We just got back from a three-day camping trip with our grandchildren and one of their friends. With all the packing, loading, unpacking, pitching, unpitching, re-loading and unpacking, it's completely exhausting.
We went to a campground just an hour away, but given the dark sky crowded with stars, the busy and noisy bird population and the early morning serenity, we could have been hundreds of miles from a city. On this trip it seemed the campers were more diverse. There were more campers of color than I recalled from the past. One group included at least three generations with uncles and aunts and lots of cousins. There was a racially mixed lesbian couple -- white and Latina -- with three African-American sons. One woman camped solo with her two dogs.
The second evening, it dawned on us what was missing: everything that occupies our daily lives. There was no cell phone reception or Internet access. If you were communicating with someone they had to be right there in the campsite. You couldn't check your e-mail or follow anyone on Twitter. We were completely in the moment, as people say -- looking for the coffee filters, trying to dodge the smoke from the campfire, walking briskly to the bathrooms.
I didn't see any kids playing video games, texting or staring at screens of any kind. Their thumbs got a rest. Instead, they were doing archaic things like riding bikes, playing horseshoes with real horseshoes and toasting marshmallows for s'mores.
For decades, camping has been a way to get out of the city and back to nature. In our super-connected, high- tech virtual reality, the appeal of the simpler life is even more striking. And needed.