Probably every other time I email my friend Alastair Humphreys, I get an automatic reply with the subject line, “Sorry: I've gone to sleep on a hill,” and a one-line message saying, “The sun is shining so I have turned off my computer and gone in search of a hill to sleep on.”
Every time, I think to myself: That guy knows what he’s doing. Al lives on the outskirts of London, makes his living as a writer and speaker, has a family and still finds time to get outdoors. He’s cycled around the world and done other sorts of huge adventures, but he understands the importance of small trips, as well. Most importantly, he gets out and does it.
We tend to think of camping as a big endeavor. We have to locate all our gear, load it up in the car, hope we don’t forget anything important and often buy some last-minute stuff on the way out of town. It can be stressful.
But then there’s Al, who basically just grabs a sleeping bag and pad (and maybe a bivy sack) and heads out to sleep under the stars, because he knows it’s good for him. No big deal.
I have done this sort of thing before, camping on a weeknight, and let me tell you, it’s fantastic. Guess how many people are at the nearest campground during the middle of the week? That’s right, not very many. You pack some stuff the night before, head to work, leave directly from work, sleep in a sleeping bag somewhere that smells like trees, wake up early and make it into the office by 9:00 the next morning. And you’re refreshed after a night sleeping under the stars instead of next to your smartphone. If your coworkers are the type to disapprove of you smelling like campfire, make time to shower before you head to work.
Perhaps a good camping spot is a little farther from where you live and you don’t think it’s possible. Tell you what: Ever left work a little early because your kid had a soccer game? Do that, except go camping. Don’t have kids? Leave work early for “a dentist appointment”—and go camping. Just had a dentist appointment and are worried people at the office will notice? Take off early to drive “your great-aunt Geraldine to her podiatrist appointment.” You get the picture.
Maybe you don’t even have to tell a little white lie to get out of work. The point is, you’d check out of the office early to take care of other people, your car, your health via appointments with health professionals—but you probably never take off early to take care of yourself by spending a little time in nature.
You don’t need to pack a ton of firewood, camp chairs, a cooler full of beer and meat, and all sorts of other stuff. Keep it easy: Grab the basic stuff you need to sleep, something simple to cook for dinner (or just a burrito on your way out of town), some instant coffee and go do it. You won’t regret it.