I come from a family of campers. Tent campers, to be exact. I suppose it’s always been in my DNA, with parents who loved National Parks and toured us all around the great American West.
I can still vividly remember that cold, foggy campsite on the Sonoma coast, with our tent nestled on the windswept hillside next to other families and abalone divers. We huddled around the fire as our Jiffy Pop bag overflowed with buttery goodness.
I remember one terrifying night in the California mountains, as we waited out a fierce thunderstorm—with nothing but a sheet of nylon between us and the fury of the elements.
My wife and I have had some adventures, too. In those carefree days before our kids came along, we hand-picked some of the most spectacular sections of the southern Appalachian Trail for weekend backpacking trips. We filtered our water from the mountainside. We shared vistas with the wild ponies of southern Virginia. As we traversed those high-elevation spruce-fir forests, we truly got a chance to breathe.
Now that we’re parents, we’re doing our best to carry on the family camping tradition. I’d like to think my kids have some stories of their own—like that time we made friends with all the daddy-long-legs on the Tennessee side of the Smokies. Or that time we drive 15 miles on a gravel road to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River (the “baby Chattahoochee,” as we affectionately called it). Every spring break, we go down to our favorite beach campground in Florida. We spend some quality time in the sun—within sight of the condo towers and golf courses, yet still a world away.
I don’t mean to paint an overly idealistic picture of all this outdoor adventure. If you’ve ever been camping, you know it’s never perfect. It never goes completely according to plan. We’ve had our share of broken equipment, noisy neighbors, and campfires that just won’t start. (I still blame it on the humidity.)
Behind all of it, there’s an important reason that we camp. I believe that we—as people—are born for adventure. We’re meant to do things that challenge us. Things that take us outside of what’s comfortable and what’s expected.
Adventure could look like a lot of different things for different people. It certainly doesn’t have to take place outdoors—although for us, there’s something beautifully pristine about getting back to the basics: food, water, and shelter.
When we’re camping, we’re fully and vitally present with each other. We talk and laugh together. We come up with silly “camp names.” Our kids ride bikes instead of staring at screens. We take time to cook together, and we savor the results. (It’s a fact: food really does taste better when you’re camping!)
When something unexpected happens (and it most certainly will), that’s our chance to put our heads together to solve the problem. Sometimes a little inconvenience can be a good thing.
I won’t lie; there are some moments of fear, too. But in the woods, we face them together. My daughters might worry about noises in the night. I’m worried about getting a flat tire. But for those few days away, we’ve exchanged the mundane worries of bills, homework, and schedules for something that stirs the heart.
I suppose that’s what I’d want any parent to find. Something that stirs the heart. More specifically, something that stirs your hearts together. Something that fires up that sense of adventure in you and your kids. I believe that’s a longing God has put inside each of us—whether we realize it or not. For me, it was hard-wired through decades of camping and outdoor fun. What is it for you?
If you’re feeling stuck, maybe I encourage you . . . to press pause on “real life” . . . close your eyes . . . drop your finger down on the map . . . and take an adventure!