By the third tick sighting, I was ready to pack it in and go home. Bugs that bury disease-ridden heads in your skin were not on my vacation fun-list.
Nor were mosquitos dive-bombing my ears.
Or humidity so thick it felt like walking inside a marshmallow.
But you don’t go camping because you love comfort, right? You go because you love sweating by day and shivering by night. Because you love hiking a mile to a spider-infested bathroom that might or might not house flushing toilets. Because you love “drinking” campfire coffee with a spoon.
No? Me, neither.
Nevertheless, our family goes camping on a regular basis, and I confess, I look forward to it every time. Yes, I’m always thrilled to get home to glorious hot water, air conditioning, and memory foam, but I also find deep satisfaction in the (brief) absence of these luxuries.
That might sound like I’m a budding minimalist, but the truth is a little less hip. This last camping trip – the one with the ticks – was more like a grown-up version of running away from home. Our family needed to “get away.”
Don’t you love that expression? So poignant. Get. Away. From busyness, stress, suburbia, the home office, life.
For Tim (my flannel-wearing carpenter husband who would fit every stereotype of Rugged Outdoorsman if he hadn’t shaved his beard as a Mother’s Day surprise I tragically failed to notice), escaping to the woods is soothing. His skin isn’t bug candy. His internal thermometer adjusts with the outside temperature. Plus, he can pee standing up, so there’s that.
For me? Camping is not soothing, but it is fulfilling.
Not to sound dramatic, but when luxuries are stripped away, you’re left with the basics of survival. Food, shelter, sleep, clothing. As a wife and mother, I provide these things at home on a daily basis without much thought. When we’re camping, they take a little more effort and a lot more time. But that’s the beauty of being out in the woods: what else do I have to do?
I always rise early when we camp (and not just because my hip hurts and I can’t get warm). I love to get a fire going, heat water, and have hot chocolate and coffee ready when the others wake up. I love to swath my shivery kids in warm sweaters and fill their grumbling bellies with hot food cooked on my little camp stove.
After a long day of hiking, exploring, and adventuring in the woods, I love to scream and laugh with them through a cold shower, and get their freshly scrubbed bodies into cozy pajamas. I love to zip them into sleeping bags and watch their heavy eyelids droop in the lantern light.
I love to know they are safe and full and warm, at least in this moment; to know I am their mom, and I have given them what they need. Nothing has ever been simpler, or more satisfying.
My job at home is no different, but somehow it’s harder to recognize the significance and beauty of it there. Maybe because I’m distracted by other pursuits, or because it’s just easier to get the job done.
As thankful as I am for our HVAC system, washing machine, and access to take-out, I’m also thankful for the times we go without those things, if only for a few days.
Camping teaches me to appreciate my children and my calling as their mom. So even though I’d rather read a novel on the couch than string a hammock in the woods, I’ll keep saying yes to our outdoorsy getaways. Because sometimes less really is more.
Except when it come to ticks. And mosquitos. And marshmallow humidity.
What experiences have helped you focus on the important things in life? Please share in the comments below!