Everyone has their own idea of the perfect vacation, and I respect that each of us has a very different idea of what the ‘perfect’ vacation looks like.
My idea of a holiday involves getting away in every sense. It doesn’t involve cooking, laundry, vacuuming, computers, or relatives. What is does involve is a warm bed, electricity, and indoor plumbing, and in the absence of either it’s just another working day. Don’t misunderstand me, I love nature; it’s beautiful, but it has it’s place in my world and I prefer to enjoy it from the comfort of the indoors, ie I don’t want to sleep with it.
Very popular today is the trailer life. Go RVing. You dominate the highways across North America with a gas guzzling kitchen on wheels, stopping periodically to empty your toilet (God knows where), recharging in a Walmart parking lot, only to make it to your final destination; a trailer park, where you maneuver your oversized vehicle into an assigned spot 6 feet away from neighbouring trailers. If you’re lucky, you’re within walking range of a beach or pool, and mercifully you now have access to public washrooms and communal showers. Are we having fun yet?
I have friends who adore pitching a tent, cooking over an open fire, and urinating in nature. I would define these individuals as extreme and for the life of me I can’t imagine why they willingly torture themselves. The sleeping bag provides little cushion from the hard lumpy ground, and the tent, little protection from the elements. Many years ago I actually participated on one such adventure and it was a turning point in my life, I can tell you.
Five of us, in our late teens, packed up an old Honda Civic one Friday afternoon and headed on to the open road looking for our ideal camping ground. (and I should point out a Honda Civic isn’t a luxury vehicle so five people with camping gear was more than a little cozy) I always seemed to get the middle seat in the back, over the ‘lump’ so my knees were comfortably wedged under my ear lobes for the whole ride. (this was in my younger days, before I learned to assert myself)
After a couple of hours (which included a stop at the local liquor store for supplies) we reached the entrance to a National Park and camp ground. We parked the car, loaded ourselves up with our gear and took the nearest path into the woods, in no particular direction – we were just happy to be here and we figured we’d just stop when we felt like it and set up house. We wandered through the woods for what seemed like hours, laughing and joking, finally reaching a clearing that looked suitable enough for habitation. (oddly enough we were close to a communal swimming area so I’m betting there was probably a direct path to this place but since we’re here for the camping experience, I guess we have to do everything the hard way)
We each took on various chores to get our camp site set up, pitching the tent (personally, I would’ve preferred to pitch the tent ‘literally’ and head for the nearest Holiday Inn but I decided I needed to be adventurous, just once) gathering firewood and stones for a fire pit (that was my job) and unpacking our provisions. Once done we changed into swimming gear and headed down the path to the water only to be barred by a huge sign advising the beach was closed due to high bacteria levels. Oh yeah, this is fun.
Disappointed, but determined to make a good time of this weekend, we shuffled back to our campground (time to crack open the beer and coolers) and went about lighting our fire to cook our gourmet meal. (hot dogs and potato chips) There isn’t much you can say about such fare, other than, it fills the belly, so dinner was a non-event but by then we’d had a couple of coolers so it didn’t matter anymore….we were one with nature.
A friend pulls out a transistor radio (this was the early seventies so CHUM AM radio was the coolest we had) and we grooved by the fire until a light rain started and forced us into the tent. The tent was small and remember, there was 5 of us, so sprawling out was not an option. We lay there singing along with the radio (where’s my harmonica when I need it?) as the rain picked up in intensity, and eventually we dozed off. (because when you can’t move, what else do you do?)
Sometime in the early morning hours we woke to the sensation of being eaten alive. The rain had stopped but the tent seemed swarmed with mosquitos. Turns out one of the screens had a large rip in it allowing the wild kingdom to take refuge in our space. (the fun just goes on and on and on….) By dawn we were exhausted, damp and covered in bites. We crawled out of the tent anticipating the nice bacon and egg breakfast we planned but found only a mess of wrappers. Apparently we neglected to ‘secure’ our cooler so the local raccoons enjoyed our feast forcing us to finish off the beer and coolers. (breakfast of champions!)
The sky was clearing but still grey. Our food supply was gone. The tent had a hole in it. The beach was condemned and the grounds were soaked and muddy. Without a word, we all started packing up our things and within a couple of hours we were back in our car heading home, in silence, the weekend over in less than twelve hours. I never camped out again and short of a stroke that renders me completely out of my rational mind, I never will.
The tree-huggers can keep their wilderness experiences. While they eat berries, swim with ‘nature’ (and occasional bacteria) and pee in the woods, I will dine on quality food cooked by someone else, swim in a clean (ok, chemically laden) pool, and sleep in a cozy, bug free bed. Have a great vacation! (I know I will)