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.
But I’m getting more comfortable…