At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: camping

Why It’s Time to Create your Own Fireworks

Another holiday weekend during COVID-19, altered by the requirements of social distancing. But that doesn’t mean we had to cancel the fun.

So, my ten-year-old son and I broke out our camping gear (and related tech) and had a spontaneous overnight in our backyard to celebrate our nation’s independence.

No, it’s not quite as independent as roughing it out in the middle of nowhere, but my boy and I had a great mini-adventure anyway.


And even though there were no city fireworks to watch, it’s always nice to review some imagery from past years (courtesy of a ‘holidays’ photo folder I maintain in my Adobe Lightroom library).

What immediately becomes apparent in these moments is the pattern. The repeating episodes that structure our lives…both in work and in play. Going to see our city’s fireworks at the beach had been a fun activity we’ve grown accustomed to over the years (although not so much the hour-long parking lot back up after it’s over).

This summer is the perfect time to create new enjoyable family rituals. (It’s not like there’s a whole lot of choice!) It’s a great opportunity to build new traditions.

Our July 4th backyard camping extravaganza was a great start for me.

Today is always a good day to create some new fireworks in your life.

How to Be at Home without Tech While Camping

If you don’t really understand the allure of camping outdoors, I know exactly how you feel. That said, my family and I camp every summer. Here’s how I get through it… and dare say… even enjoy it!

I confess… I am not at home without tech. So what then do I get out of camping in a cramped tent on the hard ground with my family without the power that organizes my day-to-day existence? I’m a born and bred city boy from Manhattan. Not that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but running wild in the ‘wilderness’ for a weekend isn’t exactly my idea of a good time.

Unexpected Pleasures
We’re just back from another Lester camping adventure. This time up in Preston, CT at the Hidden Acres Family Campground.

So why do I do it? Well, partly because my better half loves camping. Should civilization start to break down and you’ve got to fend for yourself, I highly recommend you leave me behind and follow her.

Our nine-year-old son has also enjoyed our family camping trips (and that makes it a quorum).

He especially loves staring into a fire after dark and blasting marshmallows with intense heat to create yummy s’mores…

And even I’ve got to admit it’s a lot of fun when there’s a river nearby, (the Quinebaug) and you can just wade in and tube down part of it… letting nature float you around the bend to some magical, unseen destination.

And experiencing that feeling of triumph after climbing that giant rock in the middle of the river.

And what fun floating over the micro-rapids created by unforgiving rocks that possess the power to shred apart the underside of your inflatable tube.
(That said, the Intex Water Float tubes we picked up from Amazon survived just fine.)

And I can’t tell you how much I always enjoy brewing a fresh pot of coffee the old fashioned way on a Coleman propane stove.

Enjoying the Art of Survival
Some folks crave just ‘being’ in the great outdoors. But I think I fall into another category… I’m something of a survivalist… but not exactly like that word means. For me, I’ve found a certain amount of pleasure figuring out how to simply ‘survive’ the experience of camping. (And don’t forget, our car is only feet away to make a quick getaway if ever necessary.) So, in a less extreme way, I have simply accomplished a certain restructuring of my existence for these few days at a time.

And sure… leaving it all behind for a while may seem ‘freeing.’ But in today’s always on, digitally connected world, how easy (or advisable) is it to simply to disappear from the rest of your life, even for a few days?

Pack Battery Power
So, I still typically bring along some tech to maintain a communication tether back to civilization… and my responsibilities… like keeping in touch with my 86-year-old father.

And that requires taking along some extra battery power to fuel my iPhone.
(Yes, you also need a bar or two of cellular coverage.)

You Don’t Need to Be a Camping Purist
Okay… so I’m cheating a bit and I bring along some technology during these ‘tech-free’ weekends. But hey, I’m not trying to be like Grizzly Adams. We’re solidly within the Camping 101 skill set. And you know what? I think I’ve got it down!

And it does satisfy some instinctual need to know that I can take care of my family next to my Toyota RAV4 and my REI Kingdom 4 tent that I can finally remember how to pitch. And I can build the pit fire… fueled by the chopped wood (and fire starter) that we bought at the family camp ground store.

No, we’re not really out in the wild without a soul for miles around.
(But after dark, I can pretend that we are!)

And let me tell you, I’ve come a long way.
(Ask my wife.)

Discovering Self-Reliance
Yes, I’ve learned to be a ‘decent’ camper, and I can free myself from the shackles of technology with a little help… from technology. Perhaps most importantly, I can make a mean cup of coffee in nature with the early-morning sun illuminating my new day.

