The Great Outdoors

Canada is blessed with an abundance of nature. Camping is an affordable way to experience it, while promoting family bonding at the same time.

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Published in Parents Canada in July 2015

Every summer for 17 years, Temmi Ungerman Sears and her husband, David, planned an annual two-week camping trip with their kids, Jeremy, Dylan and Ilana. They'd pack up their seven-person tent to drive hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometres to parks across the country.

They kayaked in northern Ontario's Lake Superior Park, hiked the Rockies in Alberta's Banff National Park, watched humpback whales leap in the air near Quebec's Jacques-Cartier National Park and dined on freshly steamed lobster at their campsite in Cape Breton Highlands National Park.

Temmi looks back on these camping adventures with nostalgia and joy. She recalls the daily ritual that began with reading around the fire in the morning, followed by hearty breakfasts of pancakes and scrambled eggs before heading out to hike, swim, kayak or chill at the beach.

Late in the afternoons they'd all head back to the site to prepare dinner and play poker - using M&Ms as poker chips - or charades around the evening campfire. Each day ended the same way - cocooned in their sleeping bags nestled next to one another, as one by one they dimmed their flashlights and drifted off to sleep in the dark night.

Camping, she says, is what made her family become "unified, close-knit and loving. All of us were always growing and changing, but camping was the one constant," she says. "We were together in nature, unplugged, and we would appreciate the natural world - and each other. It was an annual ritual that reaped such incredible benefits."

While camping enriched their lives beyond measure, it also happened to be affordable. Temmi says their annual two-week treks rarely cost more than $500 for site fees, food and activities such as kayak rentals (but she notes site costs have increased). "These were such valuable and meaningful trips and they cost so little."

Today, her kids still talk about their favourite camping experiences and enjoy looking through the photo albums. "There are so many memories. Camping really helped create our family history."

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