Lessons Learned From 7 Weeks in the Woods

imagesI just came back from living in Vermont for over 7 weeks, and I feel rejuvenated (as always is the case!).

To leave the suburbs of New Jersey and the craziness of New York City for some time is always very healthy for me and my family; I always learn something, and I try to bring the knowledge back to “real life” for as long as possible.

Here is what I learned this summer:

1.  Going Barefoot is Good.  Traditionally, most students and faculty at my camp go barefoot for the entire summer.  I have always worn sandals or flip-flops instead, but this summer I resolved to ditch my shoes for a few days each week.  It was amazing!  Studies have shown that walking barefoot has numerous health benefits such as increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation and improving sleep.  The connection to the Vermont earth allowed me to be mindful of the present and helped me  feel closer to nature.

2.  A Family of Four Only Needs 1200 Square Feet in Which to Live…Max!  My NJ home is about 3000 square feet.  A few years ago we actually considered moving into a larger home!  Our Vermont home is a rustic cottage with three small bedrooms, one bathroom, and a living and dining room (with a kitchen, of course).  I imagined my kids living there with us as teenagers; it would still be fine!  People don’t need that much space.  Large homes are a waste for more reasons than I wish to list here.  I am looking for a 3 bedroom space here in Jersey with that much square footage and not finding much yet…

3.  Life is Really Freaking Short.  For the second time in seven years, I had an episode with my heart.  It put me in the hospital for 3 days, and it was really scary.  If I ever needed a reminder that We Only Do This Once, and we need to pursue work and things we are passionate about, that was it.  Petty people and things cease to agitate me anymore; life is too freaking short.

4.  My Family was Just as Happy Without Stuff.  We don’t bring much up to Vermont in the way of stuff.  My favorite form of entertainment was building a fire in a pit outside and watching it.  Swimming in the local pond and playing in the grass was free and meaningful entertainment.  Reading books felt wonderful as well.  We treat ourselves once a week to a trip to the local thrift store.  A couple of bucks and a few toys later, everyone is happy!

5.  Good Conversation with People You Respect is Priceless.  After concerts on Saturdays, it’s tradition at my camp that all the staff cook for each other and hang out through the night and talk.  Since my staff are all my good friends, my time with them over the summer is more than any time I spend socially combined all year…Sad, but true!  Good conversation with great friends is priceless; we all need to do it more often.

You want to know the best part of all of this?  I was surrounded by 95 high school kids from around the world who didn’t bring any technology to camp….and they had an incredible time as well!

So, as always, my wife and I came home and started boxing up clutter.  We gave away several bags of “stuff” today, and we will continue decluttering as the year progresses.

People do not need much to be happy.  Let’s always remember that.


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