Sunday, 13 July 2008

All Feet To The Pole

Once upon a time our family used to go camping. We didn’t have a fancy tent with lots of rooms in it or anything, just two simple dome tents, one for me, my other half (at the time), Paul and one dog, the other for the girls and dog number two. There wasn’t much room to store anything so most of our stuff stayed in the back of the car and food was prepared and eaten al fresco. If it rained we’d find a café to have a meal in but generally we managed without spending very much money at all.

They were simple holidays and weekends away but we enjoyed them; we had no desire to jump on a plane and fly off to some foreign place that would end up costing an arm and a leg. We were happy and contented with what we had.

Sometimes we’d stay at campsites where the kids would get to know other children and spend all day playing before zipping themselves exhausted into the sleeping bags at night. Other times we’d just pitch the tents in some remote spot and spend the time exploring the area with the kids, fishing with them, making food over a real campfire and, perhaps most importantly, letting them use their imaginations. They’d make boats out of twigs and leaves that they'd sail on a lake or river and pine cones and twigs became animals that were use to act out stories they’d make up. They learned to put the tents up, gut fish and prepare them to cook for our evening meal, to recognise animal foot prints and the different birds, how to dig out an earth toilet and fill it in and cover it after use and how to safely use a knife to make pointy sticks for cooking sausages over the fire.

Sure, they may have learned a bit about different cultures if we’d chosen to go further afield, but it would have cost us huge amounts of money that we used on other things instead. And if I’m honest, I doubt they would have learned anywhere near as much. Maybe how to say “can you move that towel?” in German or “A burger and chips, please” in Spanish but not much more. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t regret the choice we made and neither do the children. Neither of them feel they missed out on anything but they all say they gained a lot. The one holiday we took in Majorca certainly didn't leave us with anywhere near as many good memories as a week in a tent always did.

Only once have we experienced such extreme rain that the tents leaked. Believe me, they really did leak that time, though. But hey… you take the rough with the smooth, eh? Things can go wrong on any holiday. If you want to know more about that particular experience, you can read about it here. Looking back, it was actually very funny.

If you’ve never tried camping and know somebody who has equipment you can borrow, I’d definitely suggest giving it a go. You may well be surprised at how much you enjoy it and it’s certainly a cheap way of getting away from it all. Getting back to basics is good for the soul and if you decide that it isn’t for you, you won’t have lost much. Just a couple of days, whatever it costs to get to the camping site and the pitch fee. Hardly much to get upset about. And in these days of tightening the belt it's gotta be worth giving it a try.

Should you be worried about toilet facilities - and I know some people are - most campsites have modern loos and shower blocks. In fact, I believe they have to have them these days, although I wouldn't swear to that. If you have a large tent it's possible to use a chemical toilet although I know some people don't even like the idea of that so won't even 'go' in a touring caravan let alone a tent, but each to their own.

Unfortunately, camping isn’t easy for me anymore. As much as I hate it, things have to be planned more these days. Large amounts of medical supplies have to go everywhere with me (and believe me, we’re not talking a couple of packs of pills here), and I have to be able to attach myself to a pump at night. I can, however, manage one night without most of the meds or the pump so I’ve decided that it won’t beat me - once I’m strong enough the camping equipment is coming out of the loft and I shall be off. I have a couple of friends who have said they’ll come with me (Richard doesn’t do camping) so there shouldn’t be a problem.

I also have a charger for my pump that can be plugged into the car, so once I’ve tried one night, I might even go for two.

As they say, “there’s no such thing as a problem, just a challenge” and I intend to take up the challenge. I love camping too much to give it up completely. It’s been too long already.

One step at a time, though.

Sharon J x

To find campsites in the area you’d like to visit, see UK Campsites


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Frugal Trenches said...

So true.
I love exploring different cultures and experiences, but most people who take their children abroad sit in resorts and never leave. I was watching Holiday Showdown and a couple who thought they were "posh" and sat in a Maldives hotel for 2 weeks a year never leaving the hotel complex, complained, cried, felt it was "beneath them" to have a walking holiday on the North Cornwall coast...they kept saying "once you've seen one place in England you've seen them all". What nonesence! England is a fabulous country, with so many coastal towns, villages and pieces of countryside to explore!
I really love staying in Yurts, have you ever tried one?

Sharon J said...

You're so right about England. We have some very unique places here and I've known Americans to be absolutely amazed to be able to sit in pubs that are older than the United States. So much culture, so much history... there's definitely lots to be explored.

As for people never leaving the complex, my 'almost' daughter went abroad quite a bit as a girl but knowns nothing about any of the countries she visited because they always went 'all inclusive' and pretty much stayed on the complex apart from the occassional trip out to McDonald's or the beach. Not my cup of tea at all.

I haven't tried a Yurt, no, but have thought about it. I might just give it a go some time :)

Sara at On Simplicity said...

I definitely don't think you did your kids any kind of disservice by camping instead of traveling farther. I just recently started camping and I love it! It's a great chance to connect with yourself and your loved ones. You learn how to do without and still be happy, which is one of the most important lessons of all.

Catz said...

We used to take our kids camping and they both have fond memories and love the smell of canvas as a result. They always made friends, often enough for a game of cricket or rounders and they too would collapse into their sleeping bags totally shattered.

I miss camping too, I hope you get to go again, in fact I am now inspired - you are very inspirational you know - maybe one day I too will go camping again!

Sharon J said...

@ Sara. I hear you on the connections and definitely agree.

@ Catz. Happy to be of service :)