You’ve probably heard of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (if not, I have one word: “how?!”). I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a super-fan, but I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the movie, and I’ve been inspired. I felt like I was with Gilbert as she described travelling around the world – right alongside her indulging in Italy, discovering spirituality in India, and falling in love in Indonesia.
When that book ended and I was snapped back to reality, I realized three things:
1. I was a little stuck in my every day. Each work week felt about the same as every other one and started to blend together in my mind.
2. I wanted to travel. I longed for places far away -for regions full of forests and rippling water, just waiting to take my tiredness away from me.
3. I realistically couldn’t follow in her footsteps. I lacked the time and the funds to step out of my life and travel around the world.
Isn’t it sad when reality hits? I was pretty disappointed until I realized maybe I could plan my own mini journey – something within my means, not quite as extreme, but that would still allow me to take a break, get outside, feel the rough bark of trees, hear the wind in the leaves, and feel the relief of disconnecting from life’s pressures and reconnecting with nature.
Along the inexpensive line: camping seemed the perfect thought. But while I love being in nature during the day (I really do!), when those stars come out and it’s time to tuck in for the night, the thought of crawling into a sleeping bag and sleeping on the ground is just so not for me.
So, as you do, I turned to Google. I found options for camping that took away not only some of the hard work, but also the threat of waking up with a sore back in the morning.
I planned three different weekend trips, each one getting me out of the city and into the natural world. It turned out that on each weekend, I got a little closer to nature and a little more independent. It was a great feeling to discover that I was up for the challenge!
Weekend Escape #1
I was easy on myself at first; I signed up for hotel-style luxury at Elements Luxury Tented Camp & Nature Spa. I sure had all the comforts I wanted there — even to the point of starting my day in front of a gilt mirror! But, unlike at a hotel, I got what I was truly searching for: the chance to reconnect with nature. I went to sleep to the soothing sound of frogs croaking, and before I even got out of my large, comfortable bed in the morning, I was serenaded by songbirds.
And I didn’t have to do any cleaning! A “Wilderness Butler” set up my campfire and prepared food for me to cook over it (they would even have set me up with a picnic by a waterfall if that’s what I wanted —I opted out this time as a romantic dinner for one wasn’t what I was after, but it might be an idea for a future getaway with my special someone).
The Butler cleaned up after my fire and prepared a new one for the next day. There was nothing left for me to do but watch the darkness descend, feel the evening breezes, sip my wine, and contemplate the sparkly expanse above me.
My days spent luxury camping taught me something: even though I wandered through my weekend at my own pace and without a plan, each reading nook and each bend in a woodland trail became firmly embedded in my memory. Isn’t that amazing? At work, I have a ton of things to do and yet the days all seem the same. At Elements, I had no set activities, and yet each day brought new and memorable things. I felt as if I spent the weekend really living.
Weekend Escape #2
For my next camping experience, I wanted to try something a little less luxurious, but I was still eager to avoid sleeping on the ground. So I was thrilled to find out about oTENTiks at Beveridges Lockstation.
An oTENTik is a cross between a tent and a rustic cabin. In this park, I meandered trails and even paddled on the river, only to be welcomed back the homey and comfortable interior at the end of the day. I brought my own food and equipment, did my own cleaning, and hung out among the basic furnishings.
But do you know what I found out? I loved this experience just as much as when everything was provided for me. Imagine finding out that you don’t need luxury to have a restorative weekend. I felt much less pampered, but incredibly independent.
Weekend Escape #3
As I looked to move even further into nature, I was finally ready to see if something as small and cozy as a personal tent would connect me even more therapeutically with the natural world. But even when it’s that small, I still want a solid roof between me and the sky. I found the perfect thing in a pod at Madawaska River Rentals among the ancient rocks and forests of the Madawaska Valley.
Forest walks, river paddling, and the feel of cool river water on my skin — it was a full escape from any type of city life. I felt even closer to nature than in the last two places — while still being warm and dry — as I sat in the cute little overhanging porch, dangling my feet out in the rain while I sipped my hot coffee.
This was one thing that surprised me the most about my experiment in camping: I loved the rain! When I rambled in wet woods, the peaceful pitter-pattering was a new kind of nourishment. Back in my safe, dry lodgings, the soft drumbeat on my roof and the unlocked scent of wet earth soothed me.
I discovered how close I could get to the healing power of nature, and I was delighted and surprised at every step.
After each weekend I spent breathing in fresh air and away from crowded streets, I felt relaxed and was able to return to my every day with a new sense of energy. I’m definitely going to do it again, but next time I’m going to be a little less like Gilbert and bring friends.
Storyteller: Claire Nelson. Hometown: Toronto, ON
A coffee-lover and sunset-chaser, Claire is always on the go, searching out hidden spots and unique opportunities. Travelling is her way of gaining perspective and she sets out on each trip with the goal of embracing something new. When not sipping coffee, Claire can be found daydreaming about history-filled towns, boutique-lined streets, and breathtaking views.