Illustration by Helen Sun

An ear-piercing chirp awakens you from your slumber, followed by replies from all sides. A tweet, a warble, then there’s practically a scream. You sit upright in bed, but oh, wait, you can’t; you’re zipped up in a sleeping bag. The supposition that you are in your own bed with a fitted sheet in your own wallpapered room slips away as light seeps in through the few layers of polyester fabric between you and the outside. The breathing of your companions—campanions, if I may—catches your ears and it all comes back to you:

You’re camping.

Your watch is shoved in the crevice between you and the nearby sleeper. You extract it, dusting the dirt and bits of dead leaves off it. It’s 5:23 am. Of course, the birds have to be up at this hour. After all, the early bird catches the worm. But do they really need to screech at each other? And why do sticks and rocks end up under you even if you cleared the ground before putting up the tent? And why do people in sleeping bags seem to rotate one hundred and seventy-five degrees through the night?

It all boils down to: why are you here in a cloth house, inside a zip-up bed, freezing your triple-sock clad feet off while birds communicate in shriek-ish tones outside?

The answer lies in what is beyond the cloth house. The wilderness you find yourself in is big and scary, but to some, it is home.

I’m not going to delve too much into the benefits of being outdoors and getting off the grid; there are so many advantages physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally from getting more vitamin D to mood elevation from natural light. The thing about camping is that it is for everyone. I know there are lots of people out there who say it’s “not their thing,” but really, it can be.

That’s because camping doesn’t always mean scrunching yourself into a sleeping bag in a tent over rocks and sticks, though it does for some people. Glamorous camping, or “glamping,” is a slightly more expensive, but very comfortable option. It ranges from swapping a cot for a sleeping mat to getting a full out RV to live and travel in.

However you choose to do so, camping allows you to reconnect—with nature, your friends, family, pets, or whoever else you brought along. You could even reconnect with yourself. It sounds a little cheesy, but it happens more often than you think. In fact, I recommend taking time out of your trip to sit alone by a shore or by a thoughtful tree and reflect.

If this is your first time, make sure to do your research and bring along the appropriate gear, which may as well be a more experienced camper. It’s going to be a little hard to adjust to, there’s no doubt about that. It can be tiring, frustrating, and downright annoying. But at night, before you lay yourself down to sleep, take a moment around the campfire to look up at the sky and all the stars. Take a moment to appreciate your campanions, whoever they may be, or just the solidarity you have. Take a moment for yourself.