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Back to Nature

Lola at Kern River

This week has been a tough one, for me and for our country. I have found it hard to write, to know what to say, to comprehend what was happening in the world. I had planned on writing a post about camping for the last week or so, even had my catchy little title ready, "To Camp or Not to Camp, That is the Question." But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It felt trivial compared to the news being made around me. How do I write about camping with your family when people are actually fearing about their right to live safely in this country? Maybe it isn't the time, maybe we are just all too raw still. I mean, I know that I am. But a couple of thoughts kept coming back to me Wednesday as I cried my way through the day. The first was that I needed to get active and keep fighting for the ideals that I hold for this country and our children. The second was that I needed to reconnect and recharge, to the world around me and to my family and friends. I needed to feel the cool morning air, breath in the freshness of the trees, hold my kids around a campfire, disconnect from my phone and social media. I needed to go camping. And I thought of how healing that would be and how, right now, I need to heal.

So this post isn't one that is just full of fun and tips but rather one that comes from a sense of urgency and healing. The best and healthiest way I know how to heal and recharge my soul is to get out into nature. My trip is being planned now and whether it ends up being in a campground close by or on a more adventurous journey, it will happen because I need it to happen. Which brought me back to why I wanted to write about camping in the first place. The benefits outweigh the annoyances, for both you and your kids. And in this day and age, with climate change and turbulence in the world, being in nature is more important than ever. Here are my reasons why you need to take your family camping:

* It's Affordable

We love to travel. We also work in unpredictable jobs. Sometimes the two don't want to come together so easily. So our solution to see some of the most beautiful parts of the world is to camp. Mind you, we love camping so really it is a win-win situation. But we have definitely been able to spend time in places by camping that we would otherwise maybe not have afforded. Take Big Sur, for example. Lodging there is limited and rooms can start at $400 a night and go up to $1200 a night. Are you kidding?! Forget it. We wouldn't stay there for that price, we would use that money and buy some plane tickets to Barcelona! But if you camp, you can have spots for $40 a night. Done! But what about the gear, you say. Well, camping equipment can get expensive. But if you look at it as a one time investment then it makes sense. We are pretty lightweight campers, meaning we don't like to do extreme weather or extreme hike in destinations (with two kids in tow, no thank you!). Most of our camping is in campgrounds, where you can drive up to your spot and have an actual toilet and shower if you so desire. So for us, Coleman products are great. They are affordable, you can get them at Target or Amazon, and they hold up pretty well. We use a Coleman tent, all have Coleman sleeping bags, and even use a Coleman air mattress (I like to sleep outside, not necessarily on the ground). It was a one time investment that has given us countless adventures.

Young me with friends in Peru.

* See the World

Because camping is affordable, we have gone and done things that we might not have otherwise done. For instance, Big Sur, one of the most magical places in the world to me. We took a trip there this summer and are going back again over Thanksgiving, camping both times. We camp in Malibu quite often, another place where lodging can run really high but camp spots aren't. Camping has taken me out of the country too. I was able to see Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador by backpacking and camping my way through it, including doing the four day trek into Machu Picchu. I've slept under the stars on top of the Andes Mountains. That is an experience that is etched into my soul. We've road-tripped across the country, camping along the way. We've slept next to the ocean, falling asleep with the sound of the waves crashing. These were all experiences we were able to have because of our love of camping. Don't let money hold you back. See the world and do it cheaply through camping.

Lola and I enjoying the ocean air.

* Fresh Air

This one feels like it should be obvious, right? But sometimes the most obvious reasons are the ones we overlook. We spend a lot of time inside something, actually about 87% indoors and about 6% in our cars according to the EPA. Think about that. Less than 10% of your time is spent outside. I don't know about you but that makes me sad. So how can we change that? By making camping, hiking, bird watching, skiing, surfing, biking, anything that you do outside a consistent part of our lives. Teach your kids that these things are important. Take them camping. They get to do so many things when they camp that they don't do in their day to day lives, hike, splash in a creek, look for rocks and animals, eat outside, sit by a campfire, ROAST MARSHMALLOWS! Studies show that being outside can increase attention levels, increase creativity, increase energy and give you a much needed big breath of fresh air. Do this with your kids now, while they are young, and it will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

What kids do when they have no devices.

* No Devices

We have a rule in our house that when we go on a camping trip there are no devices allowed. If it's a long car ride, then we make an exception for that. But otherwise, none. Like, don't even ask. And the kids don't really miss them! But you know what else is nice (ok, and sometimes annoying), usually when you're camping, cell service is limited. So that means that we are off our devices too. A recent study says that American adults spend an average of 4.7 hours a day on their smartphones. That is a lot of time! I know that I am guilty of it. Is it really so important for me to check my email or social media THAT much?? No! I know, you have to work on it or your work needs to be able to reach you. But every now and then it is nice to disconnect from it all. I think that is especially true right now, after we have all been glued to our phones waiting for the next surprise in this past election cycle. We have to stay involved and aware of what is happening in the world, especially right now, but sometimes we also just need to disengage.

* Relax

Take away your devices, take a hike, light a campfire, have a glass of wine and then fall asleep to the sound of the crickets. Tell me you won't be relaxed. I bet you can't. In fact, science actually says that you can't. There are so many health benefits from being outside, even just from looking at nature or smelling the scent of nature! It's good for you, people. Just do it. Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium, gives you a boost in mood and can lower your blood pressure. Do you know where you can get it for free? Outside! Being in nature can also lower your stress levels and blood pressure, regulate your sleep, re-center your brain, and so much more. We all need to be better about self-care and if we teach our children about self-care at an early age, then they will grow up healthier and happier for it.

Happy, dirty kids.

* Family Bonding

My husband and I always joke when our kids start arguing and fighting with each other too much that it is time to take a trip. There is something about traveling together that reconnects my kids to each other. They usually only have each other to play with when we travel, and after a little bit, realize that they actually enjoy playing together. This is especially true when we are camping. They love to look for sticks for the fire or come up with new twists on how to make a s'more. And because we are all disconnected from gadgets and commitments, we talk, cook together over a campfire and tell ghost stories. We snuggle up and all share the same tent, even the dog! We slow down and enjoy each other instead of running from this place to the next. We relax together. Frankly, I cannot wait to get out in the woods and snuggle up with my kids around a campfire. That sounds like the best thing in the whole world to me right now.

Otis in the Land of the Giants, Sequioa Park.

* Become a Protector of the Earth

We have one rule when we camp that we are pretty strict about. That is that we don't just leave the campsite as clean as when we found it but that we leave it cleaner. We even make it a game to see who can pick up the most bits of trash. We are trying to teach our kids that they are responsible for protecting that space and that we all have to pitch in to help clean up our woods and waters. I find it hard to believe that you could spend any bit of time out in nature and not want to make sure it is clean and protected for future generations. Our earth is fragile and we all need to be as vigilant as we can to protect it. We need to teach our children how to become protectors as well. The Sierra club says that the best way to encourage your child to care about the environment is get them outside in it, even if it is just a tree by your house. They have to connect what they hear with what they experience. It's so simple really. We inhabit this beautiful earth for only a short time. We need to leave it cleaner and even better than when we found it. It is the burden we bear for being alive.

To find out more about the Sierra Club parent program click here.

Here are a few of our favorite things:

And then there's this guy. I love him.

xo, M

Camp Peter

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