Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping

May 25, 2016

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

The solo camping trip I took to Sleeping Bear Dunes a couple weeks ago marked the beginning of my third year of successfully camping on my own and totally not dying. Granted, I did spend half of the trip cowering in my car, freaking out about bears. But, still, I’m not dead!

If anything, I’d like to think I’m living a richer, fuller life, having learned so many important valuable life lessons while camping on my own. Surprisingly none of those lessons have involved learning how to use a compass or how to build a fire using nothing more than some twigs and will-power. But here is what I have learned:

You want what you don’t have. Or what you don’t have to cook on a tiny camp stove.

Before every camping trip, I spend hours (or at least a whole lot of minutes!) figuring out the food I’m going to bring, shopping for the food I’m going to bring, and then packing it all up in my car.

And then I get to the campsite and the idea of drinking lukewarm beer that’s been sitting in my cooler all day and eating instant rice pilaf I cooked on my tiny camp stove sounds like some kind of special torture. I mean, I just had to set up the tent ALL BY MYSELF, YOU GUYS, AND NOW YOU WANT ME TO COOK?!?

And that’s when I remember there are perfectly good restaurants that sell cold beer and hot pizza the size of Toledo. No camp stove needed!

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

I did not make this! Yay!

Another fun life lesson learned: tiny camp stoves are really good at heating up day-old pizza.

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

I (kind of) made this!

Vending machines can sell anything.

You would have thought I’d have learned this lesson already in Japan, where I saw vending machines that sold everything from ten pound bags of rice to hot canned drinks. (Don’t knock it until you’re standing on a freezing cold train platform enjoying a piping hot can of milk tea!)

But, here’s a fun fact I learned on my last solo camping trip: vending machines can sell firewood. YES, FIREWOOD!

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

Behold! The Firewood Express!

Another fun fact: firewood vending machines are highly entertaining when you’re camping by yourself in a deserted campground and the only thing you have to entertain yourself is a Kindle and your thoughts of DEATH BY BEARS.

What seems like it’s going to be relaxing, probably isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

You know what sounds really relaxing?


You know what is not relaxing at all, like not even a little bit?


It takes a lot of time and effort to figure out the meals I’m not going to eat, and pack up my car, and put up my tent, and make a fire, and all the other things I have to do so I don’t die a cold, tent-less, food-deprived death.

Added on to that during my last camping trip was a raging windstorm and a killer head cold. (And, yes, the possibility of DEATH BY BEARS.)

So, yeah, camping is not relaxing. Like, not at all.

I could be spending all that time (and absolutely none of that effort) doing something truly relaxing. Like hanging in my pajamas, binge-watching ALL THE NETFLIX with my cat.

But, yet, I still find myself on these not-really-relaxing-like-not-even-a-little-bit solo camping trips.

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

I know I look relaxed. But looks can be deceiving.


I’d like to think I do it for my own personal growth.

And, honestly, I do feel like I’ve grown a lot since my first solo camping trip. Overall, I’ve become a lot more confident and comfortable doing things on my own.

But the true reason why I do it is probably because I can use two days of camping as a good excuse to spend the following two (or three or five) days binge-watching Netflix on my couch with my cat.

But, whatever, as long as I’ve got my reasons, right?

Hot showers are under-rated.

I know. It’s not exactly “roughing it” to stay in a campground with hot showers.

But I just risked DEATH BY BEARS.

I deserved that shower.

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

You know what also sounds super awesome? Living in the country. (Spoiler alert: not so much.) 

You know that dream you have about living out in the country? You have that dream, right? I mean, we ALL have that dream, don’t we?

The one where you live in a remodeled farmhouse where all the furniture is made out of big planks of wood that look like they’ve recently been wrenched off the side of a barn. The dream where you grow your own vegetables and you make your own pie crust. The dream where you raise chickens and goats. Even though you grew up on a farm where your family raised chicken and goats, and YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER because that shizz requires waking up super early, and is a whole lot of hard work, and you hated it when you were a kid, so why would you like it now?

You know what that dream does not include? An eight-mile drive into town just to get some cold medicine.

Which is what I ended up doing on my second day during my camping trip, when all I needed was some Dayquil and some Nyquil and ALL THE QUILS SO HELPMEGOD. And, let me tell you how not fun it is to have to drive sixteen miles round trip while you’re sneezing your brains out.

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

Only really fun when you’re not sneezing your head off.

Don’t worry about the big, scary stuff. Because chances are the big, scary stuff will never happen.

