I Think I Hate Camping

Every summer, I try to build up enough momentum to go camping with the kids. A group of families from the kids’ school go camping together, with comraderie and nature appreciation reputedly high. It’s a perfect opportunity.

My husband, a seasoned and hardy camper, doesn’t want to go. Or rather, he doesn’t want to go with me. He suspects that I will be uncomfortable and unhappy, and experience suggests that means he will be uncomfortable and unhappy.

Still I push for it because I lack self-knowledge it’s supposed to be so fun, so Canadian, so great for kids! Elisa’s camping exploits make me think maybe I can do it too! And I fall for the romance of camping, lulled by its siren call, and always feel a little inadequate that we don’t go.

And this, in spite of having ready and sometimes exclusive access to my in-laws’ positively stunning cottage on an island in Georgian Bay. It is so ruggedly beautiful there, I honestly can’t imagine anything better. The children have free run of the place, usually with a gaggle of cousins and friends. It’s a ton of fun, so Canadian, and so great for kids.

Yet, even with this amazing privilege of cottage access, I struggle with the reality of not wanting to camp. That is, until this summer. From our cottage’s huge windows I watched the rain with a guilty thrill of self-preservation as it poured for hours and hours on a day I knew my friends were camping. One friend’s child broke a collarbone horsing around in the tent – she later confessed that their hours in the emergency hospital room were a welcome break from the pounding rain.

I was so thoroughly glad I wasn’t there, so glad my reality won out over romance: I hate camping.

I don’t want to live and not-sleep in a small triangular tarp. I don’t want to swelter during the daytime and shiver at night. I don’t want to be fodder for mosquitoes and other critters, and I don’t want to eat rehydrated product from MEC. I don’t want to carry heavy packs and – oh, please – I don’t want to carry upside-down boats. I really, really don’t want to sleep on the ground. I’m a brown-skinned immigrant – we spend our whole lives trying to get off the damn ground.

Unlike Nathalie, who knows and embraces her distaste of camping, and Kelly Quinn, who knows even glamping can go wrong, I might find myself one day camping with my family because I fall for romance, and romance says it’s so fun, so Canadian, so good for kids! That is, if my husband, in a weak moment, agrees to go with me.

But really it would be better if he doesn’t agree, and I don’t go. Because wanting to be the mom who wants to go camping does not a mom who wants to go camping make. Because there are other ways to love the outdoors, and make wonderful memories with your kids.

But especially because I’m gonna hate it.

This post first appeared on Plenty in August 2016.

4 thoughts

  1. I love this so much! Neither my husband nor I like camping and we’ve passed our distaste on to our children without them even having tried. Really, it’s a blessing. I don’t have to hear the pleas of “can we go camping? Billy goes and he says it’s really fuuuun.” Enjoy the access to your in-laws’ dry, comfy cottage.

  2. It’s come upon me, perhaps, with age, Carol – but I’m with you. It’s boutique hotels for me these days. I’m totally done with tents (and hostels for that matter), unless I’m doing something unusual, like wilderness backpacking where there are no quaint inns. But those days may be done too.

    If we’re going to be honest, camping is popular with Canadians not because we carry some sort of CBC-approved outdoors gene, but for one dominant reason: it’s relatively cheap. Most people have no access to a Georgian Bay cottage because they don’t have the money and the privilege that comes with it. People with money typically don’t camp, they go to the cottage or fly to some vacation destination.

    I remember my visit to your in-laws’ cottage very fondly and vividly. They were very kind to me, and I was very grateful to have been included. But in some ways, I was a fish out of water. Cottages weren’t in my family background; what was were tents in packed campgrounds surrounded in noisy drunk 40-year old adolescents throwing empty mosquito repellent cans into campfires.

    That said, it’s a good thing for the more privileged kids (and adults) to experience non-glamp camping at least occasionally, for two reasons. One, which I suspect is Ben’s prime motivation, is to experience a connection to the outdoors in a way that a mere day trip can’t provide. The other is that, as I imagine it, it educates children on how their less privileged neighbours vacation so that they don’t grow up thinking that their own experiences are the societal norm, but are rather the statistical exception.

    1. Omg Ed, how I miss talking to you. When are you coming east again? Trying to instill some sense of the privilege the kids have is an ongoing project and is indeed a reason to rough it by camping. (But why do I have to go? I know all about my current privileges, not having enjoyed them in my youth either). I actually wrote about the issue of privilege that when we took them to Malaysia – did you catch that one? http://plentythemagazine.com/2016/08/05/top-five-reasons-travel-internationally-kids/
      Our eldest went camping with a friend this summer and is now on a quest to get our whole family to go, so who knows what our camping future entails? If it does materialize, I want a really big tent, with very cushy mattresses, a mosquito zapper, and proper food etc. Are these the words of a princess of unprivilege – is there such a thing? It’s so good to hear your voice, in words and all.

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