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Jun 04 2014

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The Joys of Camping and Other Myths of the World

When my mom got sick with cancer, she started writing my sisters and I letters about life. Unfortunately she didn’t get through very many volumes. Her Volume 3 was her words of wisdom about camping. We have been camping in the same ocean-side campground for the last bazillion years and she wrote this weeks before her last trip there (I use the term camping loosely, we always camped in a motor home). Since camping season is upon us, I was thinking about writing a post about helpful camping tips. But then I remembered her letter. She was a very expressive writer and it would be my absolute pleasure to publish her work as she so deserved. So I’ll save my helpful list for another day. Here is an excerpt from the letter and her list of tips (the title of the post is the same as she named her letter).

The Joys of Camping and Other Myths of the World
by Arlene Tillett

Don’t know why I’ve got to write this now- maybe it’s for me to remember why we do these things- the real reasons. The ego is a powerful thing and can cause all sorts of stuff if we let it take control. It can elect you director, it can tell you that your way is the best way- you know what everyone should eat and on what day, you know what day to play volleyball, you know if lots or little bits of munchies should be put out each day, you know when it’s time to go to the beach- do you know how much energy that takes!….When we went camping I thought I had to be the perfect mom- activities planned, cooked breakfasts daily snacks, whatever anyone needed- boy was I sick. I forgot about me and my needs, I didn’t plan any fun for me or felt guilty when I did. I’d really feel kind of guilty when I did. …..

When parents decide to go camping with their children to “make memories” they have a blank spot (thank goodness). They forget packing half of what they own into their camping vehicle, trying to remember enough dry shoes. They forget that families have basic needs like eating (and dirtying dishes) whether they’re home or away- it’s just harder when you’re camping (easier food might be a good idea). They forget that other people can bring wood or their own chairs, so they pack enough for the campground. They forget how hard it is for a toddler to take a nap in a campground, they also forget how sandy their bottoms get. They forget these things because they’re supposed to- not many sane people would trade four or five days of their lives smelling like a camp fire, getting rained on lots, getting sand in their beds, eating outside in the cold- for a “memory”. Well, maybe they should!

Any mother of small children who go camping and thinks she’s on vacation is in for a rude awakening- unless her housekeeper came too. That’s just life- if you want to be waited on, go to a bed and breakfast. I moan and groan about how hard it was (and parts of it were) but most of it I brought on myself. We don’t always make brilliant decisions. Most of the things that we think we have to do- we really don’t. I was so busy planning the next activity that I really couldn’t enjoy what was going on (Plan dinner, enjoy the beach).

Here are some camping tips I’ve learned by trial and error:

  • Make lists ahead of time- they really do help. Just don’t get ridiculous about it. Try a master list?
  • Plan your dinners (so you bring enough- unless there is a store nearby), families will revolt if there’s no food nearby. Keep it simple!
  • Cooked breakfasts are not for everyday consumption- they taste great but are so much work and so unhealthy, we really need to change our eating habits, one of these days.
  • You don’t need to take four kinds of dip and seven kinds of chips with you (you’ll probably bring most home- unless you have teenage sons).
  • How much beer and soda are you really going to drink?
  • Aluminum containers are good too. Forget the environment for a week- you have to survive camping! You’d be amazed the uses you’ll find!
  • Do not play dominoes and drink beer and try to hard boil eggs. It’s funny later, but heaven help those people who got our eggs. This is one of the few times camping that you should pay attention to time.
  • If the pan sticks at home- it’s gonna stick camping. Don’t bring it unless you are a martyr for scrubbing. Actually, why have it at home either?
  • Boots should be big enough to fit over sleepers- you want to carry them forever? It’s always a long way from the camper to the fire.
  • Warm water and talcum powder outside your camper can postpone many a shower until you’re ready to face it.
  • Bring lots of towels, if you have them. They don’t always dry fast enough, especially if it’s damp. And drying off with a damp towel after a drafty shower is not fun!
  • Don’t be a good little camper and pour water on your fire to drown it before going to bed. I only did this once and boy did I make a sooty mess.
  • When choosing a blanket for the beach (or a spread) don’t pick one that attracts every sticker around (unless you like picking stickers). I prefer ones I can bleach at home and don’t have to worry about anything that get spilled on it.
  • Discourage any shells from coming inside your camping vehicle (that’s why God invented bumpers). The shells will usually develop a lovely odor and sometimes there’s somebody still home in them. Things like sand dollars and little sea urchins are exempt- they need protection.

Just remember- you’re going to have a good time- you are not running for “Camper of the Year!”

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