Don’t worry about writing a book or getting famous or making money. Just lead an interesting life. –Michael Morpurgo
This weekend I dragged my nature-hating roommates camping.
And I don’t just mean to the local park, or even to the nearest national park camp ground–I drove us five hours away to the highest point in West Virginia’s mountains and as far away from civilization as we could get.
And while my roommates may only begrudgingly agree, it was awesome.
The primary reason that the four of us decided to go was because at the end of July we will no longer be rooming together. One of us will be leaving for graduate school in Chicago, one has graduated and will be moving away from the school, and my other roommate and I will be getting a smaller apartment together for the fall. So to celebrate our three years of friendship we wanted to do one last big roommate adventure together.
But why did we decide to go five hours away? Well, we live right near Washington D.C. and Baltimore–two huge cities and behemoths of light pollution. All that light pollution means the night sky is completely drowned out to the point where seeing a couple dozen stars in the sky is impressive. So, since we’re all astronomy fans, we decided to go all or nothing on this trip and go to the closest camp ground with zero light pollution on the weekend of a new moon.
And as the events of our trip unfolded I came to realize that this was one of the greatest trips we could take to spend time with each other and to live fuller lives–for a couple of reasons:
1) It forced us to spend time with each other–not our cell phones.
Despite one of our party member’s parents getting bizarrely angry about the idea, we went to a location with zero cell phone service. There was a park ranger on site at all times with a phone in case of emergencies but other than that it was no calls, no texts, no facebook, no internet. And what did that mean? Well, in the middle of the forest it meant you had mainly each other for your entertainment. We talked, played games, hiked, set up the campsite, and prepared food–all without the constant little white-blue glow of a cellphone that seems to permeate everything back home. There was no checking of Saturday-night emails that somehow couldn’t wait until Monday, no filling silences with texting, just time to spend with each other.
And it also meant we were able to appreciate our surroundings more. We were on one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I had ever seen and there were scenic overlooks every other mile where you could see huge swathes of rolling mountains and trees that seemed to go on forever. At night you could look up and see millions upon millions of stars lighting up the forest, mountains, and sky. During the day the only sound you could hear was the wildlife hidden in the woods.
It was so peaceful.
2) It took us out of our comfort zones.
Sleeping on hard, rocky ground with only a sleeping bag beneath you, pitching a tent in the middle of a moonless night, and sitting around a flameless fire in a thunderstrom–none of these are terribly high on my todo list, but I did all of them on our camping adventure. Now I’m not going to say these things are good because they build character or any of that nonsense, but I will say that it sure gave me an appreciation for what I have. I can’t even think of a night my bed felt as good as it did the day we got home, or of a time when I was as glad to have a reliable way to heat water. Beyond just making me thankful for what I do have, it also allowed me to see the things I don’t really need. When you pack a car with four people, food, tents, and sleeping bags it doesn’t give you much room for personal stuff. You pack what you absolutely need–and then you take half of that. I definitely felt anxious about only bringing half of my makeup routine, a single change of clothes, and leaving behind my precious laptop, but I survived. I survived and I had fun. Oftentimes when downsizing I’ll see an item and think “I can’t get rid of that, I need it!” But having to go without it for even a short while reveals what little effect it has on my life after all.
3) It made life more interesting.
What is life if not a series of memorable events and important relationships strung together with daily activites? While I won’t say sleeping on rocks is fun I will say you’ll definitely remember it. Trips like camping give you a taste of a different life beyond the daily grind. They force you to be more creative–be that turning pancakes into actual cakes to get them to cook or coming up with unique ways to set up tents in the pitch black. But through all that, they give us stories to tell and experiences to bond over, they show us sights we may never see again in our lives and ones that we can’t wait to see again, and they make life interesting.
And what more could you ask for from a weekend trip?
Well there is one more story we got…
Bonus) WE FOUND A DOG.
She was the sweetest thing when she wandered up to our camp site and we assumed she was one of the other group’s, but when we went to talk to the ranger he said that she was a stray that showed up the previous night. From what he had seen she looked like she was a hunting dog that had been abandoned, probably when they realized she couldn’t hunt well (she was only maybe a year old–and had the cutest puppy paws :D). At first the ranger was going to take care of her, but his boss said he couldn’t and he had to let her loose. When he told us that if no one took her she would end up being cayote-food we gave away whatever we could and made room for her in the car. We got back late that night so the next morning when the humane society opened we took her over. When we dropped her off the lady assured us they were a no-kill shelter but that since she was young and pretty she would be adopted to a good family in a heartbeat anyway. So that was probably my favorite part of the trip. Disclaimer: I do not guarantee you will find an abandoned dog every time you go camping. 😛
So go out and live wonderfully interesting and unpredictable lives!