My wife and I just got back from camping, or as I like to call it, “let’s listen to other families fight in the woods.”
We haven’t been camping in years and we forgot how much we liked it. And our campground was full, so clearly other people love it too. It got me thinking, “why do we love camping so much?”
Because by all accounts, we shouldn’t.
The fact that we leave perfectly good homes—with indoor plumbing and central air—to live in the woods, baffles me. I much prefer flushing toilets and AC to Port-a-potties and swampy tent must.
But we still go camping.
And love it.
Maybe it’s the old idea of “you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” Head to the woods to live in relative hardship to better appreciate the all the crap we’ve accumulated. So we take it all away and head to the woods. To reenact frontier living. “Tonight we’re having whatever Pa caught with potatoes covered in cheese. The cheese’ll help with the constipation.”
I don’t know…I could turn off my phone for a day if I wanted to try the simple life. Camping seems like a lot of work just to appreciate a king sized mattress. So I don’t think that’s why we like it.
Smart people who write books say that humans crave nature, that returning to the ancestral landscape in which we evolved—anywhere with trees—puts us at ease. Okay. Maybe. It’s true we spent most of our history living in trees and roaming the plains. Which sounds nice until you remember that we also faced constants threats…from everything. If you got too cold, you’d die. If you got too hot, you’d die. If you saw a lion, a saber-toothed tiger, or really, any animal with teeth or horns, you’d die. Even if you drank the wrong water, you’d face a long bout of tummy troubles and other GI gurgles, and then you’d die. Our ancestral home wasn’t a walk in the park.
And also, we didn’t go back. Once we left the trees and the plains, we didn’t go home. We discovered fire, came down from the trees, and built cities—which, yeah, are kinda like forests made of big metal trees.
Based on how relaxed I am out in the woods, I think the smart people who write books are right. I just think humans have selective memory about the good old days. We remember how great it felt to be in nature, but we forget about all the dangers.
Plus, if camping is a way to get back to our roots, this time we’re ready for the dangers. It’s like we’re going home to the small town we’re from, but on our own terms.
We buy all sorts of special equipment—a tent, bear canisters, DEET—and haul it into nature, to separate ourselves from nature. It’s like we want to be near wildlife, but if it gets too close, we’ll kill it.
Camping also gets us out of our routine. We do things camping we would normally never do. You pitch a tent, start a fire, and roast marshmallows. And then giggle because you just said “pitch a tent.” Those aren’t daily things. Well, the giggling is, but I’m have the sense of humor of an 11 year old.
Some families gather around the fire and sing. Those families are weird. No one is supposed to have that much fun. You’re supposed to eat too many hotdogs and spend the night farting in your tent.
There’s no greater test of manhood than building a fire. I build a fire just like early humans did: with copious amounts of lighter fluid. There’s something about sitting around a camp fire that makes me feel like I’m communing with our ancestors, doing everything they, did like roasting marshmallows.
It’s not hard to roast a marshmallow. But I don’t have the patience to do it right. Here’s how I roast a marshmallow. I put it on a stick. Put it in the fire. And then cry as the entire thing goes up in flames. It goes in an innocent white puff comes out black molten lava. It looks like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s turds.
Does anyone actually know what marshmallows are? It’s just sugar and magic, right? They’re sweet white balls that turn into sticky sugar boogers that incinerate the second you get them near a fire.
Everyone is required to make a s’mores, which sound like a dirty Italian word. “Hey, you wanna, ‘make a s’more?’”
And then, after you’ve had your fill, you turn in for my favorite part of all: Sleep.
And really, there’s nothing better than falling asleep to the sounds of another campsite’s generator. Or listening to a family argue about an issue they thought was resolved years ago but they just remembered because wine.
Yes, the joys of camping. Sleeping under the stars…in a humid swamp box…made with flammable walls…pitched precariously close to a fire. You’re one flying ember away from adding a sunroof.
You know what. I never answered why we love camping so much. I’ll tell you why I love it. I love the smell of a campfire. The taste of s’more. The quietude of sleeping under the stars. I love living a simpler life. At least for a few days. And then I need to get back to the internet. So I can post this video.