Recently we had some time away in the woods at a campground where our cell service did not reach. Sure, it’s annoying to not be connected by phone and internet, but sometimes it is necessary to detach and have time to think without the noise of the city streets or buzzing of my phone with a notification. When is the last time you had a moment like this?
I found myself listening to the chirping birds, noticing the nearby rushing river, and appreciating the fresh green grass. Sometimes I forget there’s a whole world outside of wherever we are on this earth. It’s so easy to be wrapped up in the city, a job, or a role in a family. Some parents are busy getting kids ready for school, shuffling them around to activities, and getting through whatever else is going on in life.
Before we hit the road full-time in the RV two years ago, we were very intentional about family time and still are. At the time, we lived in a suburb of Washington D.C. and were involved in a homeschool group that met weekly. I didn’t have a ton of other commitments, but was kept busy throughout the day with our usual routine of meals, chores, home education, etc. I found myself taking the children out for a walk or going to the park for some time outside. I realized that I craved the outdoors. Something about the sunshine and fresh air called my name and was good for my soul. I’m not sure what makes one enjoy being outside, but it takes me back to many years of going to summer camp.
I went to a variety of camps growing up. Sometimes it was a local day camp or a Girl Scout camp, which I would fund my way to by selling dozens of cookies. I had fond memories of camps, each with its unique rules and traditions. I could write a whole book on the summers I spent at Girl Scout camp including the experiences gained, campfires, jokes, and the memories made. Sometimes as I tuck my kids into bed, they ask me to sing a song and I share some of my favorites from camp. As I think through the things I learned at camp and how it shaped me as a person, I begin to see that maybe camping as a kid was the very first introduction I really had to the great outdoors. I learned how to build and cook over a fire as well as safety practices involved in tending one. I learned to sleep out under the stars and wake up with the sun. I learned to appreciate nature in all its glory of rain and shine. There were more than a few times the rivers swelled and areas of the campground flooded. We learned how to work together and rely on each other.
The thing about these memories that sticks out to me the most is I didn’t realize how much of an impression they made on me as an individual. I truly learned to be prepared in a different way by spending my summers expanding my horizons in the woods and at camps. The skills I learned are things I may not have otherwise picked up in the city or school where I spent most of my time. As I wander through the woods with my children now, I reminisce on the times I spent in the as a child, listening to the familiar sound of the insects playing their symphony of music. There’s something about the sound of running water and smell of the woods that takes me right back to my own childhood. Sometimes as I’m standing in the woods, I can nearly hear the distant sound of a melody of my childhood, long ago.
When we were in the Washington D.C. area, I noticed something that seemed very odd to me. When we first moved into our townhome, I assumed there were not many children in the neighborhood. As the school year started, I quickly discovered in excess of three dozen children at the bus stop! Where did they all come from!? I began to think about life in the city and what children did. We hadn’t lived in Virginia long so I hadn’t yet met many neighbors. I figured as the kids came out to play after school, we would get to know them. On any given school day, we discovered very few children ever came out to the neighborhood park to play. How peculiar, I thought to myself. I began to think about why children weren’t outside playing and realized that in a majority of the families, both parents were working, children were in school and possibly after school activities. After the bus came around the neighborhood, often times children would go inside and watch a show or play video games for a bit before dinner. The outside time the children had, if there was any at all, was during the daytime hours at school, not at home. I understand our rhythm was different than others, but I was just surprised that the park was often unattended, even though there were so many children in the neighborhood.
Since I’m often outside with the children, we got to know the neighbors who walked their dogs regularly. We enjoyed the fellowship and being outside in the fresh air. As we moved away from our little neighborhood of town houses, all smooshed together on a quiet street with little porches where no one sat outside, I can now appreciate being in nature at a campground where nearly everyone is outside.
As I think through this all, I contemplate how I have grown as a person by being in nature and how I hope my children will as well. I hope they enjoy being outside. It’s important to give oneself time away to think, create, and dream. I come up with some of my most creative ideas while in nature. I encourage boredom in our household. I want the kids to have time to be unplugged from electronics and question and wonder about things. I want them to have time to think and create, to be challenged and grow in areas outside of a traditional classroom. I hope that someday as they look back on their childhood, they can appreciate the time we spent in nature and memories made as a family.
Do you enjoy being outside? Where is your quiet place to unplug, clear your mind, or be creative?