I remember when my children were young a friend told me how they loved camping as a family – in a tent. At the time I honestly wondered “Why would you want to do that?” We had a pop-up camper which I thought was THE way to go. But it wasn’t long after that my mindset changed – a lot. I remember being elated to have sold the pop-up. In fact, even when I saw people pulling pop-ups, I would have a negative internal reaction.
In hindsight, I think my feelings were more than anything a reflection on the stage and age of our children. It is rather ironic, that now not only has my feelings about tent camping changed, but I have become a huge fan and it seems this is shared by our family. This change naturally begs the question “why?” I don’t think there is just one simple answer.
Our family recently took a week-long vacation to the Carolinas and were blessed with some amazing experiences. Possibly the most amazing for me was realizing for the first time why I’ve come to love tent camping. Growing up, I only recall one family camping trip. This type of vacation was not easy for a dairy farming family. My wife, however, did grow up in a family that went camping every summer.
Over the years, I’ve been very blessed to be part of several Catholic pilgrimages and one aspect of these pilgrimages that seems counter-cultural, yet historically supported is the simplicity of the travel going all the way back to Jesus sending his apostles with a walking stick, pair of sandals, no second tunic… even sleeping on the ground. I confess we are not up to quite that austere simplicity, but we have begun to realize the more simple we make things, the more space we allow for God. Really it is more about the proper mindset than what is packed in the suitcase – but a mindset of simplicity and dependence on God governs what you put into the suitcase.
As the kids set up the tent, it was with great joy that I witnessed cooperation and teamwork that I don’t see in the home every day. Cooking our meals over the fire required an equal amount of cooperation. And before we can even have a fire, we need to collect the needed wood and kindling. One thing that has become a staple for our family camping outings is a family hike, which provides exercise, sightseeing and family bonding. One fond memory is singing silly songs (such as “My mama don’t wear no socks…” while on a long tiring hike at Yellowstone National Park & realizing the positive impact it had not only on our family but by those we meet along the way. There were many other aspects that drew our family together – in relationship with each other.
What a joy it is to have just experienced a family vacation that drew us to share and celebrate together in such a lasting way. I do believe this would not have been possible without taking the “simple” path.
By Dan Kitzhaber