I love not camping. I love it so hard.
You know what else I love? I love room service, big fluffy beds made by other people, ocean views, bathrooms that magically clean themselves and swim up bars. I am what you would consider a resort-friendly kind of girl.
I make no apologies about it. I like what I like. And when I travel, I am of the mindset of “Hey, if I’m going to be spending X dollars anyway, I may as well spend 10-20% more and get something AMAZING.” It’s the saleswoman in me selling myself… I’m kind of an easy mark. So when someone suggests a trip to Tahoe or Big Sur, I’m all about it but I envision a cabin or luxury resort with day hikes – not sleeping on the ground.
I have a relatively strong aversion to camping, but it’s not JUST because I’m what some people (I’m looking at you Gil) consider “high maintenance.” No, it’s deeper than that guys. I have emotional camping scars. And you know what they say…. you’re only as sick as your secrets. Your horrible, horrible, camping secrets.
So I’ve decided today’s the day I’m going to share them. Partly because I need to work through my feelings about camping so I can convince myself to try it again (my boyfriend of almost 2 years loves it, and we’ve done it a total of zero times). And partly because my only real camping story is actually worth sharing.
But let me back up for a second. Growing up, camping was not something I was ever exposed to. In this world, there are “camping families” and “non-camping families.” We were definitely a non-camping family. We spent plenty of time outside and liked to explore and do outdoor activities, but we preferred to poop inside, you know?
I’ve been camping a grand total of twice in my life so far. Neither have really warmed me up to the whole idea yet. And frankly the second time may not even count… my friends were at a campsite at the beach and I joined them and wound up sleeping in my car because it was so windy.
But the first and really only actual camping experience I have…. well, it left a mark. It has been burned into my brain. My soul. My eyeballs. I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT. If for no other reason, than to ease this heavy burden I’ve been carrying. And to illustrate the real source of my camping aversion. To prove it’s NOT just because I think I’m too good to poop in the ground. (I do think that, I totally do.)
Deep breaths… here it goes. My first camping experience happened when I was 18. I was what you might refer to as a bona fide HOT MESS. My brother was sick and I was kind of in a tailspin, and 18 is a great age to be an irresponsible asshole anyway, so the camping trip involved way more whiskey than it should have. I went with my friend Raena, her loser boyfriend (I can say that because she totally dumped him later… don’t worry it’s not like that’s who she wound up with) and his loser friend. We all had great taste in men back then.
The emotional baggage aside, what I remember most about that trip is what Raena and I still refer to as the “death hike.” You know, when 4 hungover 18 year olds decide to head out on an 8 mile round-trip hike in 90+ degree heat to a swimming hole with no food, minimal water and generally no good sense whatsoever.
We literally almost didn’t make it back. As in, the guys took off (told you, GREAT taste in men back then) and Raena and I staggered along the completely deserted trail on our own, making all kinds of promises to the universe or God or whoever we thought might be able to get us out of this one. Promising to shape up if we could just get a goddamn ride back to camp.
At one point, I laid down on the side of the trail, and told my girlfriend to go on without me…. SAVE YOURSELF! I implored. Actually it was more like “find someone with a freaking truck and send them back for me… I’m going to lay here and wait for someone to rescue me because I am not cut out for this shit.” I distinctly remember laying in the dirt, cheek full on in a dirt pile, watching a spider crawl up my leg, too dehydrated and exhausted to move or care, and all I could think about was how badly I wanted an ice cold Fresca and air conditioning. And to never go camping again.
Turns out, my plan wasn’t as solid as Raena’s. She DID find someone with a truck to give her a ride back, while I was laying in the dirt hallucinating about Fresca. I’m not totally clear on why he never came for me, but he didn’t and at some point I managed to pick myself up out of the dirt and soldier on. Somehow I eventually made my way back to our campsite, thinking this had to be the worst camping trip ever. I mean, come on. It doesn’t get much worse than that.
Until a WILD BOAR attacked our campsite that night. Seriously. We jumped into the bed of Raena’s truck, screaming like lunatics as this beast of an animal went to town on the campsite. That’s it, that was our whole line of defense. No guns, no knowledge of boars, nothing. After it tore through our stuff and disappeared back into the woods, the woman at the campsite next to ours came over with her dog presumably to see if we were OK. She was apparently camping with her husband, an Indian shaman of some sort.
She calmly informed us that she could talk to animals (yup) and had special powers (of course), so she had this on lock. She was going to talk to the boar to calm it down and make sure it didn’t bother us anymore. Then she disappeared into the woods with her dog to have a little chat with the boar. TO HAVE A CHAT WITH THE WILD BOAR THAT HAD JUST TORN THROUGH OUR CAMPSITE.
Now before you ask, no, we were not tripping on acid. But I can’t say the same for her. We heard her chanting and yelling and then heard her dog yelping and barking, and noises I now know are what a boar attacking a dog sound like.
We stared at each other, mouths open, convinced this crazy lady and her dog were boar meat. Miraculously, she came walking back out and told us she’d taken care of it. And to be fair, the boar left us alone after that, so who knows? Maybe she talked some sense into it.
She wasn’t done though. Oh no. She decided to join us at our fire and proceeded to read our futures. Totally normal camping neighbor etiquette and behavior, right? After letting us know one of our friends had “special powers” too and needed us to watch over her, she informed me I would live in many different places, and have children I didn’t know about with different men.
Wait, pause. I might have skipped a few health classes along the way, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the woman who finds out she has a kid years after a drunken hookup in the back of an Explorer. Even if you don’t know you’re pregnant (thanks, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” for educating me about how many women this ACTUALLY happens to), you sure as shit notice when a HUMAN BEING comes out of your vagina. But I digress.
Anyway, after “looking into our futures” she eventually had to return to her own campsite, because her husband was screaming for her and sounded pretty pissed. Maybe he had just found out about one of her secret children, I’m not sure. After a few more shots of whiskey (I mean how can you not be drinking during an experience like that?) we eventually all passed out. When we woke up the next morning and said hello to our crazy neighbor and potential boar-whisperer, she just looked at us blankly. She had no clue who we were. NONE.
I SWEAR TO FRESCA, we were not the ones tripping balls because we all remembered it exactly the same the next morning. But at that point, I was ready to be done camping. Basically forever.
Fast forward 13 years, and that’s pretty much held up. No more camping. But guys, it might be time. It might be time to give it another shot. I might be ready. But if anyone so much as mentions anything about a boar, I’m out.