*Disclaimer- Imagine me BELTING each of these songs as I drive*
Early last April I woke up with a jolting idea, “I need to take myself camping for my birthday.” After researching the gear and submitting to the overwhelm of not knowing what to buy, I decided to extend my birthday into a birthyear.
Solo camping became my primary (recreational) goal of 26. And boy, did I double down on that promise. How could an Earth Day baby not love camping?!
By June, my uncle took me on a 12-day camping trip across Northern California, Oregon, and Washington to re-learn the basics. He renovated the family soccer van to sleep in, while I camped my happy behind into the forest. After that trip I’ve camped at:
New River Gorge, WV
Allegheny Forest, PA
Joshua Tree, CA
Roosevelt Lake, AZ
Salt River, AZ
Alamo Lake, AZ
Patagonia Lake, AZ
Organ Pipe National Monument in Ajo, AZ
A ghost town in Ruby, AZ
Tucson Mountain Park, AZ
And I ended 26 by camping at the Grand Canyon with my dad!
Needless to say, I’ve spent some time driving to and from camps, curating the perfect soundtracks (for me) along the way.
Take a trip with my camping playlist. From leaving just before sunrise all the way to the journey home, this playlist highlights the best parts of camping that evoke:
🚙Independence 🧭Wanderlust 🏞️Immense growth 🌄Sincere appreciation 🏕️Pure joy
(Leaving before sunrise) Shake The Frost (Live) by Tyler Childers
“I love you like the mountains love the way the mornin’ opens to a soft and bright greeting from the sun.” You haven’t lived until you’ve listened to this song as soon as the sun peaks over your nearest mountain range. A sweet reminder to love the people in our lives and to love them well.
(Starting the drive)Me and Julio Down by The Schoolyard by Paul Simon
“I’m on my way. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m on my way. I’m taking my time, but I don’t know where. ” This background music sounds EXACTLY like sliding a straw through a drive-through lid. I live for the bold “Whoa” in the middle and the fact that I can’t whistle but make funny sounds anyway. This song is pure silliness and joy. Perfect for any road trip.
(Getting stir-crazy in the car)Welcome to Hard Times by Charley Crockett
“Do you like sinnin’? No? Well, you will before you go.” Nothing like hollering out a fun tune on a serious subject. This song helps me stay silly when passing the stir-crazy time in the car. *I don’t condone referring to someone experiencing homelessness as being a “hobo.”*
(Being within 1 hour of camp)anemone by slenderbodies
“Dreaming of a place where I can be by myself” This upbeat, dreamy, ethereal sound is super fun to groove to in the car, on a walk, or while exploring. I love when this song comes on as I’m nearing the campsite AKA nearing a weekend alone.
(Arriving at camp)I. Flight of the Navigator by Childish Gambino
And none of this ever ended. Everything just kept going, and going, and going. And even when you laughed, you cried. And even when you were sad, you were really happy because you were here. And I got to meet every star, every planet, everything that made me.
And we all kissed and became the same. We became the same. The truth behind this intro sends shivers through my whole body. Life is cyclical, and until we realize that everything is connected, we’re always going to struggle with resentment, guilt, and regrets. This song puts me into a whole-picture perspective when I arrive at my newest destination. It makes me think and deeply feel, “This Is Why.”
(Setting up the tent)Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones
“If I don’t get some shelter, ooh yeah, I’m gonna’ fade away.” Dad rock belongs on every camping playlist. I firmly stand by this. Singing this song is a great use of difficult energy that I’m feeling with the world-state right now. Plus the raw emotion in the squealing/singing at the end? Phew!
(Hiking/Exploring)I’ll Be a Sky by The Tallest Man on Earth
“The sun is up there like a blazing eye, and I go swimming in the cold river, and I get hungry for the big ideas–how I could carry this whole world, brother.” This song describes the sweet surprises waiting around each turn of the trail. I love how he mindfully describes the natural world around him and realizes that he’s a part of the bigger picture. I feel like I’m a little lost most of the time, but I don’t really mind too.
(Swaying in the hammock)Jungle by Tash Sultana
“Welcome to the jungle, are you gonna’ dance with me? Welcome to the jungle, you got to close your eyes to see.” Gently swaying in a hammock right before the sunset starts–listening to these instrumentals paired with Tash Sultana’s wail is the perfect way to unwind after setting up camp and exploring a new area.
(That moment of loneliness that sets in right before sunset)Cowpoke by Colter Wall
“Some evening in springtime a filly I’ll find, and I might spend all summer with her on my mind. But I’ll never be branded, and never be broke, I’m a carefree, range-riding, drifting cowpoke.” Honestly, “Cowpoke” is my favorite camping song. This twangy cover is perfect for feeling like a lonely cowboy. His need for simplicity, freedom, travel, and solitude speaks to my soul, which is why I’m always on the go. (Yes, I totally yodel along.) If you love this song, check out the older versions by Eddie Arnold and Elton Britt. The latter will NOT disappoint.
(Sunset) Chocolate Hills by Khruangbin and Leon Bridges
“Baby, let’s go slide out to a place no one knows. Are we dreaming, are we not?
Who cares, let’s get lost in the flow.” Chocolate Hills is smooth and fun to sway to–much like all of Leon Bridges (and the rest of this album.)
(Campfire) Dancing in the Moonlight by King Harvest
“When the moon gets big and bright, it’s a supernatural delight. Everybody was dancing in the moonlight.” A true nighttime classic–fun to groove to, fun to sing, and fitting for a campfire under the stars and a big moon.
(Stargazing) Whiskey by Trampled by Turtles
“My home is with the hills and trees around me. My ceiling holds the moon and stars above, so I’ll never be a lonely man a’walking. I’ll never live one day without love.” Mmm, this is what home in nature feels like. Camping and alone time in nature allow me to connect with myself, quell my worries, and focus on my gratitude.
(Settling into the tent after a fulfilling day) Slow Burn by Kacey Musgraves
“Old soul, waitin’ my turn. I know a few things, but I still got a lot to learn, so I’m alright with a slow burn.” Since childhood, I’ve been called an old soul (which is a pretty heavy thing to call a 5-year-old.) These lyrics calm me when I feel like I need to live up to that description. I don’t need to have everything figured out right away. I’m supposed to be lost and learning.
(Starting the drive home) Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic
“Do anything, take us out of this gloom. Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy.” This song is like the rolling credits of a movie. Imagine driving away from a successful, adventurous, necessary weekend in nature–challenging your inner critic, talking to your curious inner child, and making excellent memories for your future self. Yeah, pretty bitter-sweet. It’s the simple sorrow and gratitude of experiencing pure happiness.
The next time you need some music in nature (or a playlist that takes the amount of time it took me to clean my room and bathroom) here ya’ go!
Stay tuned for our June playlist: Man Bands Vs. Boy Bands
Good JuJu Agency. Marketing worth smiling about. 😃
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