When Josh and I started more seriously dating, he made two things pretty obvious.
- That he was super keen to start trying for kids as soon as we got married.
- That he wanted us to go camping.
You can probably guess which of the two I came around to first. *Hint, it wasn’t camping* Josh grew up camping. I grew up motel-ing. The only camping I’d ever done was at church camps as a teenager. They were always super well structured and most of the time in cabins. I always told Josh I was willing for us to go, but that he’d need to be the one to organise it all – the place, the time, the packing list – because I just wasn’t that into it. Somehow, in the two and a half years of us being married and totally child free we still had not ‘found time’ to actually go. How was that even possible? In 760 days together we hadn’t been able to find just 1 or 2 of them to go camping? Amazingly enough, it was that exact thought and my life struggles that really pushed me to put together my Nike list. Our problem was that we were forever looking for time instead of simply making the time. So last week, with the beauty of a long weekend, we crossed off number one… camping trip.
I am not anti-nature. I actually really like it, but as a kid I was pretty addicted to watching movies and was more likely to be found inside than out. That’s where my comfort zone formed. The most outside-y I really got was going for random adventure walks to explore the neighbourhood. I used to find a nice tree to sit under and just watch the sky. I love the sun. Days when I wake up and see sun are always easier for the motivation front. I love the colours of nature. I love the feeling of a gentle breeze. I love looking out my window and only seeing a mass of brown and green. Yet, somehow within myself is this natural tendency to shy away from outside type things. Let’s go ride our bikes. Yeah, no. Let’s go on a hike. Uhhhh, maybe later. Let’s do a fun-run. Seriously, you’re putting those two words next to each other? On our second date, Josh hint dropped that we’d go on a surfing date and inside I screamed nooooooooooooo! Big balls of wet possible death… not going to happen.
I recently read something on Facebook that went along the lines of, “Camping: the thing where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person.” I laughed, but then realised I’d be doing that. Not so much the ‘small fortune’ part because Josh and I had borrowed things we didn’t already have, but more the ‘living like a homeless person’ part. Josh helped by kindly agreeing to support my anxiety about jumping out of the comfort zone by starting with a simple over-nighter. During the week of the trip, Josh would mention things about the packing list or the leaving schedule and I was always less than enthusiastic. I was genuinely happy to do something that he wanted to do, but it wasn’t until the day we left that my own eagerness started to grow. I didn’t care all that much for camping, but I did realise that after three years together this was going to be a brand new experience for us – and that was pretty exciting.
People say thought provoking things like ‘the adventure is in the journey, not the destination’. Well, let me tell you about the adventure in both our journey and the destination. To start, you should know we have a Toyota Yaris called Robin. Sweet little thing. It’s gotten me through uni and my single social days… and now it’s gotten both of us through scary, dodgy, pot-hole filled dirt roads. We had driven to the reserve – no sweat – but in order to get to the camp site, we had to drive up the mountain. A mountain! In Robin! We were driving at a speed faster than I was comfortable with, but at the same time driving any slower would have evoked different fear about rolling back down the hill. Practically strangling the door handle, I grit my teeth the whole drive up. It felt like the longest wait to my impending death, but somehow it ended and we were at the camp site.
It was mid afternoon at that point so we were both pretty keen to get everything set up before we started losing daylight. As a still newly married couple, not rolling in money, we borrowed a tent from Josh’s parents. Putting it up was a bit like trying finish a puzzle without knowing what the picture looked like. Towards the end we had an unused pole and no idea where it was supposed to go. I found some instructions (after we’d done most of the assembling, of course) and even they were pretty vague about what the extra pole was supposed to do. I started having these flashes of us waking up the next day with the tent collapsed in on us, but Josh was pretty confident that it was just a spare so it went back in the bag. As cheesy as it sounds, the experience felt very much like a ‘team-building’ exercise. Josh and I had to make sure that we worked together, communicating our actions and intentions with one another and negotiating which suggestions we would act on. Not to mention needing to show patience and control when feeling frustrated. Seriously, I think all engaged/soon to be engaged couples should grab themselves a tent and get building.
We faced a few different difficulties including the struggle to find dry wood (we forgot to take an axe), the struggle to get a fire started, and the struggle to get the gas torch working. But despite all these struggles and after only an hour of ‘camping’ and I was sold! Before the sun went down, I had said at least five times, “We should do this more often” followed by my list of why it was all so awesome. One of my favourite reasons on the list was being able to see the open sky filled with an array of sparkling stars. It’s not often in everyday life that I take the time to look up, but even when I do its rarely as star packed as we were blessed to see that night.
