My first experience of camping was one that put me off for years – too many years, probably. Now I realise I could have been having fun for many years, and saving a lot of money on hotels, too.
But that’s all water under the bridge. Instead, I take my family camping as often as possible during the summer, so that my kids enjoy it, and they can keep on doing it. My wife wasn’t so sure at first, but she’s come around, especially as the kids do more work when we’re camping than they ever manage at home!
Where It All Went Wrong
I camped for the first time when I was a teenager. It was the Easter holidays, and a friend of mine was going to see his girlfriend for three days and asked if I wanted to come along. I had nothing better to do, so I decided to go.
Since this was quite a few years ago, we hitchhiked, with a big old canvas tent and a pack full of clothes. It rained on the way down, but we didn’t think too much about that. When we arrived, though, we discovered we’d be camping in a field behind the house, which meant setting up the tent in the rain.
It wasn’t like the tents today. This was all poles and guy ropes and heavy – very heavy! – canvas. I assumed my friend knew what he was doing, but he didn’t, so it took ages to erect the thing properly and try to make sure the groundsheet was secure.
The rain didn’t stop. It just got heavier. We had sleeping bags, but we couldn’t light a fire, it was too wet. We had hot meals in the house, which helped, but apart from that, it was an awful three days. The worst part was taking the tent down. Soaked by the rain, it was a dead weight, almost impossible to fold, and we were soaked by the time we were done. Just to add insult to injury, it took forever to thumb rides home. After that I swore I’d never go camping again – I’d never felt so miserable in all my short life.
What Changed My Opinion
I stuck by my vow for years, even as friends said what a pleasure camping could be – after all, I knew better. Then my wife wanted to go to a small festival, and all the hotels and B&Bs close by were booked. So we had no alternative. I borrowed a tent (including a couple of lessons in how to put it up and take it down) and sleeping bags and we set off.
It helped that it was summer and the weather was fine; in fact, it was glorious. The tent, which was wonderfully light, went up without a hitch, we had air mattresses which were surprisingly comfortable, and the experience was great. The kids loved the novelty, my wife was happy to be at the festival, and I found myself very relaxed, and sleeping better than I had in ages – it must have been all the fresh air.
When the weekend was over, we packed up in minutes, and on the way home I realised I wanted to do it again, soon. So we went shopping for gear, a tent for us and another, smaller one for the kids, and a couple of weekends later we went to a campground not too far from home. That was fun, too, and since then it’s something we’ve started doing regularly.
To be fair, I’m still grumpy when we’re camping and it rains – old memories die hard – and nothing will tempt me to go camping after September. But it’s become a big part of our summer, and these days I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I can’t wait to pack up the car on a Friday and head away for the weekend. We all feel refreshed, and a lot happier, for the break.