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For better or worse, I live to work. Sure, I have the typical full-time, 9 to 5 job, but I also freelance as a project assistant for a world-renowned sociologist, and write on the side to boot. I’m in the midst of editing my first to-be-published novel. You could say I have a lot on my plate, but my mentality has always been “why not pile on more?”

I rarely cherish my achievements, sprinting from one goal marker to the next like a much more serious version of Super Mario.

I check my email obsessively. I fill my time with personal and professional projects, and I rarely slow down. It’s that Boston-area mentality of go-go-go-go and never stop.

Not only do I contribute this mentality of my Northeast New England breeding, but honestly, it originated in my grade-school standardized testing “MCAS” days. I vividly remember my 4th grade teacher telling us, “If the instructions ask for X many of words, give them more. Always give them more than what they’re asking.” And I did, and I continue to do so in almost every area of my life.

That is, until I burn out.

When my now-fiancé Shea told me he loves tent camping, I thought to myself, “Sounds like fun, but dear god I don’t know if I could do it.” On our first date, he even showed me a sweet picture of him on a water bike paddling around the lake that hugs the northernmost side of his favorite campground.

Could I—an email-, tech-, and work-obsessed person who hates being dirty—ever slow down enough to appreciate quality time spent in the outdoors?

Shockingly, yes.

Our—yes our—favorite campground is only 15 minutes outside of South Berwick, Maine.

Despite its close proximity to a bustling little downtown, you drive into the campground and you’re immediately transported like Platform 9 ¾: not 50 feet from the general store, the lake draws you in, promising certain serenity; and the trees that hug every inch of the camp make the place feel private, remote, and all the more comforting for it. My blood pressure immediately drops with the deep-seated ease and simplicity of it all.

Sure, I still get cell service there, but I never even want to check my phone—mind-blowing even to me. It’s the extra separation from creature comforts and our apartment, I think, that solidifies this relaxation. I could respond to emails on mobile, but for many projects I require my laptop, thus forcing me to be present and unplugged.

The peace and ease of nature, the bracing chill of early summer mornings, the lazy afternoons lounging and drinking: it’s heaven. We also sleep in tents—with air mattresses, bless—forging that added connection with the environment. There’s no agenda, our days are fluid, and we can explore or swim at a moment’s notice—definitely a change for a schedule-oriented person such as me.

We cook all our meals over the fire, but we don’t “rough it.”

Last year was the first time Shea and I camped on our own, without his brother Nate and sister-in-law Heather, both of whom wield some serious and long-time camping chops. They’re seasoned campers and know how to adeptly put down tarps, pitch tents, start fires, and cook almost anything.

Last year, however, Shea and I forged out on our own. Initially, I was a little hesitant but still willing. And guess what? We didn’t just survive, we thrived. Our solo journey was the best, and we didn’t even drop the pizza dough in the dirt like the previous year. We found peace in the great outdoors.

We embrace it. I’ve embraced it.

For a self-labeled nature writer that draws a lot of inspiration from the outdoors, I don’t get outside as much as I wish. But being able to do so for days on end, without distraction, is something magical.

Camping has certainly reformed many my city slicker ways. Because sometimes the frenetic pace and obsessive connectivity can really run you down. Instead of pushing the go-go-go pace, I’ve learned to slow down or even stop and smell the campfire.

Shalen Lowell

Shalen Lowell is an author and poet from southern Maine. They were also voted least likely to be an ENTJ Slytherin, but here we are.

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