple is either going to really enjoy working together or not. There’s the packing, the driving, the setup, the meals, the breakdown, the drive home, and then unpacking. If a couple isn’t going to do this well together, camping is not the best forum for their relationship. Or this will need to be one of their top lessons you learn from camping.
Shirley and I happen to do this exceptional well together. We were breaking down our campsite recently and I commented to her that we had been working around each other for an hour and didn’t really even need to say anything. We both knew what had to be accomplished, what our jobs were, and how the other one liked to have it done. It was an example of great teamwork.
The whole camping experience for me is about being thoughtful. Thinking of other things besides me. Thinking of my wife, first and foremost. Allowing her to do things the way she likes to do them and enjoying her doing them. Thinking of nature and making sure I leave nothing behind that will alter what was there before I arrived. And thinking of other campers that have come to this same place at this same time to enjoy their experience doing the same thing.
Our experience with other campers has been that everyone waves, smiles, and says hello to each other. I think we all realize that we have something in common and we’re all there to escape our regular lives for a while. Thoughtfulness is certainly one of the lessons you learn from camping.
This is a cousin of patience. When camping I realize that I’m in an environment that is not mine. I didn’t create it, and I have little to no control over it. So, what happens, happens. And I just need to be good with it. This is a very different behavior for me. Which is also very good for me.
Our neighbors on one of our trips were Ham radio operators. Apparently, that weekend was a world-wide Ham radio safety test or something to that effect. There must have been 10 people, 3 tents, and 2 cars stuffed onto this campsite. They put up this tall radio tower and on one of the days we heard the sound coming from their radio all day. We left and went for a great ride.
Camping is a Personal Growth Seminar Taught by Nature
Ultimately what camping does is get me to live in the moment more. Not completely mind you. These are just a few day trips and I would need more time to embrace the concept completely. Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, describes living in the moment. It's very similar to Chopra describing being “in the gap”. It’s a place of peace, contentment, and joy.
I would love to be able to go camping for a month. First of all, that would be a great trip. But I would also like to see if all these attributes and behaviors would blossom for me. And, if they would blend even more into my life when I got back. I am very thankful for the reminder of these lessons you learn from camping.