Sometimes life is just such a series of unfortunate events. One day I will publish a book of my many life times and most likely no one would believe me… unless you were stuck with me anywhere for more than 3 days, then you would see. After a week of just so many bad things, I knew I needed to get away alone… to re center and just recover. Living in California everyone is always down to camp and they seem so enthusiastic, until the downfall of LA comes out the day before… flakiness. I love LA so much but so far my experience is a sense of adventure with a dash of flakiness. I needed this camping trip so bad after the week I had and my friend backed out last minute. That’s when it hit me, “Why am I waiting around for other people to go with me?” I’m 33 years old. I’ve lived in 3 countries and moved over 50 times in my life. I was homeschool and raised in a van for a few years as a kid. When did I loose my sense of self and my confidence? So I promised myself I’d go… no matter what. My tent was stolen out of my storage unit that week along with a ton of other things. So Amazon Prime came to the rescue after a glass of wine that I chose based on stars and color.
The day before I leave I’ve gone over every scenario in my head that could possibly happen. My friends are so encouraging and really empowered me. I bought a bottle of tequila, a 12 pack of PBR and chips. What else could you possibly need? I already have a sleeping bag in my car, a knife, most of my clothes and some other food. I’m pretty much always prepared regardless how it looks sometimes. I’m a survivor. But I couldn’t help but feel panic about being completely alone in a forest with no one and no cell phone signal. What about bears? Looters? Rapists? Snakes? Spiders? What If I got a flat tire or my car wouldn’t start and I couldn’t call anyone for help? I was literally having nightmares about every scenario. I did a tent set up drill in my best friends living room… only to find out I had purchased a beach sun tent with no doors. Another defeat.
I just pick a spot on google by a lake and loosely and randomly choose a camping spot destination. I left my best friends house at 10 am with no tent and no real plan. I found an REI on the way and well, to be honest with you, I wasn’t committed enough to throw down $150 for a tent. Next stop Wal-Mart. Where else can you get a 12 pack, an inflatable pool and spray paint; but thats a story for another day. I found a tent, an ax, some fire starter cubes and some pepper spray. Seemed legit enough. I started feeling some confidence. I bought a foot long subway sandwich and saved half for dinner.
I drove about 2 hours where I proceed to loose signal but not hope. I found a visitor center where I get a swift kick of reality that I’m doing something a little crazy. Clearly out of my element, the man at the visitor center proceeds to overflow my head with facts and names and information I couldn’t even contain. He hands me an actual map and circles my first destination. Every campsite seems to be first come first serve and no one seems confident that there are spots. When is the last time you followed an actual real map? It’s been a minute for me for sure. I used to be my dad’s co-pilot, reading the maps and giving directions as a kid in our childhood van.
Once you have an iPhone its damn near impossible to go back. I tried a couple years ago. Sold my iPhone and got a flip phone and moved to Indiana to crochet, juice and be a vegan for 3 months. Once you know what you are missing out on… wow. Remember T-9 texts? I had to actually stop and ask for directions and actually call people cause deleting every 20 messages and not remember why someone is responding with “k” to which message is infuriating. Anyways, reading a map in a strange place all alone is terrifying but amazing. I can’t wait to do that more. When I arrived (and I did arrive!), the nicest Park lady greeted me, assured me there was plenty of space and to just choose which space felt right and she would come and check me in and brief me. Immediately I have a sense of relief. I’m going to be ok.
I find “my spot” and immediately fall in love. I’m not even going to lie but I was so excited that this park offered running water, a toilet, trash bins, a fire pit, my very own picnic table, a grill, an anti bear food locket and a parking space! All for $27! This isn’t the camping I was raised on… we roughed it. For my first time camping completely alone, I was so glad to have all of these things. Why was I trying to go straight cave woman on my first attempt? I just stood there and I was waiting for someone to tell me where to put the tent. When did I let myself be so controlled? I’m 100% a free spirit and I live a very unconventional life but I roll with a huge pack and between all of us no one really has to completely adult for more than a few hours at a time. As appreciated and necessary that it, I realize I kind of forgot how strong I am and how I am more than just a survivor.
I feel out my scene, pick my spot and tackle the brand new tent that I’ve just purchased. The entire time I keep thinking that when the park ranger arrives, she’s gonna laugh at me or see that I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m paranoid that other campers are staring. Who the heck cares?! I throw myself into it and I built my tiny home before the ranger even arrived. I’m so proud of myself that I’m smiling like a weirdo. The ranger is so sweet and walks me through everything and I blurt out that this is my first time building a tent or camping alone. She’s amazing and reassures me that I did an amazing job and tells me her and her husband are just a few lots down and I can come find them any time I want. She sells me some fire wood for $8 and tells me the lot is only available one day but sometimes it falls through so she will come and check on me in the morning and let me know if it’s available to stay another day.
I crack open a beer and set up camp. I bought a book, I’m residing in nature. I meditate, I do yoga. I sit in complete silence. Something I haven’t slowed down enough to do in a long time. I actually was afraid to be alone. As a couch surfer, I’m never alone. Which I’m fine with but I didn’t realize how much it takes a toll. As a guest you are like a host, you always have to be on 100%. Not much time to come down. Our lives are always full of noise. I’m so guilty of filling any silence with one of my hundreds of play lists to set the tone to my day. But silence is so very underrated. I lost hours to sitting in silence in the woods. Not even thinking about anything in particular. Before I know it, it’s show time. I have to build a fire. I’m channeling all the cavemen because I sincerely and honestly want to build a fire from scratch. I know how to do it. I tried. But I’m hungry and it’s getting dark and I don’t know why I’m being so hard on myself. So I break out the little fire ignitor cubes. I love the little things that make our lives so much easier.
I didn’t try to go above and beyond so I just boil water for my yerba mate and my ramen. That’s all I need. I’m celebrating life and freedom and independence and I love finding any reason to eat ramen. A few tequilas in and I’m back to writing, and drawing and coloring and I’m happy. I need my outlets to stay sane.
For my sleeping quarters I stacked 2 yoga mats, 2 thick blankets that I acquired near the border and a sleeping bag. I slept fairly well considering my brain is really messing with me and I’m genuinely afraid of the bears and coyotes that the ranger told me roam in the site day and night. Only a tiny piece of nylon is keeping a mama bear from having me as a tasty midnight snack. I woke up happier, maybe just happy to be alive, happy I survived a night and I’m positive I want to stay another night. So I just wait to see if the spot is available for another night and boil water for my delicious breakfast of yerba mate and ramen. I left the decision to fate whether I’d be staying the night and it seemed that fate knew I needed more time.
I ran to town to buy a cot. After multiple back injuries floor sleeping just wasn’t for me. I bought a real knife, and all the necessities to make a decent meal.
Made some chicken and veggie kabobs, roasted some marshmallows, drank some tequila and just chilled. It was perfect. I wrote. I drew. I vented and coped. The next morning I was kind of dreading packing up camp. I wanted to stay. But I was also afraid to repack. Sleeping bags never fit back in the bag they came out of. I just want to say that it is almost just as empowering to build a tent as it is to pack it up and left the site cleaner than you left it. I absolutely cannot wait to go back. I can’t remember the last time I woke up with a smile. I felt liberated and I can’t express enough the empowerment of fending for yourself. I highly recommend it and I cannot wait to get back out there. In fact, this entire experience confirmed my decision to buy a van and make it my permanent home. I will keep you guys posted.