Back to the Cave: Why Do We Go Camping?
Consider the two, three weeks or so you have off from work every year, and how precious that time is. It’s the time you have to do whatever you like, to go on holiday, spend time with the kids, or do nothing at all. And with the price of flights to Europe and further afield dropping to laughable lows, getting away for a few days or a week, can be done with putting hardly a dent in your savings. Why, then, do some of us choose to say ‘No, thank you’ to the airport and the hotels, the beaches and blazing sunshine? Why do we choose to strap on a heavy rucksack and hike fifteen, twenty miles up the side of a slippery mountain, to set up camp on a windy hillside, or to take our chances roughing it out in a cave for the weekend?
In this day and age, what drives modern families to go camping, why do we go camping when there are so many, much more comfortable, often equally cheap options at home and abroad? At Camping Things, we think it might have something to do with what lives way, deep down inside of our primitive brains. Way down deep in that part of ourselves that’s searching for simplicity, away from work and money and phones and Instagram.
We go camping wearing the latest in sweat-wicking, windproof, waterproof, breathable gear, our stuff packed neatly into ergonomically designed backpacks, the best walking boots on our feet and a tent with an electric light so that we can read at night. But if that’s what we need in order to peel ourselves away from the sofa and Netflix, and to get outside in the great outdoors, then so be it. But why? Why, why, why? Why do we go camping, that’s what we’re trying to understand in this article, is whether we choose to go camping because it’s a sure fire way of giving the finger to modern life, or because we’re so damned afraid of what the world of today is doing to our bodies and our minds?
Were we happier as cave dwellers? No, probably not, not when you consider how the daily struggle to survive back then was actually real, and how living outside, or in a draughty cave without all of the North Face gear was likely pretty miserable. But have we lost, or at least buried something of what we used to have? Buried it under central heating, online shopping, supermarkets, Instagram feeds, cheap holidays and an under-appreciation for how incredible it is that you and billions of other people can tap on a screen and have information beam back and forth between your hand and space in seconds? Have we lost touch with what some of the basics? We think so. But have we eradicated them completely? We don’t think so. Because if we had, then we wouldn’t have this urge to find happiness in something other than the technology we now take for granted.
We’re All Looking For Peace and Happiness
You take whatever job you like and study the kind of person who works in it, and beyond whether they happen to love or hate that job, whether they think it’s important or not, there are a few things which are true about the reasons why we go to work, and why we continue to work.
The first, most obvious reason is money. Without money, you can’t buy food and you can’t pay bills. If you can’t buy food and you can’t pay bills, then eventually you go hungry, you end up homeless, and you die. Work, is the modern day equivalent of hunting. In our cave man days, if you couldn’t, or didn’t hunt, then you went hungry, you got bullied out of the best spots to sleep in, and you died. Today, unless you have a serious problem which prevents you, most people can find some sort of work, and it’s unlikely that if you don’t find work, that a bunch of people who do have jobs will hunt you down, beat you and kill you. The fear is there, though, isn’t it? We’ve turned the fight for survival into something with structure and responsibility, but it’s still a struggle for survival in its own way.
That’s the foundation of all of this, of why we go camping. We go to work every day to earn money so that we can buy food and not end up on the scrap heap, and when we’ve earned enough money, and when the feeling of security in everyday life is high enough, then we allow the little primitive beast inside to come out for a while. It will stay on a leash, one made from breathable, sweat-wicking Gor-Tex, but the camping trip is a way to reward ourselves for surviving the modern day struggles of survival. Yes, you think, I’ve survived another year, and this camping trip is my reward, my chance to walk naked (figuratively or not) and free, away from everything for just a little bit.
If emails, texts, social media feeds, commuting and sleep problems due to blue light are the problem, if they’re the hunt, then the odd camping trip is the prize.
Camping Is a Way to Recharge
Alright, let’s back off a little bit and make this a little less heavy. If camping isn’t a way of giving a middle finger to the modern world, or of rewarding ourselves for not being trampled to death by it, then maybe it is just us, making a conscious effort to remove ourselves from the planes, cheap flights, mobile phones, TV screens and loud music, in favour of something greener, maybe colder, wetter, just different.
Camping can be a way to let your mind and body breathe, like, really breathe. To fully relax and let your ideas flow, that’s what camping is about for some people. It’s easy to forget sometimes that we’re not so different from the animals we keep. We wear clothes and talk on telephones, but we still need air and food, we need light and water, and if we stay plugged in for too long, it makes us sick, it makes us go crazy — we turn into monsters.
What do we mean by ‘Recharge’?
Think of this as either literally recharging, like a battery, or as an opportunity to let your thoughts come together in a way that’s useful to you. When you think about recharging your batteries on a camping trip as a way to let the juice flow back into your being, then you think of camping as more than just a holiday.
But then we’ve got this question about why the hell would you choose camping — cold, wet, hard work, as it sometimes is — over a holiday in the sun?
There are probably a million different reasons why people choose camping over other sorts of holidays, but what we’re interested in right now, is this idea of camping as a way to get back in touch with your primitive side. Recharging your internal battery by getting back to basics? Is the getting back to basics part essential for success? If you’ve chosen a camping holiday over all else, then sure, for you it is.
What if that part of ourselves that screams somewhere deep down inside, that the world is still a dangerous place, what if that’s the battery? What if we need that awareness, let’s just call it a fear, for the sake of argument, to keep us going? If we’re not on our toes, then we’ll slip, and camping is a way to feed the thing inside which keeps us aware of what it means to be alive and functioning.
