I didn't go on a family camping trip to learn, I went to have fun. But, as is often the case, the lessons came when I was least expecting them. I like to stay open to lessons these days, instead of going through life oblivious. This paid off for me earlier this week when the lessons came thick and fast. Here are all ten, in no particular order, perhaps there could be something valuable here for you as well...
Less Screen Time
This is something I've been battling with recently. Not just screen time for the kids, but for us too! The kids love their cartoons, and I'm not about to deny them entirely, but there is a point when I think it gets too much. The same goes for me and my phone. I get glued and really it doesn't add much, if anything, to my life! So why do we do it? Sure, it's nice to switch off the old brain tank for a little while, but hours just disappear if I don't rein it in. While we were away we had no TV, and very limited phone signal/battery. This was a blessing, and a lesson. We all learned that we feel much happier and get way more from life when the screens aren't in the way.
Most humans love interacting with other people, even if we think we're rather antisocial. Even if we prefer to keep our circle small, we love those close relationships and conversations! We are more connected than ever, and yet we feel so much more disconnected. The connections we do have via social media don't have the same substance as in person. On this family camping trip I learned that making an effort to speak to people IN REAL LIFE makes a huge difference to how I feel.
There are so many amazing places to discover, if we just keep our eyes open. Linking back to less screentime, when we are forced to pull away from our phones and TVs we can find some incredible spots. Whether it's close to home or further afield, I want to make it a priority to explore! It really blew my mind how many discoveries we made on one short family camping trip.
More Active Stuff
This is something we are pretty good at anyway, but there is room for improvement. We do a lot of stuff, but there are certain key active skills I would like the girls to learn which they haven't done much of yet. These include swimming, cycling and martial arts. Even in the few days since coming home from camping we have managed to change this! Soon you'll be seeing all of us out on our bikes together.
Read more: Getting Active as a Family
It can be pretty easy to get distracted by the past and the future. Worrying about what happened yesterday, or what might come tomorrow. Kids are great at forgetting that stuff and being solely concerned with what is happening right now. We could learn a lot from this, as the practice of mindfulness can be so valuable in living a happy and content life! I love practicing conscious mindfulness, and the simplicity and semi-remoteness of camping helped inspire me to practice it more often.
There is a lot to be said for living a more simple life. Less junk physically, in a material sense, but also mentally and emotionally. Less junk means less distraction from what's important. Since watching the documentary Minimalism last year I have been very interested in downsizing my belongings. Our family camping trip reminded me that almost every item I own I can actually live without! It feels good to break that feeling of dependence, and I will definitely be working on this further. I don't mean I'll be getting rid of everything and living in a tent, but I will be thinking very carefully about what a allow to take up space in my life.
Elbert Hubbard once said "Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive." This pretty much says it all! With kids, work, bills, and plenty more all vying for your attention, life can get overwhelming. It's normal to get snowed under and feel like everything has piled up on you. Sometimes we need a reminder that most of our stresses are not as bad as they seem. Most won't matter in a year, never mind five or ten! So mess about more, have some fun. Leave your stresses and worries for a while, and muck about!
More Fresh Air
Linked up with doing more active stuff was this lesson: get outside more. Nature, the world around us, the sea, the sky, the land, it's all incredible! Plus, fresh air does great things to our physical and mental wellbeing. Improved immunity, better sleep, more energy, reduced risk of depression... need I go on? The plan now is not just to get active, but to get OUT and get active.
I love routine. In fact, I need routine. I struggle when life gets too unpredictable, my mind goes into meltdown. My internal environment is unpredictable, so I need some regularity in my environment. It's just the way my brain is, and I'm cool with that. But it's also cool to break the routine sometimes. If the occasion warrants a later dinner time, or a later bedtime, then it ain't a problem. On our family camping trip our routine went out of the window, but nothing bad happened! Kids are resilient creatures, and we are more likely to miss out on stuff if we are too rigid with our schedules.
More Love For What's Important
Finally, with all these previous nine points in mind, I have decided to make more time for what's important to me. This will mostly revolve around my relationships with family and friends, but also my own hobbies and interests. It will be a gradual process, but I will begin weeding out the unimportant things which take up my time.
Life can seem very complex, but we have the power to simplify things. We have the control over how we move through life, how we spend our time and energy. We don't have to resign ourselves to the common distractions, but instead we can consciously choose to focus on what's important to us. For me that is my family, my legacy and impact, my friends, nature and the world around me, music and culture, and learning as I go. For you it will be other things.
And sometimes it just takes a family camping trip to remind you of how simple, special and beautiful life really is.
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