The Fourth of July is fast approaching, and everyone is rushing to buy burgers, hotdogs, beer, and fireworks. But for a good portion of the population, their Fourth of July wouldn’t be complete without another item—a tent. In my house, camping was a MUST, and many of my childhood summers were spent in a tent with my siblings. According to my parents, it was a time to relax and get away from technology (this was before cell phones). Needless to say, I didn’t appreciate the sentiment at the time (my Game Boy always managed to come along). But, as I’ve gotten older and the technology more advanced, I begin to see the need to get away—especially now that I’m unemployed. This is why camping is the second activity on my list.
Camping is a great for us (the unemployed) for many reasons. The first reason is simple—EVERYONE needs to get away for a while. This concept may be hard for some of us to accept. If you’re like me, you feel guilty even thinking about taking a vacation while unemployed. This is because our society propagates the idea that if you’re not spending all your time applying for jobs and interviewing, then you are a deadbeat. Even today, many people view vacations as a luxury that is only acceptable for those who have worked hard to “earn it.” The unemployed are exempt from this list because their lives are perceived to be stress-free—everyday is a vacation for them. But if you have ever gone for long periods of time without a job, you know that this statement is far from the truth. As this article from 2012 explains, unemployment is a serious health risk. Long periods of unemployment can double a person’s chance of having a major depressive episode and has been linked to alcohol abuse and suicide. So it is just as important for an unemployed individual to vacation as it is for someone who is employed (Here are the positive effects of a vacation).
Secondly, camping is relatively inexpensive. The cost of renting a campsite averages between $10-$30 a night. Some places can be more expensive—especially near the holidays or if you get a site that has electrical ports. But other places can offer weekend deals during slow weeks. This weekend, I went camping with friends at a local park, and our site was only $20 for the whole weekend. The relatively low costs of camping can actually make it possible to make money. An elderly couple on the site next to ours explained that they rented out their house every summer. In the process, they would make enough extra cash to afford larger trips later in the year.
However, the low cost of renting campsites does not mean there are no large costs to camping at all. I am lucky enough to already own camping gear. But for those who don’t, tents can be expensive, and the added costs of lanterns, sleeping bags, and coolers full of groceries can become astronomical for someone without a job. But there is good news, a tent is one of those items that many people buy but hardly ever use. This means you most likely know at least one person that has one. Asking to borrow camping gear shouldn’t be too much of a problem—unless you don’t have a good relationship with that person. But if push-comes-to-shove and you still can’t get a tent, all you really need to camp is a sleeping bag and an accurate weather forecast.
Lastly, while on my camping trip, I realized that there is a special benefit specifically for the unemployed. The park I stayed in had no cell phone service, and absolutely no Wi-Fi. At first, I was paralyzed with fear. What if an employer calls? What if they email me? I had come to depend on technology for my self-esteem since becoming unemployed. I wasn’t happy unless I applied to four or five new jobs daily and checked my phone hundreds of times for a response. But, while sitting around the campfire—no phone and no computer in front of me—I felt better than I had in a long while. My friends were around me, laughing and talking, and it reminded me that I am more than what is on a piece of paper—I was more than my résumé. And that is the most important thing that we—as unemployed individuals—need to be reminded of. With all the time we spend trying to sell ourselves to employers, we need to stop, unplug, and interact with others to feel like real people.