Post Author: Rev. Ruth Lemmen
It all started with a beat up orange tent I bought for $15 at a garage sale near my apartment. Buying it was a whim; I saw it set up in the yard and decided to stop and look at it. Camping wasn’t new to me. I grew up camping with my family—two parents, three daughters, and a couple dogs. We spent many nights in campgrounds around the country, creating many good memories. I hadn’t gone camping in several years, though. Family vacations are a thing of the past. My friends don’t camp (and think the idea is a little crazy). I didn’t have the equipment. I bought the tent anyway on that September afternoon. Then it languished in a closet for the rest of the fall, winter, and spring all because I lacked a companion. Since my friends were unwilling and I didn’t have boyfriend of husband, who would go with me? Could I go alone?
Eventually, I got annoyed. I had a tent and a sleeping bag and I wanted to use them. But that nagging question about going alone persisted. Could I make fires by myself? Could I really set up the tent by myself? What would I do by myself for all that time? And the big question: was it safe? What if something bad happened to me? A tent isn’t much protection against someone with malicious intent. If only I had a husband to go with me….
Despite the questions running through my heart and mind, I decided to give it a test run. I reserved just one night at a state park where we camped a lot when I was a kid. I was familiar with the park, knew it was family friendly (which seemed safer), and it was close to home. It seemed like a good test.
From that night, solo camping passed the test. I won’t lie, I was nervous going to sleep that night, but I escaped unscathed and instead, filled with joy. My campground neighbor gave me some extra newspaper when he saw me struggling with my fire. My campfire cooked meals were more delicious than cooking at home. And I learned that I was okay by myself in a tent.
The test-trip gave me courage to try a multi-night adventure at the same state park later in the summer. Those days were a balm to my harried heart. I spent hours at my campsite reading and marveling at the greens on the trees around me. Next, I got a little braver and decided to try a campground I’d never been to before. It was still only 30 minutes away, so if it was too rowdy on the holiday weekend I’d have an easy escape. After that successful trip, my courage had grown and so had my thirst for adventure. I took a weekend trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which is only a few hours away yet I’d never visited. It was a trip full of brilliant blue water, soaring sand dunes, and crisp fall air. It was exhilarating to explore the area, taking in lake views from a number of hiking trails and then retreating to my wooded campsite for the evening (although I did learn that the $15 garage sale tent was not thick enough for fall camping).
As my camping confidence grew, so did my self-confidence. I don’t need to wait for a boyfriend to go camping. I am a complete person now, because I am complete in Christ. Life in Christ isn’t lackluster, but is full of abundance. Camping is one way I experience that abundance—waking up in a tent to songbirds chirping outside, the crisp pine-scented air when I get out of the tent in the morning, morning pancakes on the camp stove, the thrill of a beautiful hike, dinner cooked over a crackling fire, watching the sun slip into Lake Michigan in the evening, curling up in a cozy sleeping bag. If someday I have a husband to add to that list, I will be grateful. But for now you can find me by myself in my shiny new tent enjoying the life I have now to the fullest.
Photo by Ruth Lemmen August 11, 2013. Used with permission.