CAMPING (And Nature As Our Playground)
When I was a little girl, I loved playing outside with my sisters, cousins, and friends. I loved it so much if given a chance, I would've stayed outside and played in the dark while waiting for the sun to rise again. Then again, I also loved food so dinner was a good bait for me to come inside (well played, parents). Once I had a chance to come out and play again, though, it was on like Donkey Kong. Being outdoors was heaven for a kid like me.
Sadly, as we get older and technology gets newer and faster, many of us decide to stay indoors more. So when my sisters spontaneously suggested a short camping trip recently, my husband and I went into full planning mode. A week later, my sisters, our spouses, niece, nephew and I were at Joshua Tree tenting it up in 100 plus weather.
Before I go on with the wonders of this nature-loving trip and how it fed my soul, let me just say that I was born and spent my early years in the Philippines, an extraordinarily beautiful third-world country. Although my parents grew up very modestly, they worked hard to provide a very comfortable life (and beds) for me and my two sisters and we wanted for nothing. Still, there were a few times in the Philippines when it was necessary for us during visits to sleep on the floor at a relative's home and yes, use a bathroom separate from the main house.
It's fair to say I never really got into camping when we moved to America. My thinking - I've slept on the floor before through no choice of mine - why would I sleep on the ground on purpose? And to top it off, why would I go without a working bathroom? In my mind, only crazy first-world folks would pay tons of money to sleep outside on hard ground without a flushing toilet.
As fate would have it, yours truly who loves room service ends up marrying an outdoorsman; a super nature lover who can survive "off the grid" (he likes to say) and a future geologist at that. He loves camping like fat kids love cake. I've been coaxed into a few camping trips in the last few years and to my surprise, I've learned to love it. Now don't get me wrong, this fondness I profess doesn't include the bathroom situation, but it's love nonetheless.
This last camping trip with my family, in particular, made me really dig it even more. Here are just five reasons why:
1. Nature and the outdoor heals
What do you usually do when you're having a particularly crappy day at work; maybe after your boss yells at you or after you leave a 4-hour meeting that could've been conducted via email? Most folks usually decide they need to take a fifteen-minute break to go outside. OUTSIDE. It's a natural reaction for us, humans, to want "some air" and go outside to recharge. Now imagine you're an iPhone (or other electronic devices) and camping is the ultimate charger. Even after a short weekend outdoors, you can be 100% in no time. Even though our Joshua Tree trip was just over the weekend, our time in nature (hot weather and all) was the perfect recharging.
2. I got to be a kid again
What I've learned to love most about camping is how much it makes me feel like a kid again. I get to be outside and play without having to come in and retire for the day. I never got to do this as a child since I always had to come home after playing all day. With camping, I get to run around and act a fool, within reason, for as long as possible in the open air. Somehow, though, I always end up sleeping earlier than I normally would and it wasn't different during this trip, as all of us were ready for "bed" by 10 pm.
3. I got to see things through kid lenses
During this adventure, we were blessed to have my niece and nephew there, so it was awesome to see how they reacted to their first camping trip. As to be expected, they devoured every new adventure, factoid and learning experience possible. They climbed rocks upon rocks and warned us to be careful around the many new cacti they learned about. It helps seeing things through children's eyes because their energy is still so pure. If you don't have kids, I suggest borrowing someone's children for a day or two (parents will gladly say yes to a break) and revel in their natural wonder.
4. Stars and the Milky Way
If you live somewhere with a lot of light pollution, like I do, then seeing lots of beautiful stars is uncommon unless it's a rare clear night. During this camping trip, the moon was at a waxing gibbous so it did not fully descend until about 2:30 am. Luckily my husband woke me (and everyone else) up to take in the sky - stars upon stars and the Milky Way! It was magnificent. If you live in a town where stars shine brightly at night, count yourself lucky, take advantage of that and look up often. If you're a city dweller, take some time to drive out where you can see stars and humble yourself about how small we really are in this universe.
5. S'more, s'mores, s'mores
I can't attest to this because I'm usually not a fan of and didn't eat any s'mores (gasp!). I also don't like donuts and ice cream, but that's another conversation. The rest of my crew, though, (especially the kiddos) gobbled that stuff up. Camping is nothing without s'mores.
What does camping have to do with fitness and health? Everything. I can't express enough how much nature can help heal what's aching in us (mentally, spiritually, physically). Couple it with spending time with people we adore and love and that's priceless medicine you'll never need a prescription for.