We camp because we want to.
We camp because we have to.
“You like to camp because it’s good for your mental health,” my counselor said this winter as we discussed my weather-related sadness in full effect.
Huh, I thought. I never made that connection before.
This is why I pay for counseling, so someone smarter than me, someone with a better view of my life can help me make sense of it.
As we rolled into the state park a few weeks ago, I watched the bars on my cell phone signal slowly go down. I’d been working on the two-hour drive in, but as we made our way back to the campground, my connection to the internet, my work, and my stress slowly lessened its hold on me.
I could feel the untangling as we drove.
I could feel the deeper breaths I was finally able to take, the tension in my shoulders releasing, the endless to-do list in my head quieting.
I am made to go, strive, make lists, check off tasks, do things efficiently, think about what’s next, what we should be doing instead of stopping. This helped me balance a full-time job with grad school and a newborn. It helped me survive teaching and coaching and two small kids. It allowed me to work 50+ hours a week in the classroom, take on freelance writing jobs, and still find time to sleep enough.
But it does not make turning my brain or my hands off easy.
Stopping only happens when I have no other option. Stopping only happens when I cannot work around my exhaustion, my family, or my lack of internet.
And so we camp.
We camp to rest.
We camp to stop running.
We camp to slow down.
At 37, I understand the only way I stop is when I can’t figure out a way to keep working. It is what it is.
So here we are, spending our summer camping as much as possible. Camping so I can take a break. Camping so Chris doesn’t have to do more projects. Camping so I’ll have nothing to do but read a book or take a walk with my kids as they race around the campground on their bikes.
I do this on purpose as a way to survive.
Lessons come slow sometimes. I wish I had understood this sooner, understood that I have to trick myself into not working. It might have made my twenties easier. It might have made the last few years less stressful.
But I’m thankful for the lesson now. For the camper we can tow to a campsite in the middle of a no-cell-phone-reception forest. For a bed with no plug nearby so I can’t look at my phone before I drift off to sleep.
We’re heading out again soon. Heading to another place to rest. The moments before we pull out of the driveway are busy–is everyone packed? Can I get one more hour of work done really quick? Please pick up this mess. Let’s just make one stop on the way out of town. Wait, I need to grab one more thing.
I literally can’t stop wanting to cram one more thing, idea, or task into my day. I’m annoying even to myself.
I camp to get away from my own brain.
I don’t know if it’s like this for you too. Maybe you’re better at turning the world and lists and things off? Maybe not. Maybe camping sounds like the opposite of enjoyable and relaxing. But what are you doing to rest? Where do you go to stop your brain and your schedule?
I didn’t know I needed to be asking these questions. I’m glad my counselor pushed me to.
I camp because I want to.
I camp because I have to.
(Pictures from a weekend at Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana.)
Kelly Brown says
Now that we live somewhere that camping outdoors during most of the year isn’t unbearable I see many camping trips in our future! And of course books and camping go hand in hand!!
Karen Juma says
I love to camp too and would love to win one of your books. They both make for a very relaxing time!
Winning books is a step above buying books for this thrifty momma! 🙂 Always looking for new reads.
The most restful time of day, for me, is right before I go to sleep. I often go to bed at least 30-45 min before I want to sleep. I do my skincare and nightly rituals and then read until I can’t anymore. It helps to clear my mind, which allows me to fall asleep much more easily!5$353/3
Therese, thanks for commenting! I’d love to send you a copy of Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
I think I need to start camping. I loved spending summers at the beach when I was little, but now that we live 1500 miles from the California coast, camping by a nice lake might be the next great adventure.
I also need to start carving out time to read again on a regular basis. It’s hard to read while being surrounded with little people to keep alive, but these two books might help me, almost like a school assignment.
Martie Hoofer says
I despise camping, but I LOVE reading! I need the Imperfect Courage book! Nobody’s Cuter is an adorable book I have gifted many times over.
Love ya, Mary, & all your insights.
Emily twarogal says
I’m reading a ton more than I have right now. I’m trying to be more intentional about reading, not being on my phone, being more present with my kids (and also role modeling not being on your phone and reading!). Would love any and all books you want to recommend or give ❤️
Whitney Belt says
I am not, as of yet, much of a camper- but I am a reader!! I love your book recommendations (for kids and adults) as my daughters are same ages as yours! ❤️
Falynn Dial says
We’re looking forward to going camping at the Dunes in a few weeks! Camping is the one thing both my kids ask to do every summer. It’s just so good for the soul. Also, I’d love to win a book!
Unplugging because we have to . . . I get that so much. As well as fitting in all the things before you leave.
Thanks for the book giveaway. I’d love to read either.
Karen, thanks for commenting (and subscribing) ! I’d love to send you a copy of Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger. Email me at email@example.com 🙂
Tent camping is terrible. But towing a camper and having a “real” bed to sleep in is the best! I love “hearing” your thoughts on camping, and marriage, and motherhood. You have an amazing gift of written communication. I always feel like I’m curled up in a cozy chair, hugging my coffee mug, visiting with a friend. Thanks!
Rochelle Evans says
Not a camper but definitely a reader. I am always up for a good read and have enjoyed the many books on your list in the past!
Love camping and reading—especially reading WHEN I’m camping! I have a hard time sitting still, so camping helps me to slow down, rest and enjoy the slower pace too. I can totally relate.
christy thomas says
Reading about your camping adventures brings back childhood memories for me and has rekindled a desire to get out there again. I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOUR FREE BOOKS, TOO! 🙂
christy thomas says
Plus, I am suffering withdrawals from no monthly book review emails so I think you kinda owe me. LOL
My happy place for rest in the summer is long, nighttime walks with the lightning bugs flickering and the sun just starting to set. I also love being on/in water as much as possible. I’d love to win Nobody’s Cuter Than You because my friends are my family!
Mary – I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years and love your writings and your podcast. I LOVE to read. I’d rather read than do anything else but eat chocolate. All books. Any books. I’d love to camp but being we moved to the farm and every day is like camping, we don’t… But we do have a lot of fires in the fire pit weather permitting. Keep up the good work, and I can’t wait to see where God moves you to next!
Holly Gillam says
What an enjoyable trip! I love camping too. Perhaps, the smores too much. Keep reading and posting your journey as a reader. I have read quite a few that you have posted. Happy Tuesday, Mary!
I’d love to go camping and unplug. But I’m just not a camping girl. I need ac, a bed, and a good bathroom. But I’d love the chance to unplug and unwind.
I love to read and I love camping. I have not gone in awhile. I also have not read in awhile. I really need to unplug and relax! Thanks for the reminder!