Camping: The Original Social Isolation


By: Mark Sunderland

If you’re going to be stuck inside, it may as well be inside a tent in the great outdoors. Here’s how camping can take the common out of quarantining. Nature abounds. And during the pandemic, we have seen nature rebound. A respite from the usual stresses of human interaction has caused a discernible difference in our urban and rural ecosystems, including our wildlife, our flora and fauna and even in the air quality in a few major American cities. It all sounds like a perfect time to go camping! Well, it sure would be. And it will be again. The question is, when?

As of this printing, the National Park System has closed or limited public access to a majority of park sites. Many state parks are closed as well. There are still private camping sites where camping is permitted. Although in many of these locations, common amenities, such as bathroom and shower facilities, remain shut down due to contamination and contagion risks. However, it seems safe to suggest that camping will be one of the first activities available to us when we cautiously return to getting out of our bunkers in small doses. In the meantime, some state park operators are resorting to creative ways to keep the public engaged.

Benji Studt, the public outreach supervisor for the Palm Beach County, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, is offering a way for nature lovers to stay connected to wildlife during these wildly different times. “We all are trying to get into this new normal, and so the thought with these videos is really just to provide a little bit of a story where people can see some of the beauty that still is going on around us,” Studt said. “We’re trying to tell stories that are interesting to us, hopefully are interesting to some other folks and hopefully they teach something along the way,” he said.

The fact is, while the parks are closed, nature continues. In Florida, long-legged wading birds are still teaching their spring hatchlings how to be birds. And none of the state’s wetland ground orchids have canceled their blooms, which only happens one month of the year around spring time. As we begin to transition to whatever life looks like post-pandemic, timeless pursuits, such as camping, may offer some people the only opportunities to get safely outside, mask-free, even as the acceptable ways we connect with each other in this new era remain uncertain.

It is impossible to predict exactly how the reopening of America will transpire. But the great, wide-open spaces will be a big attraction for those of us who long to be near a river, or around a campfire, reminiscing about camping pre-pandemic and pondering the state of the outdoors and its apparent new dangers to mankind.

Considering the worldwide pandemic pause, when we are all together — and keeping our social distance — camping under the right conditions can be a relatively safe outdoor endeavor. And depending on where you pitch your tent, it’s one of the most adventurous ways to shelter in place.


This article originally appeared in Growing Bolder Magazine. For more great stories like this, click here to subscribe to the digital or print editions of Growing Bolder Magazine. All past issues of GB Magazine, including the one that features this article, are also available to read online exclusively on the GB Portal. Click here to find out how to become a member!