By Jessica Wolfe
Over the last few years, our family has taken up camping as a form of vacation. Not the kind of peaceful hike into nature that my husband prefers (backpacking), but more the opiate of the masses: car camping. We have a handful of camping trips under our belts at this point, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Lesson #1: Car camping is not restful. At least not for me. Sleeping on the ground for nights at a time, in a hot tent with everyone else snoring and moving about, is not what I’d call great rest. Add joint pain and arthritis, and it is downright painful (how I have these ailments at only thirty-six years old is another post altogether).
Lesson #2: Car camping is not quiet. You are on a campsite that is a fraction of the size of your yard, with people so close you could overhear their conversations if you wanted to. And let’s just say, in the interest of full disclosure, not everyone is considerate or conscientious in this cramped environment. People talk loudly, drink loudly, fight, throw knives for fun (true story), and bring really loud pets. If you were counting on a good night’s sleep…well, I’m here to tell you it won’t be comfortable or quiet.
Lesson #3: Carrying your kitchen in your car is not efficient. Due to the critters you are sharing the woods with, all your food has to be in a bear vault and/or locked in your car. So that utensil you need while you concoct dinner? Well first you have to find the keys (with your grubby hands,) then go to the car and locate said utensil (which is probably lost among the dirty laundry and miscellaneous items you’ve been throwing back in the car). Also, you have to be able to cook over a campfire. That part sounds romantic, right? Wrong. Try getting even heat so nothing burns. Shoot, try not getting burned yourself. My husband is a rock star at cooking over a fire, and the whole experience still stresses me out.
Lesson #4: You are certain to have some sort of physical issue. It may be that time of the month while you’re stuck hiking to the bathrooms. Someone will most certainly get cut or sick. The last time I went camping, I had an ovarian cyst rupture in the middle of the night. If you’ve ever had this happen, you know the incredibly intense pain and the feeling that your insides are screaming at you which accompanies this. I was literally doing Lamaze breathing just to get through it. My husband had to practically carry me back from the bathrooms since I nearly passed out (I was asking him if I could just lie down in the middle of the road). And I ended up vomiting out my tent doorway because the pain was so intense. Turned out the vomiting was too. The next day I looked like a cyborg. I had ruptured blood vessels in both eyes. Of course this would happen when I’m communing with nature miles from my own bed and bathroom.
Lesson #5: You will most definitely make memories. This is the reason people go camping in the first place (and because, let’s face it, it’s cheap). These trips become the stuff of legend. Remember when we made s’mores over a fire? Remember when we walked to the beach and played in Lake Michigan? Remember when Mom almost died? (It was a good story later.) These are things your kids (and you) will never forget. They will become family lore for years to come and will be what you remember when you are empty nesters sitting on your porch (safely near your own bathroom, mind you). There is something wonderful—even mildly narcissistic—about sharing close quarters with your loved ones and exploring the great outdoors together. We have had many a laugh, shared many a story by the light of the campfire.
I will never forget our camping adventures. I am grateful for the memories we made there. But I’m not gonna lie…this year, I’m checking out glamping.
Jessica Wolfe is a coach, writer, producer, wife, and mom. Justice advocate. Iced tea drinker. Avid reader. Part-time cyclist and photographer. Lover of Jesus. Catch Jessica’s sporadic musings at choosinglovenotfear.postach.io.