People who don't camp ask me all the time what I enjoy about camping. I always have difficulty answering because I don't see what there is not to like. But maybe the Nordic concept of Friluftsliv begins to explain it. Friluftsliv roughly translates to "open-air living." The Norwegians strongly believe that spending time outdoors is good for you, even when its cold. Researchers who study well-being report positive results for people who make an effort to be outside regularly.
In my family being outdoors was very common. My parents were not fans of television. If we watched at all it was for minimal periods in the evenings. With four kids underfoot, my Mom's favorite refrain was "How about you guys go out and play?" We had a large yard, tree house, swings, woods, bikes, other things to keep us busy out of doors. We played kick the can until the street lights came on, organized neighborhood softball and football games, had bike and running races, and did all sorts of things involving soap and corn we shouldn't have been doing around Halloween. We were also what could be termed an outdoorsy family. We camped and went to local state parks to hike and picnic. Love of the outdoors was established at an early age.
I've been reading a lot of books and articles about retiring or the second 50 years of life recently, and a concept that I have come across a few times is the idea of getting smaller or narrowing focus. In a book by Arthur Brooks called From Strength to Strength, he maintains that true satisfaction comes "not from chasing bigger and bigger things, but paying attention to smaller and smaller things." I've been thinking about this in terms of making my life simpler. Life is complicated when you work full time in a demanding and relationship-heavy job, have children, a partner or spouse, friends, and extended family. Even if there aren't problems to solve all the time, there is a lot to juggle. In retirement, my goal is to stop juggling or at least to juggle fewer things.
Camping and trail bike riding encompass both these ideas. Or maybe embracing an outdoor lifestyle allows and encourages me to revel in the small things. I still remember being in awe of how beautiful the clouds were in northern Minnesota, the fog coming off the bay near St. George Island, the scenic rivers of West Virginia, a fisherman at dusk on a lake in Indiana, wildflowers in Virginia, a cypress swamp in Florida, and the bluest blue water of Lake Superior.
I remember taking each of these photos, reveling in the awe and beauty of this world and feeling present and grateful and in the moment.