Who said the 'great outdoors' was just for abled people? I have been a big fan of camping under the stars my entire life, but after becoming disabled, all my camping and travel dreams got constrained. Camping trips got limited to a night or two and mostly remained local.
However, this year I decided to go for it and persist on a multi-day camping trip. I was accompanied by a huge group of my family members as we headed to camp at the Glacier National Park.
Hiking and camping are often advised for people with decent levels of endurance. Further, they are advertised in a way that makes it appear like there is a 'non-disabled people only' sign on the great outdoors and activities.
Going out into nature and connecting with the Earth reminds me to be grateful for being alive on this planet. Being outdoors provides me the opportunity to do just this. I wish to continue camping for as long as my body allows me to. In the start, it was not easy, but over time, I trained my mind and body through experimentation.
Here are some of my learnings.
1. Begin with short 'practice runs.'
Starting small was important as I wanted to know what I was getting into. It also made me understand how my body would react. After managing a night in a cabin, I decided to go for a two-day camping trip. It quickly made me realize that my body needs a real mattress and not the rocky ground.
However, if you want to give sleeping bags a try, I suggest you buy them from brands like Planet camping that are highly reliable and offer top quality.
As years passed, I kept camping for multiple days, at places close to my house. They felt safe as I could return home early whenever I needed to. This raised my confidence, and I began to learn the skills required to camp comfortably, while also keeping in mind my body's limitations.
2. Remember to troubleshoot before the trip
If there's one important thing I understood through long journeys, it is that car rides are especially hard on my body. They often make me feel nervous, and are very daunting.
To I made sure to pack all the things I would ever need. I knew that this was not the time to try and push through the symptoms.
3. Create a meal plan specifically for the trip
Although I managed to take care of all my medications and pain killers, I failed at planning for food. Understandably so, I felt hungry and tired at 5 pm on my first full day spent near a lake, while every part of my body was writhing in pain. I found myself in a pool of tears at an unknown grocery store and realized that a trip-specific meal plan was crucial.
I learned it the hard way, but you don't have to. Make sure to have a food plan, particularly if you have any dietary specifications. One of the simplest yet effective ways to take care of my body and manage my health is to feed myself on time with foods that I can tolerate.
I wrongly assumed that I would save some space in my bag by leaving out food and getting groceries from a convenience store near my destination. While this might be a sound plan for able-bodied people, I can tell you that it did not work for me. I ran out of energy, had to deal with immense pain, and felt very hungry.
I suggest you figure out what you will require to cook and curate a meal plan from the list of foods. I also advise you to run a background check about the grocery stores that are close to the place where you would be staying.
4. Do not hesitate to rest if you need to
I knew that my body would require some rest and maybe more than usual. While in my everyday life, I lie down whenever I feel like it, when I was on a camping trip, I had to force myself to rest.
I scheduled my rest at periodic intervals where I could lay down horizontal, either reading or napping, playing or chatting. This acted as an instant recharge and allowed my body to really experience the activities of the trip, be it walking or simply sitting by the fire.
Most importantly, bask in the happiness of the moment!
The biggest lesson I learned while camping was to enjoy myself. I was making truckloads of memories, and I was grateful for all of it. The great outdoors is not just for the able-bodied people, but they are meant for all of us!
Keep my tips in mind, and do not be afraid to step out into the outdoors!