That's why federal and state governments moved to protect nature through the creation of parks, forests, seashores and other recreational areas. With more than 80% of Americans now living in cities, satisfying a hunger for nature -- if we have it -- is a choice.
A little more hardcore
For Tanya Merchant of Denver, even a campground is a little too much civilization. Although they've done some campground camping with their two young sons, Merchant and her husband, James, prefer to backpack until they feel they are truly in nature.
"No power, no running water, no toilets of any kind," she wrote via e-mail. "We just need a place to pitch the tent, build a fire, and explore. We never feel like we are really camping until someone questions whether we put the bear bag high enough!" (That's to protect their food -- and themselves -- from prowling bears).
Working together in that environment is key: A trip with her husband hiking six miles into Colorado's Mount Zirkel Wilderness to camp at Seven Lakes brought them closer together.
"James helped me get around and over fallen trees, and he helped me climb large boulders to get a better view of our surroundings," she said. "Without all of the distractions in the city and from technology, we got to spend actual quality time together again, and it has made our marriage stronger."
Too intense for this traveler
That kind of camping isn't for Denise Kates, an empty nester who recently bought a recreational vehicle with her husband, Butch.
He grew up tent camping and has tried to persuade his wife to camp for years. She loves to walk on the beach, kayak and swim, but she doesn't want to tent camp.
"I've heard time and again that my definition of camping isn't what most consider camping, but I'm not interested in the 'primitive' style of camping," she wrote via e-mail. "I have the best of both worlds when traveling. I get the camping experience with a campfire on the beach, and just steps away, is the air-conditioned camper with my flat screen TV."
None of it sounds good to Deborah Cane, who doesn't want to deal with bugs or lugging her gear to a campsite. And then she has to pack it all up? "That doesn't sound like a vacation," she wrote. "That sounds like housekeeping."
Her perfect vacation: "A hotel with a private beach, a cooler filled with bottles of ice-cold Coca-Cola and a stack of books that I haven't had a chance to read. And one rainy day where I spend half the day at the local museum and half the day watching movies at a local movie theater."
As expensive as you want it to be
Camping can be quite affordable, or it can cost you as much to get outfitted as a fancy beach vacation.
Campers spent more than $1.75 billion dollars on camping equipment in 2011, according to an April 2012 Mintel Group report. Yet most people are buying their gear at Walmart, which was the top supplier for 62% of campers surveyed by Mintel. Coleman was the most popular brand purchased.
"Camping is like any other hobby -- it can be very bare bones and simple, or quite elaborate depending on what you like to do," says lifelong camper Christine McGowan, a National Wildlife Federation spokeswoman.
Stick a toe in the water
If you've camped and had enough, never mind. No one can convince you of the magic of roasting marshmallows on an open fire or sleeping underneath the stars after you've been attacked by bugs.
If you want to try camping, consider the National Wildlife Federation's "Great American Backyard Campout" on June 22. Registration is free, and the website lists camping tips (including pitching a tent), recipes, songs, stories and games.
If your backyard isn't safe or you don't have one, check the website for a nearby park or pitch a tent in your living room.
If you decide to try a nearby state or national park campground for the first time, park websites often have a few tips about how to camp in those areas. (They also may require reservations.) And some stores such as REI rent equipment and have classes to teach would-be campers the basics. Check out their 10 basic essentials list and camping "how to" articles.
Don't try to convince the haters
Some lessons learned: If you love sleeping outside and want your loved ones to join you, make sure to ask about camping before you propose.
When Broadway actress Jen Cody's husband proposed to her, she said yes -- with three conditions: "I won't ever camp EVER ... not EVER." (The others involved not traveling in a Winnebago or living in a trailer.)
Wax on all you like about the beauty of sleeping under the stars. Cody, who grew up camping in upstate New York, won't do it unless it's on stage or screen.