This all sounds pretty fraught with negativity, doesn’t it? And while some of it may be true, not all of it, or any of it, we’re just blogging after all, what if the reason why we go camping in the first place is because we enjoy it? Can’t that be a legitimate enough reason to strap on the gear and head out into the wilderness?
We Camp Because We Enjoy the Challenge
The world we live in is designed to be as comfortable as possible. You have to work hard to get the things you want to make your life as comfortable as you want it to be, but exposure to the elements is usually limited to a cycle commute, or getting caught in the wind and rain for some other reason. Beyond doing something in the garden when the weather is nasty out, rarely do we ever need to be exposed to the elements and anything too tough in terms of terrain, on a daily or even occasional basis. And maybe it’s that which we miss. Maybe we miss being challenged by our surroundings, and maybe we miss testing our bodies.
Which brings us to a pretty good point, which is that your body is way more capable of doing incredible things than you might believe it is. The fact that you made it to adulthood at all is some testament to how capable your body is at surviving. Why do we go camping, well one of the reasons we go camping could be that if we didn’t, the itch would never get scratched. Do you feel an uneasiness if you don’t go camping every once in awhile? Do you feel like the job you do and the places you go don’t do anything to challenge the impressive machine that is your body? We mean that, too, about your body; it is an impressive machine. Put one foot in front of the other and start climbing a mountain, and you’re doing something that requires coordination, energy, strength and motivation. You’re not going to break, you’re not made of glass, and camping, trekking, hiking, climbing, they’re all ways of reminding yourself that your body is a capable, remarkable piece of equipment.
Why do we go camping ? Well there needn’t be any other reason than because you enjoy the hell out of it, for you to go camping. If you just love the feeling of being outdoors, of climbing and hiking and taking in stunning views from the top of cliffs or the bottom of sweeping valleys, then that’s the reason you go.
What About Reconnecting With People?
Ever tried having a conversation with someone who will not stop checking their phone? Even if you’re talking to someone and they’re just holding their phone and playing with it, it sends a message that whatever you’re saying, really isn’t getting 100% of their attention. It feels bad, doesn’t it? You almost feel like there’s no point saying anything at all if it’s just going to be wasted between them half-listening, half-wondering what’s happening on Facebook.
Why do we go camping, well camping is a great way of actively removing the distractions of everything but the people you’re spending time with. When you’re camping, it’s really just you, the people you’re camping with, and the outdoors. You can hike in silence, which is fine, too, or you can talk to each other, with scrolling up and down your news feed.
There’s an irony here, in that we spend so much time on our phones and our digital selves, because we’re searching for some sort of validation or entertainment, or a connection, that we reject or neglect the people who are right in front of us. You know, the ones you can actually touch. Not to be a downer once again, but one day, those people will be gone, either because they’re dead, or because they left your ass because you didn’t care enough to give the attention necessary to keep them around. All the funny videos and fake news stories in the world will not fill the hole left by a real person, who leaves you on your own when you stop taking part in life.
Why do we go camping, camping is a way to show yourself, and the people you camp and hike with, that your relationship is important. It isn’t difficult, either, to have a good time when you’re camping. All you need to do, is not break a leg. The fact that you’re there, with someone else, doing something real on a mountain, in a tent, in the rain, is enough to form a bond with that person which will make you feel magnitudes more satisfied, more happy than any meme about Donald Trump ever could. The internet is a great place for a lot of things, but it is not a substitute for the relationships you form in the real world.
So, we have to ask ourselves the question again: Were we happier when we lived in caves? Still, probably not, but that doesn’t mean that we were miserable back in the day. Now, we have perspective, we’ve seen and will continue to see, what the world of today and tomorrow will look like. We see it, and the fact that we still go camping means that we’re still in touch with some of what it means to be a real human animal. Technology isn’t bad, neither are fake news website. Social media is good entertainment, and we can bond over work and the struggles of daily life, but every now and then, we still yearn to sit around a campfire, to smell real smoke, feel heat from flames, not central heating units, and to feel content with nothing but a sleeping bag and a thin layer of nylon between us and the open sky.
You’re small, in the big picture, when you stand and look up at the stars, you’re looking into infinity. You’re very, very small, but what you do for yourself and for other people matters. It matters because it’s a miracle you’re here at all, and if you choose to spend all of your precious time toiling away in an office block over a fear that if you don’t, then the world will come crashing down around you, then you’re missing something.
We weren’t happier in caveman days, no way, not when today there’s great food and music and travel all within easy reach. You can watch a live feed of the Earth from space, for crying out loud. What we have, as we’ve said, is perspective. Perspective allows us to see where we are, where we’re heading, and what we might be losing or missing out on, and going camping is a good way of staying in touch with what matters.
If it seems like we’ve made camping out to be something like a release, then in some ways, it is, but in another way, what we really need to make clear is that camping is enjoyable. Even though it can sometimes be cold, wet and tiring, the opportunity to get outside and to breathe, to see things and experience life with people who matter to you enough that you’ll spend days with them and only them, makes camping a pretty special experience in today’s world.
Why do we go camping, a final thought, then, something to compare camping to, and to sum up why we go camping in the first place when there are so many other options around. Camping, to us, is like a hot bath. It’s a remedy for the stresses and toil of everyday life, and while a holiday to somewhere where the hotel bed is soft and the food is catered is a bath filled with bubbles, if that’s not your thing, then camping is a hot bath filled with mineral salts, which will soothe and nourish you all the way from your skin, deep, way down deep to your tired insides.
There’s nothing quite like a camping trip to put you back in touch with who you really are, with the good, focused and relaxed person you know that you can be, and if you have the time (which you should), then we highly recommend putting on all of your best gear, and at least going out for a walk, without your phone.