There is something magical about looking up at the stars and realising how little you are within the scope of the universe and how grand a plan our Heavenly Father has for each of us. Were it not for the absence of a fire and the arctic chill, I could have stayed watching all night.
Being immersed in nature has an interesting influence on the human mind… or mine at least. I couldn’t help, but see symbolism and draw parallels between life and the things we were doing.
The next morning before we left, Josh and I headed out for a bush walk. We followed a dirt road, noticing that alongside were a couple of tracks that lead deeper into the bush. Neither of us said anything about them, until Josh pointed at one and asked, “I wonder where that path goes.” Feeling a bit philosophical and thinking about the paths of life and the power we have to choose, I replied, “Well, you can keep wondering or we can go check it out.” We walked deeper into the bush, noticing some stray bush turkeys, and feeling the excitement of not knowing what we might find.
A dead end. The trail stopped, leaving us surrounded by trees and no where to go, but back. Back on the dirt road we kept forward until another track caught Josh’s eye and we explored again. Walking for a while, I was imagining the hidden paradise that we might stumble upon. A creek with a small waterfall. The sun glistening off the water… Reality rudely interrupted and we faced another dead end.
A few trees had fallen and it seemed like the path had ended. My immediate and cynical response was, “Well isn’t this like life?” The parallel was painfully obvious to me. In the last two years new life paths had been presented to me. Exciting paths. I had spent time imagining what the destination might look like and how it would feel to finally get there, shortly stopping dead ends. Continuous dead ends.
Josh took a closer look at the mess and felt pretty sure that we could make our way through it. Feeling a little annoyed, I resisted, “Are you sure there is actually a path on the other end, because I’m not going back through it again if there’s not.” He reassured me and held my hand as I navigated my way through the maze of branches. We kept forward and uphill. In my mind I kept threatening, “this better lead back to the road because I am NOT going back through all of that again.”
The track eventually lead us back to the dirt road. Sweet relief. A good two minutes and Josh stopped causally mentioning that he had to get rid of a leech on his ankle. *Freak out alarm sett off* I frantically started inspecting my feet and was horrified to find a leech half on my sock, trying to make its way onto my ankle. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Evidenlty the fear of touching a leech was overridden by the fear of having it stuck to me, and I pulled at that sucker like my entire life depended on it. I threw it somewhere and begged Josh to double check both of my feet. FIVE baby leeches later, I made Josh promise not to take us on anymore bush adventures that day because I didn’t have it in me.
Feeling just a little ‘negative Nancy’ I told Josh how like ‘life’ that whole situation had been. “We finally gEt out of the bush and are free, but a second later and we get eaten by leeches. That’s life. You think you’re in the clear, but then the situation comes back to bite you. Kind of literally.” At the time I think I was feeling a bit deer in the headlights and too much out of my comfort zone to focus on the good, but I did eventually find some.
During the leech freak out I got to live in a moment of fearlessness. I was absolutely petrified, but I acted. I moved despite my fear. Now looking at it from a distance I can see how that’s a beautiful learning opportunity. In life we go through situations that we would never ask for. These situations petrify us, hurt us, devastate us, try us, stretch us. Without them, we wouldn’t learn about the greatness within ourselves. Without that leech freak out I never would have known that I had the strength to do what I did… and that helps me. It was a small moment in my life, but I feel a little more empowered about the potential I hold and what I can eventually become.
I often tell people that I’m an over grown thirteen year old because I still watch shows like Lizzie McGuire. A few years ago, I learned one of the most beautiful outlooks on life from willingly and excitedly going to see the Hannah Montana movie.
“Life’s a climb, but the view is great.”
Josh and I kept walking again, despite the struggles, the dead end, the mess of trees, the negative thoughts and the leeches. We didn’t let those things pull us from moving forward.
A little up the road we saw something, but we couldn’t make it out. We weren’t far off the time we’d picked to turn around and head back to camp, but hand in hand decided we’d choose adventure one more time. It was the lookout, that the sign at the start of the walk had told us was hours too far for us to reach. Thankful, we stood on top of the world, admiring the beauty.
I loved camping. It was barely a full twenty four hours, and half the time I had to put away thoughts of how nature could potentially kill me, but I’m going to do it again. Isn’t that like our journey in life? Really living is about acting in fear doing more than ‘gritting our teeth’ the whole way. It’s taking the lessons life gives us. So I’m going to learn, hurt, laugh, grow and look forward to being fearless as life throws more leeches my way.
We are all greater than we know. That’s what this life is helping to teach us.