As the next holiday season approaches, if one more person tells me how much I’m missing out by not going camping, I don’t know what I’ll do. Probably nothing, since I avoid confrontation like models avoid carbs, and the Australian men’s soccer, rugby union, basketball and cricket teams avoid success.
Camping has always been something I wish I enjoyed. Encased in a womb of green, footsteps from the ocean, cooking on an open fire, sipping herbal tea, and all day it’s either sunrise or sunset. It just seems so amazing – on television.
Pity the reality involves renting a patch of dirt from a retired carny, with only flimsy fabric separating you from snorers who sound like drowning elephants, children who are up too early or too late, constantly blaring music/radio/television, and burning barbecue meats. With added toilet lines, cold showers, overflowing bins, and the constant roar of bogan contraptions.
Before you even arrive there’s the planning, buying, preparing, driving, followed by the choosing and assembling. Then every meal involves prepping, cooking, eating and washing up that takes so long by the time you’ve finished you’re hungry again. Really, the only way to make it bearable is to include so many comforts from home, you may as well never have left.
Part of my problem is that I came to camping late, and with zero success. After ever summer of my childhood, my friends wouldn’t shut up about the amazing weeks spent in nature or by the beach. Although I constantly badgered my parents for a camping trip, my Father always said, ‘Camping is for people who can’t afford hotels’.
In high school, the class camping trip was my first, and I couldn’t have been more prepared, excited, and then disappointed, as it was one of the wettest weeks on record. On the first night a stream sprang up and ran through my tent, and all week not one thing I owned was ever dry.
Over the years, I’ve tried and failed many more times. I’ve been bitten by bull ants, wasps, ticks, and a scorpion while taking a dump, fallen into a stinging nettle, slid off the side of a mountain, dropped my pack into a creek, had several varieties of food poisoning, and at a seven-day music festival my tent was sucked up by a whirligig. In retrospect, I think my Dad was really telling me, ‘This family sucks at camping, so don’t ever bother.’
The fact that I’m such an unhappy camper leaves me feeling that I’ve fundamentally failed at being human. Many enjoy it, and it should be in our blood because a few thousand years ago, there wasn’t another option. You either thrived at camping, or you died.
One day soon, we might once again not have a choice. As housing becomes increasingly unaffordable, and more frequent and intense natural disasters destroy the rest of them. Which has led me to believe that my Dad was right all along, and nobody enjoys camping.
It’s a conspiracy, and the campers are lying to the rest of us, so we don’t realize they’re off every holiday preparing for a dystopian future, where only those who can thrive in the wilderness will survive. Otherwise, camping makes as much sense as sleeping in your backyard and only using a public toilet, because that’s exactly what it is.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.
His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.