For this city boy, that’s a successful recipe for happiness.

And that’s how to be at home without tech!

At Home with Nature

If you’re wondering what’s happened to my weekly musings about the challenges of technology, you should first consider my weekend experience in ‘the wild’… as a father.

I’ve just returned from an overnight Cub Scout camping trip in Redding, Connecticut with my nine-year-old son. Well, let me tell you, it was almost a perfect experience, including a three-mile hike in the woods and great weather.
(Though it was slightly marred by a chorus of snorers interrupting my sleep at 4am. My son power-slept through.)

Overall, he had a blast… learned some life skills and enjoyed camping with his daddy.

For me, it was a top ten weekend as a father…
Mostly because it was uninterrupted quality time spent with my son.

But I think there was something else going on… inside of me.

Barrett as a Boy
I’m a born and bred New Yorker who grew up in Manhattan in the 1970’s. I was a city boy who as a kid never learned to pitch a tent… let alone sleep in one (except for one time in high school).

Sure, I went to sleepaway camp…so I did spend some time in the great outdoors.
But I never had to learn self-reliance out there.

And as I grew up, I gravitated to the lure of technology rather than the life of a Boy Scout.

Barrett as a Man
And though I eventually moved to the suburbs as an adult and figured out how to mow a lawn and push a snow blower, I wouldn’t exactly say I learned to be at home with nature… beyond going on a full-day hike.

Yes, in fact, my family and I have done a few 4,000 footers in New Hampshire over the past couple of years, though I would attribute the spirit that led to those accomplishments to my better half…

Barrett as a Father
My wife loves to camp and really introduced me to the camping experience. Over the past few years, we’ve brought our son along, and he’s really enjoyed it. So, I think it would be fair to say we’re a camping family.

But this time, it was just my son and me camping with the Cub Scouts…

Barrett Pitches His Tent
I must admit, I was worried that I wouldn’t remember how to put up our REI Kingdom 4 tent.

No, I didn’t want to take the time to do a test run in our back yard. Yes, I did Google it and found a few videos that helped me to remember the order of constructing the exoskeleton.

The trick is to put the middle pole in first through the material, and then you attach the two poles with ‘arms’ that connect together on top of the middle pole. And then you pitch the tent.

The fact that I just wrote this down without cheating is a good indicator of how I performed in the field…

I successfully pitched my Kingdom 4 tent… all by myself. I looked like I knew what I was doing, and I even had the brain space to invite my son into the construction process.

To be honest… for this city kid, it was a big moment. And perhaps more importantly, I enjoyed doing it… much like I enjoy figuring out a tech problem like how to install a new WiFi system in our house.

I know I’ve talked about my camping adventures before, but only as it relates to bringing along technology to maintain a tether to the rest of my tech-infused life.

This time was different. This joy connected to something at my core that I don’t usually pay attention to…

Barrett Becomes Slightly More Self Aware
I would say only a small percentage of us are truly at home with nature. Sure, many may enjoy long walks in the woods or weekend camping in a beautiful location. But that’s still somewhat of a ‘protected’ experience. Yes, it could hail out there or a big bear could walk along, but you normally expect to make it out of your ‘wilderness’ experience in one piece.

That’s not quite the same as being teleported into the wild with no civilization in reach for days. Yes, some could handle that just fine. And I think the rest of us probably covet that lost skill deep down, even though we don’t acknowledge it.

Today, much of the world relies on technology to keep a roof over our heads and food on our tables. And in so many ways, technology ‘enhances’ our experience as we go about our lives. It can feel like a natural extension that supports our individual happiness.

But I realized during my camping weekend that my focus has been somewhat askew.

Previously, I was always the guy with the solar panels to charge up your portable battery. Or the one with an extra battery to spare. I made sure I could maintain an extension of civilization through technology.

But I could never quite enjoy just letting it all go…

Barrett Continues on His Journey
Yes, this time I still brought along my tech to our Cub Scout camping trip.
(What? You thought this was all about me living for a weekend off of the grid? Hardly…)

But the fact that I stuck the landing on building our tent and enjoyed doing it is what really tickled me this time around. That’s what I remember…
(Not how many bars of power I was able to maintain)

And that’s a new behavior.

No, I’m not at home with nature.
Not really.
Not yet.

But I’m getting more comfortable…


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