Op-Ed: The Power of Camping as Vacation
Time spent car camping around California inspires a conversation on the importance of inclusion and power of nature in escaping burnout
Growing up, we didn’t take many extravagant or fancy vacations. For the most part, our vacations consisted of packing up a giant white cooler, mountain bikes, and an assortment of camping gear into the back of my Dad’s Ford F-350 Super Duty diesel pickup truck and hitting the road. More often than not, we just went to a nearby campground. Other times we hoofed it out to a far-away National Park, and occasionally we just pitched our tents in random areas that happened to be at the end of unfamiliar dirt roads.
I grew up with the mindset that vacations didn’t need to look like the thing that people talk about after returning tanned from Cabo San Lucas. Vacations as I understood them were primarily about coming together as a family, getting away from the noise and clutter of life, and providing an opportunity to experience the physical world.
Camping as Vacation
Last year my wife and I made up our minds to use some of our coveted vacation time to camp across as much of California as possible in a week’s span. Camping for us has always been an important way to strengthen and invest in our marriage and to dream together.
We had lived in California for nearly three years yet we realized we hadn’t camped in many of its amazing national parks, or really anywhere south of San Francisco. In avoidance of mass crowds, we usually ventured to less popular and less trafficked areas (pro tip: hardly anyone camps north of Point Reyes, CA so if you’re looking to avoid crowds, head north). With this in mind we charted a route filled to the brim with places we had never been before; each destination an entirely new experience.
The appeal of taking a week off of work to sleep on the ground and cook all your food over an open fire pit isn’t about the experience that gets told to people afterward. It’s not even about me sharing these photos or writing these words; it’s about taking the time to consciously remove oneself from the countless distractions and commotion of everyday life. To camp is to take time to invest in yourself, your relationships with others, and the very space around you.
In a world that’s crowded by information, deadlines, and social media slavery, it’s imperative to get to places where there’s simply no service; where life is devoid of the bombardment of messages daily flooding our inboxes. There’s no need to spend thousands of dollars to go to some meditation or silence retreat when you can drive into the wilderness where nature itself can be heard breathing in and out through the wind winding its way through the grass, ocean waves advancing and retreating, and songbirds singing their songs.
"To camp is to take time to invest in yourself, your relationships with others, and the very space around you."
Avoiding Burnout and Encouraging Inclusion
It can be easy to think we need so many extra things to entertain and numb us and fall into the trap of believing that if we can’t tell our friends that we’re SO busy all of the time that our life is meaningless. The truth is, if we don’t take opportunities to distance ourselves from the hammering demands of work and daily responsibilities, we’ll burn out. I’ve seen this burnout lead to depression, anxiety, divorce, and even death. Camping isn’t the end-all solution to life’s problems by any means, but there is value in being proactive and a good steward of our lives and our land.
That said, it’s important to remind that camping can and should be a cost-effective way for families and individuals of all backgrounds to escape the rigors of daily life and enjoy new landscapes at the same time. It shouldn’t be viewed as an activity exclusively for white people who eat granola and drive Subarus.
Thankfully the conversation around inclusion in the outdoor space is one that’s getting more air time of recent, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to solve itself. Whether intimately involved in the outdoor industry or simply a casual participant, it’s on each of us to encourage those around both in and outside of our communities to see the natural environment as a refuge for all, and camping as an open-door activity to a healthy life that gives more than it receives.
A bit of nature does every body good.