yurtFarts. The butt of so many jokes. The joke of so many butts. Growing up, I firmly believed that flatulence was infinitely funny; that cranking one out and laughter went hand in hand. Always.

But a winter camping trip with some friends proved I was wrong. Dead, stinking wrong. Emphasis on the stinking.

In 2012, my friends Jared, Tony, Darryl, Shaun and I gathered for a weekend of yurt camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park. The sucky weather was not unusual for an Ontario March: too warm for winter fun like skating or tobogganing, too cold for the beach or other outdoorsy stuff. Which meant our quintet would spend the bulk of our trip squirreled away inside the confines of our yurt.

We didn’t mind. With a heater to keep us warm, deck of cards to keep us busy and multiple cases of beer at hand to keep us properly stupid, we were sittin’ pretty.  Of course, there was also the ginormous pot of chilli Tony brought that would serve as the main source of food for the week… and our undoing.

With nothing but beans and beer in our bellies, it didn’t take long for the gases to build. Through the first few games of Euchre, we greeted each fart with a laudatory cheer. But as the night wore on, the cheering was replaced with choking as the noxious fumes emanating from our gotchies assaulted our senses. Stench and shame hung heavy in the air.

We had done it. We had transformed our yurt into a furt.

We didn’t fare much better the next day. Jared kicked things off by waking everyone up with his butt trumpet. I found my way out of the top bunk and through the methane haze to the door. Pulling it open, I breathed deep the sweet relief of fresh air.

I made my way to the camp bathrooms a few sites down. While taking care of my morning business, a disturbing realization came to mind: the camp toilet was far less offensive than our furt. Girding myself, I left the sweet-smelling comfort station and returned to the toxic wasteland that was our weekend home. I could smell the boys twenty yards out and half-expected to see the trees surrounding the yurt all shrivelled up and dead.

The stinky weekend continued with more drama. A bold racoon found his way into our cooler and ate my veggie dogs (I’m assuming its sense of smell and taste had been affected by the fart cloud it foolishly entered). We narrowly averted disaster when a gust of wind toppled a tree onto the BBQ shelter next to the yurt. A freak snowstorm whipped through the campground.

Despite all this, the five of us had a blast. Yes, it was smelly. Yes, it was snowy. Yes, it was silly. But man, was it fun.

Moral of the story

yurt pic

True, camping isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But each year, millions of people willingly trade their creature comforts for mosquito bites, sunburns and sore backs from sleeping on tree roots. Why?

I’m sure there are a slew of reasons. But a big one for me is the opportunity to connect—with nature, with each other, with ourselves.

Our cars, cubicles and concrete jungles increasingly cut us off from our innate need to commune with the natural world. For me, spending time in the great outdoors is a sure-fire way to decompress, reduce stress and improve my outlook. Meanwhile, research points to all sorts of other health benefits, from improving depression symptoms to even increasing the number of cancer-fighting white blood cells in our bodies.

From a social point of view, farty camping trips can be a great way to engage with friends and family in a meaningful way. Tweets and texts may keep us connected, but quality time around a campfire or on an early morning hike allow for real connection.

Simple(ton) Living by Josh MartinFinally, getting away from your regular routine—whether it’s a hike in the woods or a fart-filled yurt—is also a great opportunity for introspection. In the frantic busyness of our lives, it’s tricky to find time for self-reflection and personal development. Oftentimes, we need to step away from our day-to-day routine to reconnect with ourselves and wrestle with our place in the world.

As Albert Einstein said, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Like these stories? You’ll find a whole whack of them — more than 50 in fact — in my book Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.

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