I don’t make a habit of visiting campgrounds, but this year is an all time record for me. By coincidence and where this year’s route has taken me, I find myself strolling into some low budget campgrounds; often they are filled with trailers and not a ‘camper’ is to be found milling about, however, I can hear them opening the door of their trailer every so often to let the poor dog out, opening and closing the door to their trucks, or even to drive out and grab something.
At night I build a fire in that rusty steel ring at each site — after removing all the garbage from the ‘camper’ before me, then I relax at the picnic table with a my foam pad and some weighty book I have been lugging around. Most times I set my Mountain Laurel Designs pot of water over that steel ring’s grill and wait for it to boil, since a strong instant coffee is good at any time of day. Oddly, though, no one is around. Did I miss something? Your telling me out of all these trailers no one is outside? I hear them inside clanking around every so often. What gives?
Even during the day no one is about, albeit it is sometimes too hot to enjoy the natural world when you have air-conditioning, electricity, T.V., and a comfortable couch to lure you away, need I say more? One particular day, in Smokey Lake, AB, I sat under the shade of a nice Ol’Jack Pine tree reading and gazing into a large forest stand for a few hours below the finest of blue skies one blistering summer day with not a footstep heard the whole time. So my question is this: why bother coming out here if you are going to enjoy exactly what you have at home? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to go fly to some exotic local once, twice, three times a year to experience a different culture, work on some project or adventure you always dreamed of achieving or hiking some landscape or natural wonder. Although I have focused on athletic pursuits here, which it doesn’t have to be, however, maybe an artistic or historical pursuit is more to your liking? My point is this: there has to be something more interesting than a T.V. or the inside of a trailer.
The highways, which I meander along when the back roads have run out, are filled with big trucks, enormous trailers and palatial RV’s; many times, when they stop, just two people pop out of these setups. It is even more disturbing to see 30 and 40 year old couples with these setups. Is the dawn of trailers and RV’s akin to the computer and smartphone revolution?
When I visited Meota, SK — one of the most beautiful beach days I can remember — I walked around the campground and was amazed how many people were crammed in such close proximity of each other. It was the trailer and R.V. version of the hyper urban sprawl that surrounds many major city centers in the world. Why spend such previous vacation time crammed and cramped among others is mystifying to me. Isn’t the cubicle or open concept office existence during the workday enough? The walk around this campground caused me to source another spot where I couldn’t hear John and Jane’s dog bark or the complaints of their little scoundrels throughout the day about this or that issue. After little wandering I found a nice litte spot to setup my tent, which was free I may add. This little camp spot was situated across from the busy campground, closer to the beach, and quieter. Now I could walk to the shore at night, capture some late night beach pictures, and even listen to the water lap along the shore before my eyes shutdown for the night.
What am I getting at? I don’t really know, but maybe a sliver of me hypothesizes that many of us have lost connection with the natural world (trees, wildlife, climate and weather) and the experience of being a little bit uncomfortable, but working around it and obviously within a certain boundary of reasonable discomfort. Related to this whole meandering thought of mine is that we don’t see the impact this mindset has on our health and well being when we are constantly in a comfortable, sedentary, and predictable means. Don’t get me wrong, I like duvets, air-conditioning, fridges packed with food, and a place to lay and do nothing, but too much of it makes me unsettled and unconnected. That is why I need to either be running, climbing, or walking: always happier when outside doing stuff, being a little uncomfortable — short or long periods of time — but filling life’s pages.
I look back at periods in my life when I was most unhappy and they were when I was either not moving due to injury (stress fracture, lower back issue, sprained ligaments, you name it) or my life was out of balance — too much work, studying, or some relationship — and not enough outdoor time was attained. The few times over the years when my activities outside were reduced to one or two days a week for many months was because I lost my self and the focus of what really makes me happy: moving and doing something with purpose and meaning.