When I was a kid, camping was an amazing adventure. It was so far beyond anything I did on a day-to-day basis. I pretended I was Indiana Jones and bushwhacked my way through forests, and could have spent all night sitting around the fire and looking at the stars. Even sleeping in a tent was a blast. I became addicted to it, so I joined the Cub Scouts.
Now, almost twenty years after my first camping experience, I can look back on some incredible adventures and priceless experiences, none of which I would trade for anything in the world. However, especially now that I have “adult responsibilities,” it seems the novelty has worn off and camping and hiking oftentimes feel like more effort than they’re worth. All the packing, the driving, the setting up, the clean-up, the return, the unpacking. It makes for an exhausting weekend, and the prospect of the subsequent Monday slog is never enjoyable.
The other part is that it seems that as I’ve gotten older, my motivation for going outdoors has changed. Now I’ll go hiking for exercise, or I’ll go camping just an excuse to get out of the city for a couple days. There always needs to be a reason to justify all the effort, whereas when I was a kid there didn’t need to be a reason. We went outside because we felt like it and because we had fun, and there didn’t need to be any other motivation. Why has that changed? What’s happened between then and now?
We can’t let ourselves fall into this trap of adulthood. We can’t forget how we felt the first time we cooked our dinner over an open fire and then roasted marshmallows and told ghost stories before wrapping ourselves in our sleeping bags and falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and owls. We can’t forget the excitement of living off the land, albeit for a short time, and escaping the routine and the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. We can never let that youthful exuberance and optimism fade away.
Go camping this weekend. Don’t come up with excuses or try to convince yourself why it’s not worth it or all the trouble it could cause.
The forests, the rivers, and the mountains are waiting for you, and they don’t care about your job or your chores. Be a child again, and go explore. Everything else can wait.