I’m actually going to talk about camping properly, since I mentioned it in the last post, and why I like it so much. Because I actually do. Like camping. Yes, I’m one of ‘those guys’, shush. Don’t knock it blah blah blah.
It’s actually genuinely pleasant, if you like nature and the like. Your stereotypical ‘city dweller’ who always has to be connected will hate it, of course – I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you otherwise, that would be a waste of everyone’s time. I’m not here to tell you why camping is awesome and seriously man, you should totally try it, I’m here to tell you why I, personally, enjoy it.
It starts and ends, really, with my idea of the ideal holiday. It involves walking a lot. Preferably with pubs in the middle. Also the end, and maybe the beginning. It’s not a proper hike without pubs, ask anyone. My ideal holiday is camping, preferably in rural Yorkshire or rural Scotland or the Lake District, maybe 15 minutes walk from a small village with a couple of pubs and places to eat. You get up earlyish in the morning, walk into town for breakfast, and then hike off to somewhere pretty. In these areas, pretty isn’t difficult. Head in a direction until you find a waterfall or something. There are loads, seriously.
Head back, maybe have a little down time, and then go back into the village, eat dinner, and then drink and mingle with the almost universally friendly locals until sleepy time.
Repeat until you are out of money, the camp site kicks you out, or you really need to return to work.
Now, I find this appealing because I love how absolutely sparse it all is. I mean, hopefully you have showers and a gas stove and all the basic amenities of comfort, but it’s a very basic lifestyle. You live in a little canvas hut that you only really sleep in, and you spend your days enjoying things. Enjoying nature, or the company you’re in. It really is amazing how freeing it is to not be connected all of the time. In the modern world, you always have a laptop, or a mobile phone. Not long ago, being connected all the time was something only the powerful had to deal with – notice the choice of words. It was a chore. They had the pain of being called by work out of hours, of being interrupted on their days off by people or companies. Now we all want that level of personal interruption. Some people can’t seem to live without it.
Never understood that. An excuse to be disconnected is ace. Gives to a chance to actually get something done. Camping, at least in the prettier parts of the world (and seriously, why would you camp anywhere else?) just leaves you so close to nature. You walk around it in the day, and sleep inside it in the night. Almost every time I’ve been camping I’ve heard a hedgehog rustling against the canvas in the night. I’ve seen a non-urban fox, or a deer that isn’t roadkill.
Every day you’ll see a cliff face, or a river, or a waterfall, and it invites you to appreciate it. To really look at it. I can’t really explain it – I was brought up on this. To me there is nothing more peaceful or calming that nature. I go out of my way to find nature, to try and take it in.
I had my first birthday on a camping trip. In the Isle of Wight. It was either this trip or another when I was around the same age, when I went missing, on a camping trip. My mother woke up to find I was no longer nestled between her and my father. Panic ensued. Frantic searching happened. I was found, safe and well, at the foot of my parents sleeping bag, which implies they wither owned a massive sleeping bag or nobody thought to stretch their legs upon waking. I had snuggled down to avoid the cold.
Point it, that sleeping bags are lovely. Especially when it’s really, really cold. And you’re the only thing that’s warm inside your little bubble. It’s just really isolating and, well, pleasant, if you’ll excuse such a weak word. Even after you’ve realised your little bubble is mainly your own sleep farts. Pleasant. I even like the frantic middle of the night runs to the loo in the freezing cold.
I particularly like thunderstorms when camping. Really. Hearing rain patter off canvas is one of defining sounds of my childhood. Of my existence. Again, I guess it just isolates you. You’re completely cut off from the world, from anything. It allows you to really enjoy your own existence – to really REALISE your own existence. You are a thing, even devoid of everyone else. Even devoid of all the familiar trappings of home. All the familiar environments.
You’re still you. You’re a thing, looking out at the world. Even if the world is just a sheet of canvas 3 feet above your head, wobbling violently under wind and rain.
Just don’t talk to me about leaky tents. Or tents pitched in little valleys which, under sudden rainfall, fill with water. Don’t talk to me about tents blowing away when you put them up. Don’t talk to me about air beds that refuse to blow up, or refuse to stay that way. Or about camping tables. Or the knobs that steal them in Devon.
Do talk to me about pitching a tent amidst a field of sheep. Or in the bend of a river. On the foot of a hill. Under a tree. Do talk to me about the most beautiful, awe-inspiring sight you’ve ever seen, and the gruelling 5 hour uphill trek to get there. Do tell me about the slowly dawning realisation that you now have to walk back. And definitely tell me about all the pints you stopped to have on the way.