Lessons in Minimalism from Camping

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The thing about camping that appeals to me now is the very thing that I most despised about it when I was younger. The fact that you have to make due with the least possible amount of stuff made me uncomfortable and anxious. I was always afraid I'd miss out on something, or be left without something necessary.

Of course, it was the process of eliminating the non-essential that made camping so liberating. After the first few days of missing my video games, I found that I was alright. It turned out that there was a lot for me to do in the woods: fishing, exploring the lakeshore, swimming, just sitting and appreciating nature, reading. My days were full of all sorts of activities, and I enjoyed the free time, the ability to set my own schedule and follow my natural rhythms rather than a school clock.

You learn a lot about what it takes to be happy when you're in the woods. Food, shelter, warmth, and a destination. That's really all you need.

During one of my trips when I was leading a group of boys in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, we pulled into a campsite just as a rainstorm descended on us. We quickly made camp, secured our gear, and hastily prepared a hot dinner. As I was on a different diet, I didn't get a chance to eat, so once the boys were in their tent, I pulled out a camp stove, cleared a tiny space among our gear pile, and crouched to make myself some soup.

I ate it lying on a pile of bags, a flimsy tarp inches above me keeping the rain at bay, my bare feet sticking out in the mud. I was in heaven. I was (mostly) dry, had something warm to fill my belly, and could relax. It is one of the happiest moments of my life.

We tend to overestimate the stuff we need to be happy. I didn't even need a tent at that moment to be content.

So it might pay to ask yourself how much of your stuff you really need. On a camping trip, too much stuff can actually be worse than too little. You might be able to get by without a few items, but carrying extra weight over many miles of rough terrain will destroy your spirit very quickly.

Just like in the rest of life.

So travel light, and learn to appreciate having the essentials.

Fight on, Brave Warriors!

- (**