The Happy Camper Edition, part 1

In which I go a bit Ned Flanders on you all...

My wonderful friend H had a bad work day last week and solicited Instagram responses to learn how people cheered themselves up. There were lots of good answers ranging from calming baths to drunken karaoke to drunken karaoke in a calming bath. It was neat to see how other people wind down. I tend to run 15K while listening to music featuring too many horns to be good for the long-term utility of my ears. When I have more time, I go camping.

I’ve extolled the virtues of the nature cure before, but its strange power to mitigate climate blues is equal parts obvious and surprising. As someone who once loved camping and then spent twenty years pretending she hated it, I guess this recurring revelation is par for the course.

For years I’ve been organizing group camping trips. (Organize is a strong word.) Unlike our trips that require dry bags and portages and back pain, these family efforts are as easy as dumping all your marshmallow-encrusted gear in a car. Everyone cooks one meal, so you don’t spend the whole time sweating over your camp stove. The kids become a wild pack of confidantes. The adults attempt to stay up late talking but end up falling asleep in their bourbon by ten. It’s Burning Man extra lite.

I love it for many reasons. Cue list.

This nature is awesome

We shouldn’t have set up camp knowing there was a storm, but we did, checking the Doppler all the while. Then we watched the storm roll in across Lake Huron, as we sprinted away from it. We let our children dance madly in the rain. It was a calculated risk that will pay off in a lifetime of memories for them. Like going to a Backstreet Boys Reunion Concert.

Need Less, Feel Better

Every time you camp, you are reminded that you don’t need that much. (Unless you are my friend Ian, in which case you bring along the entire MEC catalogue x2.) If we are careening towards apocalypse because people feel they can’t live without the trappings of consumerism...well, camping reminds you that you really don’t need it all. Except maybe the occasional life-saving medicine and sour blue raspberry Big Foot candy. 

Communing (but not the creepy kind)

Different groups always come on our camping adventures, and yet almost immediately, everyone forms a community. There’s something about wearing the same clothes for three days that makes you feel comfortable telling a newish friend about the most embarrassing time you...wait, we haven’t camped together yet! You get to know people more in a few days than you might in a year. Which is great, because if you really hate them, you find out much more quickly.

Kid ’n’ play

They rove around as an all-ages band, the bigger ones helping little ones do stuff. I see actual clouds of dust kicking up around them as they scramble hither and thither. We hive children off into tiers so much in the rest of life even when all the evidence tells us a 6-year-old can learn a ton from a ten-year-old, and vice versa. My favourite moment this past weekend was watching the aforementioned 6-year-old boy call to his 10-year-old crush, from the beach while she swam. He shouted her name a hundred times but his words were swallowed up by the loud surf. When she finally heard his call and came running to him...he said: Do you want a cookie? (It already had a bite taken out of it, but reader, she said yes.)

Easy-on-the-planet vacation

There is camping within an hour or two of just about anyone’s home. It’s basically a staycation with a tiny bit more emissions, and a lot more chili consumption.

United campers of Benetton

This sounds a little cheesy but car-camping in a provincial park is for everyone. Really. Older Indian men playing cards on the beach while eating watermelon and spitting out the seeds (where did they even find a watermelon with seeds?). Korean college students grilling on their hibachi. Old people. Young people. A surprising number of Michiganders. Red fish. Blue fish. 

You don’t camp until you camp

I can’t get a tarp up to save my life, but I really love inviting non-campers camping and pretending to show them the ropes. If you’re a veteran camper, are there non-campers you need to bring along for the bug bites? If you’re a non-camper, what would it take to bring you along for the bug bites? We know that loving nature is the key to getting people to protect the s’more the s’merrier. (Sorry.)

A good camping trip usually leaves me feeling happy for days thereafter, as long as I don’t immediately jump back into the stew of scary climate news. Of course, I immediately jump back into the stew of scary climate news. What do you when you feel climate blue? Send me your self-preservation recipes and I will share/draw them for next week’s edition: How to be a happy camper when you’re really effing scared.


Do you want to measure your climate impact? My amazing friend Katie, of Project Neutral, has helped thousands of households reduce their impact over the past few years! Use Project Neutral’s carbon calculator to figure out how your household is doing. It. Adds. Up!


More degrowth will save us…and make us super chill and happy…

(perfect decisive moment photo by my friend Tanya! TY!)