Camping has meant many things. Being older and a parent I know it from many perspectives. Once little, I remember a sense of adventure and freedom to test the laws of nature. As a young adult, I found an escape from the rigors of life. Then we had children and it all became too much. Instead of escape, camping with a baby exposed a whole new layer of reality. It wasn’t long before we traded in our tents for condos and resorts. I remember thinking that we were maturing and this was the natural progression of life. We were content.
As we settled into this phase of our life, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the past camping trips and how I wanted that experience for my children. I always imagined spending intimate moments in nature with my children. But we were so set in our ways, I couldn’t see how to bring it out of the past. Then last year, after a 10-year hiatus, with a group of our old friends, we decided to camp. I guess we were all feeling a little guilty that we were not providing our children the basics of childhood memories. As excited and committed as we were, memories of why we left camping in the first place kept creeping back into our minds. Leading up to it, we had a lot of anxiety and we were thinking of many plan B’s. But we had others that counted on us and we could not back out. As we arrived and saw the excitement in our children as they ran around with curious energy, and despite what we were going to have to endure, we realized we made the right decision. Friends arrived that we haven’t seen for a long time and it was like old times. Camping has a way of bringing us back to when times were simple.
Although we have become comfortable with camping, as the days neared for the Bethel campout, a little hesitation set in again. Camping with the church was a little different. It was way bigger and the thought of spending multiple days with folks you know only from the few hours on Sunday takes a little courage and commitment. But slowly, as we help each other build tents and set up camp, we get excited at the prospect of creating a little village. It moves quickly and before you know it, we are in our new home with our new neighbors. Soon the kids are rolling in dirt, collecting pebbles, and eventually find their way to each other. As they share this experience, you can see the friendships forging and I’m inspired by how simple it is. The parents look adoringly from afar and soon start forging their own friendships. It gives me a chance to talk over what kind of stakes we use on our tent, the logo on someone’s hat, the type of sandals we wear, and other topics that don’t matter. They are of the moment and it brings us closer. I think the spirit of camping is not only connecting with nature but just as important, with each other.
With camping comes a lot of work, especially with kids. We are consumed with the chore of keeping them alive. Looking at it from the outside, it doesn’t appear to be a vacation for the parents. But through it all, we find peace.
Since our comeback to camping, we have been on a few others. Every trip has its own challenges. I believe that sometimes through these challenges we are reminded of things that are important in our lives. This year’s Church camping trip was no exception. I guess God decided the challenge of organizing a 50+ person camping trip just wasn’t enough. We were tested with our patience, our perseverance, our willingness to compromise, and our capacity to support each other. Out of it, we have new friends, renewed friendships, and great memories of the time we stuck it out. Maybe it’s the Kimchi-jjigae and all the Korean faces, but the Bethel Church camp makes me think of my youth and camping with my parents. I can’t help but think of them and all that they did to create childhood memories for us.