We recently returned from a weekend’s camping. And (not for the first time) I find myself asking, “Why do we do it?”
We own a perfectly decent and functional house. It’s great at protecting us from the wind and the rain. It has central heating, and running water, including a flushing toilet. But still we choose to leave it all behind in order to go camping.
Having crammed every inch of the car full of stuff, we drive to a field and cart all our belongings to our chosen pitch. We put together our little shelter and hope it is strong enough to protect us from the elements. We sleep on the lumpy, hard floor and sit on folding chairs.
The nearest running water is 100 metres away (and cold). The closest toilet – a wooden hut built over a big hole in the ground – is about 50 metres from the tent, but that means we sometimes get a whiff of its unpleasant odour. Cooking facilities are minimal, and when we get cold in the evening we have two choices: retire to a sleeping bag, or make a fire.
And after two days and nights of living like this, we take it all down and put it back in the car for the journey home. By which time everything, including us, is slightly damper, muddier, smellier, and more creased than before.
So why on earth do we do it? And more to the point, why do we keep doing it?
I have been thinking about this a lot. Not just over the past few days, but for years now. And it still makes no sense.
I’ve tried to focus on all the nice things that can happen on a camping trip. The (occasionally) sunny weather, the toasted marshmallows, the bacon rolls, the rope swings, the slower pace of life. But I can’t find anything on that list which even comes close to compensating for the lack of comfort, the dirt, the sleepless nights, and the sheer bloody hard work of it all.
Which leads me to conclude that camping is a bit like childbirth; when it’s all over you somehow manage to persuade yourself that it can’t really have been as bad as it seemed at the time.
Or maybe I am just crazy. Because although we only have one child, we are planning to acquire another tent – to replace the one that collapsed on top of us in a 3am windstorm. That surely can’t be the behaviour of a sane person.
Especially one who can’t explain why.
(This post was originally written in June 2011)