For years, I’ve listened to friends extoll the virtues of camping. And for years, I’ve been able to resist the lure of sleeping and eating outside.
It just seemed like too much work: packing up the food, the board games and the myriad other things required for a weekend away. And the reality of it wasn’t appealing. What if it rains? What if rattlesnakes slither into our tent?
I’m not a camping novice. My first camping experience was as a 12-year-old when my parents took us around Europe in a Volkswagen camper — the classic with the pop-up roof — and the five of us had a wonderful time, the memories of which still linger: camping on the south coast of England in November not perhaps as happy a memory as camping on the beach on Spain’s Costa del Sol, with its sunshine and palm trees.
A few more camping experiences happened over the years: the Oregon Coast, Hornby Island and Tofino. But we were not a regular camping family by any means. And once the Volkswagen was sold, that was pretty much it for us.
I told people I preferred the luxury of a hotel, preferably five-star. Of course, my budget was really better served by a one-star motel.
For the past few years, my daughter has been asking if we could go camping. When friends offered us their tent and equipment a few months ago, I enthusiastically shared the news with her and her response was, “But Mommy, I want to go in a camper, not a tent.” Gosh, not sure where she got that idea.
This summer, our very kind and generous friends let us borrow their camper and so last month we found ourselves camping as a family for the first time. This was not wilderness camping: we were at Kekuli Bay — close enough to come home for showers and pick up anything we had forgotten to pack.
But we may as well have been a million miles away. They had made it as easy as possible for us: driving the camper to the site and picking it up at the end of our stay (even booking the spot), setting up lovely rugs on the ground and bug-proof tents around the picnic table. The only thing we needed to bring was food, drinks and plenty of Jiffy Pop. Yes, it was truly camping for dummies.
We had a great spot with a gorgeous view of Kal Lake, enough shrubbery on either side of us to ensure privacy and peace and quiet — this was no rock and roll campground. There were no stereos blasting, just the sound of birds, people chatting, kids playing in the playground or riding their bikes, marmots dashing in and out of their burrows.
My husband laughingly referred to me as a princess who would never be able to put up with all that camping entails: outhouses, ants all over the picnic table and washing the dishes in cold water. And OK, I probably could have done without ants crawling toward our plates as we ate. But there is nothing like waking up early, firing up the Coleman stove and drinking coffee outside on a warm summer morning, relaxing on a lounge chair and reading a good book, with absolutely no demands on one’s time.
It’s not something most of us get. A “staycation” is all well and good, but being home tends to involve a million chores: laundry has to get done, dishes washed. While camping, there was nothing we had to do, nowhere we had to rush to. There was no cell service — hallelujah — and so no one could reach us. There was an actual pay phone at the site for emergencies, however. Oh, and the outhouses have flush toilets, so a bit of a bonus for us neophytes.
For three days we ate, played board games, swam in the lake and ate gourmet meals ranging from hot dogs to banana pancakes. Our daughter would say her favourite part was having the freedom to ride her bike by herself all over the campsite.
For us, it was the time together as a family: no dashing off to activities, no play dates, no errands, no chores and no texting.
Camping that close to home probably makes us wimps in the eyes of those who love the wilderness. But for us, the gift of uninterrupted time together as a family was absolutely priceless. In fact, coming home was something of a shock to my system. I would have traded the luxury of hot, running water on tap for just a few more days of not having a schedule.