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!
Another fun life lesson learned: tiny camp stoves are really good at heating up day-old pizza.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
What life lessons have you learned while camping? Share them below!