This year my family decided to spend part of our summer holiday camping, for the first time ever. I always wanted to do it and as the opportunity came, I didn’t think twice, despite our lack of experience. To make the first time camping easier, we decided to rent a camper van in a camp, just to see if it is something for us. If it worked, then we could invest in some equipment of our own, in future. Of course, both my husband and I knew that it would be a good experience, particularly for the children, but we never thought that it would also be a sort of epiphany for us. We only spent a week in the camp, but even that short period of time was enough to re-learn some of the things we seem to have forgotten.
Here’s what I learned from spending only one week in a camp:
Making friends is easy even when you’re older
Once you are past your early youth, and your life gets more structured, with many chores and obligations, it feels like you are not making new friends anymore, or at least not as easily as before. Then the children come and your whole focus changes, so you don’t even notice whether you are making new friends or not. There may be fewer opportunities to meet new people and less time to establish and nurture the necessary connections. Or perhaps, the process becomes somehow slower and it takes you more time to just be as spontaneous as before. You tend to stick with the people you already know and are comfortable with, while you slow down in pursuing new connections. If I have a look at the pool of “my people”, the truth is that I have known most of them for years, already. No new additions.
Camping for the first time changed that. Within 2 days, we were already eating together with our neighbors from the next door camper-van, our children spent the whole time together and there were tears when it was time to say goodbye. Maybe it is the way people who go camping are, maybe we were lucky, maybe it is the whole setup of living outdoors and with just the basics, I don’t know. But we made new friends, and it happened easily, spontaneously, and it felt great. It was also as easy as it used to be when we were children.
Our lives are cluttered and the clutter is draining us
When you are reduced to very few square meters of living space and the amenities are basic, you need to think twice about what you are going to pack, what you are going to cook and how you are going to do the everyday living. What I am going to say is not hugely smart, wise or insightful , but we all seem to have forgotten it: you actually need very little to live perfectly comfortably.
Our camper was well equipped, but, in fact, we used very few of its amenities, even if were camping for the first time. The tv set was switched on exactly zero times during our whole stay. We used the common bathrooms instead of the one inside it, and we never even switched on the air conditioning.. We practically used the camper just to sleep in it and change clothes inside. The cooking happened outside, the eating happened outside, the socializing happened outside.
We could have easily been in a tent, and we wouldn’t really notice the difference. None of the usual knick-knacks that rule our lives were needed. Make up and accessories, countless beauty and home products, appliances, kitchen utensils and all the other objects that form part of our daily landscape were forgotten. Now that we are home, my eyes keep seeing things that we own but never, or rarely use.
We buy things because we have nothing better to do
The kids were somewhere in the camp, with their friends, and my husband and I were having a glass of wine. I had no thoughts at the moment, I was just enjoying the fact that the early evening air was bringing some refreshment after a really hot sunny day. The kids dropped by to say that they will be joining a mini football game and left. And then suddenly it struck me: neither of them asked for anything the whole week. No desires to purchase anything. And the same was true for the adult part of the family. We were all perfectly happy without shopping and wanting stuff. The only worry was if we had enough food for the next day and that was it.
When we did go to the shop, none of us had as many specific desires as we normally do. And when we went on excursions outside the camp, none of the children expressed any wishes for souvenirs, which they normally do. They just wanted to return to the camp fast, to play with their friends. The surprising thing was that, even though it was camping for the first time, the children felt very much in their element, and they overcame the language and culture barriers effortlessly.
The good thing is that this continued even after we left the camp. The satisfying experience has somehow removed the need to think about products and want them. I hope it lasts long.