It’s been maybe twenty years since I last camped and I’m not the camper I was. Back then, I just wandered off into the wilderness, with 65 pounds of stuff strapped to my back, and stayed out for a while. My daughter still remembers the day I renounced it forever. “No more sleeping on the ground!” she swears I screamed out. So, everyone was surprised when I suggested taking up camping, again. My wife reminded me of all the camping gear I insisted on yard-selling over the past decade. My neighbor put a kind hand on my shoulder and asked, “Really? At your age?”
I don’t know that I can tell you why; it’s more a feeling than a reason. At nearly 70, I long for something I remember mattering a lot to a much younger me. Something before I became completely civilized and reasonable, before I lost the desire to sleep outside and battle mosquitoes during evening meals by a campfire. On a beautiful day this summer, the thought of camping crossed my mind and it felt right.
It wasn’t some shining moment when I strapped back on the old back pack and headed down the Long Trail. Instead, it was a long reality check with my lovely wife, Kelly. Although I’d always hated campsites, the only option considered was camping at state parks.
We found options in between glamping and roughing it. Between thrift shops, yard sales, and Amazon, Kelly met our cooking and dining needs on the elegant cheap. We found a cabin tent on sale, promising to ‘sleep 6 in comfort’ with a screened-in porch, plenty of head room, and a door on a hinge! Six is a stretch, but it does fit a full-size air bed, a cushion for Pepper, our dog, and civilized necessities like bedside tables for books, snacks, and lamps.
Four weeks and a couple hundred dollars later, pulled into the Allis Vermont State Park, 20 minutes from our house. Setting up camp was a breeze. Wow, has tent construction improved! Blowing up the mattress was simply a matter of plugging it into the car. Water was near-by at a faucet and hot showers were available for a few quarters. Unfortunately, we forgot our towels, but we roughed it, in true pioneer spirit. Convincing Pepper we were not on a long walk and intended to stay in the semi-outdoors was difficult. She kept tugging us toward the shower house, which at least looked like a building.
The best part was how much time we had. Free of the chores and diversion (no computers or cell phones), we truly relaxed and talked. Meals were long to make and eaten in leisure. Walks were slow ambles or gentle hikes. We read or listened to the radio. Each night, we had a fire and each day we met some nice, friendly people. Although the days and evenings were incredibly long, we were never bored.
We came home refreshed and already planning our next trip. Little by little we hope to expand our horizons and length of stays. Off in the distance is a week on the coast of Maine. Think of it! Going to sleep and waking up listening to the surf. No wonder the modern camping motto is, “Go further, stay longer for less money.”
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident. Sometimes it happens by reaching back to what worked before and doing it again, but differently.