As you read this, I want you to remember one very important thing: I hate camping.
I follow a few accounts of Chaco-wearing, handkerchief neck-banded, canoe-carrying women on Instagram. The type of women who leave their warm beds and running water behind for long trips in the woods. I’m in awe, and have always felt romanced by the beauty and pull of the woods and water.
No Thank You
But even though I’ve often found great peace in the silence of exploring the forests and lakes around me, I put a lot of value in being somewhere with electricity once the sun goes down. I don’t particularly find joy in covering myself in bug spray, checking for ticks, or finding spiders in my morning cereal. Sleeping on the cold ground with a rock digging into my back, waking up with everything feeling damp and dewy, and needing to use a shovel to take a bathroom break sounds more like a creative prison sentence than a vacation.
I don’t like s’mores. I can barely keep a fire going. Putting up and taking down a tent fills me with rage. Eating hot dogs without a bun because everything was waterlogged after the ice packs leaked inside the cooler is not my idea of a good time.
Before you ask me, “Have you even been camping before?” Yes, I have, thanks for asking. I often went camping when I was growing up because it was a cheap vacation for my single mother with three kids. I went camping in Texas with good friends from college during one spring break. We woke up to a Whataburger cup floating down the middle of our tent; it was hurricane season and our campsite was one giant mud puddle.
Four years ago I went camping with my husband and family and were plagued by black biting flies one day and torrential rain the next. My stepdaughter told me she never wanted to go camping again.
Unfortunately for her (and me), in about two weeks we are going camping again. Against my better judgement or the good common sense someone learns from their past experiences, we have decided to head into the woods for a while.
Despite my dislike of it, I recognize the importance of learning how to camp. Knowing how to build a fire, put up a tent, and spending some time “off-grid” has enormous life-long value for kids. Sharing a quiet hour or two around a poorly-made fire is a memory I want them to take with them into adulthood. Going to sleep sticky with marshmallows and bug spray a few times is a slightly unpleasant, but perhaps necessary, life experience. Waking up with the sun and the birds and bouncing the morning dew off the sides of your tent can be a glorious experience.
I hate camping but I’m taking my kids because I know it has value. I hate camping but will sacrifice my comfort for a few days to give my kids these memories. I do insist on a compromise though; we are staying somewhere with flush toilets. That’s my hard line in the sand!