What it looks like when people who can’t camp camp

As part of the Mac & Cheese I Can’t series where adults state they’re unable to do something, they try it with a bunch of other adults who also “can’t,” and everyone proves themselves wrong and not only does the thing, but enjoys it and says, “That wasn’t so bad. In fact, kinda fun. Good for me! What’s next?!”, nine of us, ages 18 to 50ish, mostly strangers, mostly solo, mostly from Chicago (one Indiana’er and a couple of suburbanites), some with kids, single/married/dating/divorced, English teacher to standardized test creator to unemployed “figuring it out” to college freshman to TV station accountant spent 48 hours in Michigan’s Manistee Forest for I Can’t: Camp.

Some had never been camping before, some had been multiple times.

Fears were wide-ranging

  • non-human beings (bears, snakes, fish, mosquitoes)
  • physical activity
  • being out of shape
  • heights
  • fitting in
  • getting lost
  • being unplugged
  • being away from work
  • lack of showers and plumbing
  • lack of privacy
  • having to carry and cook our food
  • bad sleep
  • rain
  • being hot
  • being cold
  • being uncomfortable
  • being sweaty
  • being a snorer
  • group dynamic
  • group living

Reasons for coming were wide-ranging

  • nature
  • quiet space
  • quiet mind
  • camp for the 1st time
  • camp for the 1st time in a long time
  • nostalgia
  • personal growth
  • challenge
  • meeting others
  • being with others who want to camp
  • accompany a friend scared to go alone
  • physical exertion
  • learn camping know-how
  • do something for self


Leading us was Aaron of Adventures Accessed. As the person who is usually the planner and leader and cleaner-upper, I relished simply being a participant once our adventure began. I didn’t lead one discussion, I didn’t create a meal spreadsheet, I facilitated zero ice breakers, I read zero maps, I thought zero steps ahead. It was glorious.

I had the best nap ever Saturday afternoon. So deep. I have no idea how long it was. It could’ve been 7 minutes, it could’ve been three hours.

I have never jolted up from sleep as scared as I did the first night when I heard a bear outside my tent. (Turns out, not a bear. Snorer.)

I so enjoyed our meandering conversations, from silly to serious and everything in between. Homeschooling. Living abroad. Making friends as an adult. Dream weddings. Learning to play guitar. Fostering dogs. Best cleaning practices. Mutual connections. Complex family relationships. The restaurant world. Disciplining kids. Dating deal-breakers. Online dating. Feelings on couples sharing an email account.

I so enjoyed laughing hard, bellyache hard, with others.

I so enjoyed looking a hot mess and not caring one bit.

I so enjoyed being with sarcastic, joke’y people.

I so enjoyed being with people who are incredibly different from me — age, religion, income, education, interests, physicalness — and feeling nothing but fascination and appreciation for our differences. It only matters if you’re the only guy, you’re the oldest, you’re the heaviest if you make it matter.

I really appreciate people who see when something needs to be done and they do it and when there’s an overall Go team go! vibe. I had another group living experience that caused me much stress and frustration because “pull your own weight” was not a mantra half of the group ascribed to. Kick in money, do the dishes, take out the garbage, do a drink run. One of the reasons I enjoyed this adventure as much as I did was due to the balance of give and take. Everyone pitched in, everyone supported. No one had to nag, no one carried anyone else. Everyone was a mother lovin’ adult. Including the 18 year old.

Always bring a pillow. Even if it’s mini.

Bring less clothes.

I like being with others who are ok with not talking.

Heavy duty mosquito repellent may be made of the worst chemicals but I chose the worst chemicals over being a sweet meat mosquito delicacy. I doused myself in “nox toxic” repellent and it did nothing. My only moments of misery were mosquito-based.

I wish I had brought a book/kindle. Aaron suggested one. Should’ve listened.

I brought a journal and pen. Never touched ’em.

Food when you’re camping tastes so so good. “These are the best apples I’ve ever had!”

Food when you’re done camping tastes so so good. Shoutout to Culvers.

One of the sweetest scenes I’ve ever witnessed was a husband and two kids waiting for mom in a parking lot off the expressway, standing in their topless jeep, grinning from ear to ear, wildly waving at our van as we pulled up.

The “return to society” shower is one of the best things you will ever experience.

I will never stop being amazed and appreciative and surprised at how strangers interact with strangers in an environment that encourages being oneself, being open, and being supportive.

48 hours goes by in minutes. 48 hours feels like a lifetime.


I like camping. Infrequently. For short ’bouts. With people who know what they’re doing and provide all the things and knowledge. With give & take people. With people who don’t complain and who go with the flow. With leaders who lead by leading and by following.

My ideal scenario is hiking, water time, lazing around with a book or organic conversation, staring at and smelling campfire, stargazing, and then going inside to eat, pee, poop, shower, sleep.

But every once in awhile, discomfort is good. Stress is bonding. Challenge is empowering. Fear is rejuvenating. Camping is alright.

Think this sounds horrible-fun? Stay tuned for our Fall trip. Can you say leaf peeping?! To learn when registration opens, join the Mac & Cheese 2x a month e-list and/or follow Mac & Cheese on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

One of the campers made this along with a few other inside joke memes. 😍