The Value in Campfire Chats

The campfire. To most campers, it is a vital symbol.

A symbol of survival, as it provides warmth through heat.

A symbol of community, as the chairs assemble around it.

A symbol of bond, as the stories and chatter make their way around.

The fire pit is the center of the campsite, around which, the magic of family and friendship is conjured.

I know someone in Las Vegas coined the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” but it should have come from someone in the camping world. “What happens around the campfire, stays in the campfire!” It’s that sacred.

My most recent fishing trip found me on a three day camping excursion with one of my best fishing buddies. It was just the two of us, and it turned out to be a great weekend full of adventure, hiking, bushwhacking, and a bunch of beautiful fish.

But my favorite part of the weekend was the talk around the campfire. The two of us delved into deep discussions of life and parenting and working and money and aging and relationships and loving and fishing. And what I discovered in these campfire chats were the components we possessed to allow it to happen organically.

  1. Reciprocity: the exchange of thought and ideas with mutual benefit. We both are able to provide insight and advice to help each other. It seemed that the 20 year age gap in our friendship allows for us to be in different places, with each of us able to help the other. We can both take advice and find value in it to help us with something we are struggling with. Financial advice from the one who is much better with it. Parenting advice from the one who has been through it. Valuable exchange of advice and thought.
  2. Listening: Something that seems to be lost in our ever evolving world is the ability to listen. The campfire seems to create a chill atmosphere where listening exudes itself. It seems to heighten itself, naturally when in the wilderness. But the crackling of the fire becomes the focal point, providing something to stare at intensely while listening to a friend open up about their life. It seems easier to do. Add to that ambiance a friend you care deeply about, listening becomes valuable because you have opened yourself fully and stand to learn much.
  3. The Social Currency of Advice: I don’t claim to be an expert at anything. All I got is experience. I try to keep it simple. However, in building friendships, the sharing of experiences in helping others inevitably becomes advice. The campfire chat becomes a place where advice may be the most valuable social currency one owns and can offer. It isn’t something that is just thrown about haphazardly. Advice is authentically real, in that when you offer it, and it is accepted…it can be impactful. Therefore, it better be good. It better be well thought out. No matter what, advice is a staple of the campfire chat.
  4. Willingness: The campfire chat offers the opportunity to willingly be open, vulnerable, thoughtful, creative, and caring. If you are willing to engage in honest conversation and are willing to take risks with your thinking, you stand to gain insight that will make you stronger, happier, more empathetic, and more mindful.

The best part about a campfire chat is that no two are alike. No matter how long you end up talking into the night, the next time around seems to be completely different. It is similar to fishing in that sense. You can fish the same stretch of water over and over, but each time offers a different experience. You discover fish in spots you hadn’t before, or you see a new vista because you looked up when standing in a different place.

While each campfire chat brings its own authentic experience, the one thing they have in common seems to be the strengthening bond with family and friends every time you throw water on it and walk away.

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