Growing up, I wasn’t really the type of kid who chose to play outside. That’s not to say I didn’t, but if possible, I would choose sitting inside watching tv or reading a book over exploring the outdoors. However, as I grew older, my love for the outdoors grew as well. While in college, I realized how much spending time outside and connecting with nature meant to me. I was introduced to all the different outdoor activities that I’m now in love with, like climbing and hiking. Now, I go on an outdoor adventure whenever I can!
This past Memorial Day Weekend was the perfect opportunity for me to soothe the restlessness that had settled in during the quarantine. The plan was to go camping and hiking for the long weekend with a few friends (safely!), and although everything didn’t pan out exactly as we wanted, disconnecting from the world for even a few hours was blissful. The past few times I’ve been camping, I stayed at sites that provided restrooms equipped with plumbing and showers. Basically, it was understated glamping––glamourous camping. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but amenities definitely change the camping experience. This site had no facilities and was very secluded; no one was seen during our stay even though every other campsite was full. It was bliss.
We spent a large part of our time there trying to start a fire because, surprise surprise, it was raining off and on. Eventually, we got the fire going enough to cook dinner and make smores. Even though we faced difficulties, I had so much fun trying! Trying to solve a problem as primitive as starting a fire gave me a sense of control that I didn’t know I needed. It reminded me that even the accomplishments that may seem small at the time have meaningful impacts on my life. We sat around the fire, eating and telling scary stories to each other. And when the food had finished, and the sky had darkened, we retreated into our tent where we played card games and created hand puppets by the shadows of a flashlight. I felt like a child again, and it felt incredible. And the best part about it? I didn’t have to dedicate any brain cells to what was happening on my phone.
Being stuck at home these past few months has caused me to increase my screen time exponentially. From working on a computer all day, keeping up contact with family and friends, and starting this blog, I have been continuously entranced by my phone. And I hate it. What’s most frustrating is the impact I’ve let social media have on my life. It’s not like I didn’t participate in social media before quarantine (close to impossible in today’s world), but I was never invested in it.
With this blog, I’ve had to significantly increase my engagement on social media, which is fine. I like these new people that I’ve connected with, but what I realized while camping is that I had unknowingly used this to put a value on my worth. I used to take pride over the fact that I didn’t participate in standards set by Facebook or Instagram. Now, I find myself obsessively checking every ‘like’ or ‘favorite’ and reacting to the numbers I receive. I’ve fallen into the social media black hole, and it took reconnecting with the best part of what the world offers for me to realize this.
As we drove away farther from the WiFi signal, I found myself wondering about the comments I didn’t respond to or the post I didn’t share. I questioned every move I made. Do people like what I’m writing about? Do they like my pictures? Is anyone even reading it? It wasn’t until we reached the campsite did I tell myself that I’m being silly. I had let this hobby consume me and claim importance in my life without ever meaning to. What’s most terrifying is that we’ve all been told this warning story before. I’ve read about and heard from so many other individuals on how social media creates this platform of judgment. But falling victim to this platform occurred so quickly and conspicuously that by the time I had realized what I was doing, it was too late.
My mini camping trip gave me a chance to step back and ask, Do I care? I started this blog as an alternative way for me to express what I love in life and how it makes me feel. At the end of the day, all I hope is that this is a source of inspiration for others. And I’m quite confident that it is, even if only in the littlest ways. Away from the constant notifications, I was able to refocus on what I enjoy doing and remind myself that my life is not defined by other people’s reactions. As we were searching for kindling for the fire, I happened upon a little nook by the river. There, in its seclusion, I stood reveling in the beauty before me. I listened to the sounds of the river flowing and the trees bristling. I could see raindrops on the leaves of a plant and little critters moving on the ground. I saw the world, unfiltered and imperfect. And breathtaking. Just like me. Just like all of us.
Now, I’m not saying that technology is all bad. On the contrary, it provides opportunities for a greater-numbered and more diverse group of people. We use it to connect with other people bringing us a sense of comfort. Knowing that information is literally in the palm of our hands gives us a sense of relief in this ever-changing environment. It allows us an easy tool to conceal our insecurities and fears, or an escape when things are too overwhelming. It provides us a sense of safety and control. But what it also does is give us anxiety about other people’s opinions. It encourages a community of comparison and promotes superficial accomplishments over all others. My little camping trip (which lasted less than twelve hours) reminded me that this wasn’t the way I wanted to live the rest of my life. I didn’t want to be a person who used online statistics as a measuring tool for my value as a person.
While unplugged from the world, I let my imagination and creativity flow in ways that I rarely do while at home. I learned tricks on pitching a tent quicker and hacks to make the perfect S’more. I reconnected with my friends as we sat around the fire and talked about childhood memories. There was a sense of energy in the simplicity of what we were doing. Our pace in life had slowed down ten-fold, and it was like I was finally able to catch my breath. I wasn’t feeling self-conscious or worried about what the future was going to bring. There weren’t a thousand different thoughts running through my head as I composed a mental to-do list. I was at peace. I felt like myself again.
Maya Angelou said, “life is not measured by the number of breaths that we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” To realize when these moments are happening is difficult, especially in today’s fast-paced world. And while technology helps us remember some of these moments, it can be a hindrance to us living in the moment and recognizing as one is occurring. I went camping just so I could see some old friends and get out of the house, but it opened my eyes to doubts I had about my self and insecurities I didn’t want to admit.
This self-discovery, as cheesy as it sounds, is the beginning of me learning how to balance the role technology plays in my life. As I sit in front of the screen, writing this post, I know that I can’t, nor do I want to, expel the use of technology. In the end, I know that I reap more benefits than harm, but I’ve learned to see the signs of when I need to step back and take a break. My relationship with myself and the world isn’t dependant on WiFi, no matter how much I think it is. And if I ever need another reminder (which I will), then I know that all I have to do is go on another outdoor escapade.