You know how I spent my entire last solo camping trip imagining DEATH BY BEARS?

Yeah, so that didn’t happen.

Instead my most terrifying, life-threatening, wildlife encounter turned out to be with a… mouse.

As I was driving away from the campsite on my last day, this tiny field mouse crawled out of the hood of my car and perched itself on my driver’s side window and blinked its tiny little mouse-eyes at me.

I took one look at it, screamed my head off and almost ran my car into a ditch.

I think this just goes to show you that you shouldn’t spend your whole life worrying about the big, scary stuff: terrorists, airplane crashes, asteroid showers, bear attacks.

Because, chances are, none of that stuff is going to happen to you. Instead, it’s going to be something totally mundane (and possibly cute and furry and smaller than a grapefruit) that’s going to kill you off in the end.

So probably your best bet for survival is to spend most of your days locked in your house binge-watching the Netflix in your pajamas with your cat. That way you never have to worry about bear-attacks or car accidents caused by adorable rodents.

You only have to worry about the revenge plot your cat will devise against you after you make her get off your lap one too many times.

Actually, come to think of it, you might be better off braving bear attacks.

Life Lessons Learned While Solo Camping / Unbrave Girl

“Make me move again, and I will cut you, human.”

What life lessons have you learned while camping? Share them below!


I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On May 25, 2016 at 11:43 am Paula said:

    When I was a kid, I always dreamed about living on a Farm when I grew up. Now that I’m an adult – no way! I hat getting up early! lol
    Paula recently posted..Big Magic – Why Every Blogger Should Read It

    • On June 4, 2016 at 11:34 am Sally said:

      Ha ha! The thing is I still totally dream of living on a farm even though I already know I would HATE it. I hope that’s one dream I never bother pursuing!

  2. On May 25, 2016 at 12:36 pm Matthew Astolfi said:

    The bit about bringing food on camping trips then not wanting to eat it… Totally relatable! Thanks for making me snort beer through my nose laughing.

  3. On May 25, 2016 at 10:47 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

    The last time I went camping, our campsite was on a 7-mile-long lake, and I learned that Bob, my long-haired dachshund, was a first-rate long-distance swimmmer. Later, I learned later that dachshunds are said to not like water. Not so with Bob, who was so fascinated by all that was floating on and just below the surface of the water that I think he would have swum the entire length of the lake. Fortunately, about 1/4 mile out, something he saw caused him to gently curve back toward where I was madly swimming after him, and he graciously consented to help me get back to shore. P.S. Your cat has beautiful eyes!

    • On June 4, 2016 at 11:33 am Sally said:

      Oh gosh, I’d be spending the rest of the camping trip wondering what the dog had seen and convincing myself that whatever it was would come ashore and devour me in the night!
      And, thanks, for the compliment on my cat. She is quite a beauty. Even if she is a total snot. 🙂

      • On June 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm Leslie in Oregon said:

        What Bob was entranced by on the surface was a hatch of Mayflies, tiny little flies that fish love to eat, and dandelion wisps…nothing scary, I promise! But to a dachshund at eye level, mesmerizing!

  4. On May 25, 2016 at 11:06 pm Amanda said:

    Too funny. We “camp” with the whole family (RV) and that is rough. Sometimes I wonder why we put all this work on us for fun, but the kids love the memories and we do have time connect.

    • On June 4, 2016 at 11:32 am Sally said:

      I totally think camping with the whole fam would be so much harder! All those meals you have to think about! And you probably can’t escape everyone and just go to a bar and eat pizza and beer by yourself, can you? Good for you for doing it!

  5. On May 26, 2016 at 6:55 pm Priya said:

    I’ve gotta give it to you girl, you’ve made solo camping a thing. Would I do it? Probably not. In all fairness, I probably wouldn’t camp with others either because I need my hot showers and food in bear-free environments. But good on you for finding something that helps you grow.
    Priya recently posted..New Zealand Was Just What My Heart Needed

    • On June 4, 2016 at 11:31 am Sally said:

      Trust me, I was just like you a few years ago. I never would have dreamed that I’d be spending regular amounts of time outdoors in a tent. It’s weird what moving to Michigan will do to you. 🙂

  6. On June 9, 2016 at 6:03 am choi kum fook said:

    Miss Sally, you have learnt some lessons in camping in solo. Camping could enhance your physical and mental abilities, made you more confidence and bravery in works. But I am not so agree the concept in Japan because it is too easy or convenient get everything in hand.It is considered quite meaningless! Am I right? What do you think, Sally?


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