I remember the first time I stayed in a tent. It was on a trek and next to a waterfall, rather than on a camping site. I was quite afraid that blood sucking leeches and other ‘creepy crawlies’ would enter the tent at night, and have a gala feast on me. Thankfully, in-spite of the rain spitting down noisily on the tent, I could manage to sleep, largely due to the fatigue from walking the whole day. I woke up the next morning, realized where I was, quickly scanned self and tent, and after having breathed a sigh of relief, got out of the tent. I stepped out and immediately came face to face with the waterfall. Fantastic! How often is it that you can see a waterfall right in front of the main door?
From that day, I have been hooked on to camping. Yes, it can be incredibly hot / cold / humid / wet / hard / windy and the terrain has also been hard / inclined / cold at times, but it has been memorable almost every single time.
Before coming to Europe, the concept of a camping site was fairly new. We didn’t know how they worked, what facilities were provided, and so on. After having camped out for 40+ nights in the past year, ranging from weekend trips to a 20 day camping marathon, we now don’t deny the label of campers which is thrown at us.
The toughest bit on long camping trips is keeping the tent tidy and the smell out of it. We once bought a lot of apples as snacks and left them in the tent in the day while we were out, and after 2-3 days of doing this, the tent smelt sweetly of apples. The same thing happened with Tea. In a fit of nostalgia, I had picked up ‘Indischer Tee’ (Indian Tea) , which was exaggeratedly heavily spiced and aromatised. 3 Days and the tent smelt like a kettle of tea. The tip would be to air out the tent regularly, and lock all these strong aromatic things in a zippered rucksack or something.
Similarly, with typical european weather, the occasional rain shower can’t be ruled out, and hence care needs to be taken to keep things dry. Generally, we follow a schedule of drying / airing things out first thing in the morning while we have breakfast. Breakfast can wait for half an hour if a rainy day has been followed by a sunny day! 🙂
What we missed till pretty late in our trips was a proper pillow/cushion. Easy to amend, buy a small inflatable one, or take one from your favourite couch! 🙂 That helps an immense amount in sleeping peacefully.
A positive ‘side-effect’ of camping is the absence of plug points and reading lights, etc.. You are ‘forced’ to spend time with your thoughts, or with your friend / family. We like that aspect a lot. Plus, we also think that all the radiation from the mobile network and the wi-fi signals roaming around in the cities and cafes and offices can’t necessary be beneficial to our health – a few days of low radiation ‘earthing’ is always welcome!
We have camped mostly since we don’t like city centers too much. I think I personally spend too much time in a box (bus/office/home), surrounded by other boxes (homes, buses, cars, buildings), and a relatively small tent in the middle of a nice grassy pitch, next to a river, under the whispering trees, or close to a mountain is very refreshing for me. It also puts into perspective how little one needs to be fairly comfortable. I could not have put it much better than this –> “ I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn’t mean much“.
Apart from that, camping can be greener, significantly inexpensive, flexible (most camping sites hardly need reservations for a tent; only caravans need one) and the locations are sometimes fantastic.
Thank God they have some camping sites close to National Parks. I can not imagine rows of hotels and associated ‘services’ being built at some of these places. One more advantage of camping is the people you meet. You meet some truly fantastic people – people who have chosen to camp due to the long vacations / trips they are on. It is fascinating to sit with them, have the simplest, yet memorable breakfast of bread and jam with them, or bump into some very warm and friendly locals and join them for ‘some’ wine and food in their caravan. Some nice people and memories already! 🙂
Most of the camping places, in fact, all of them, have been safe, clean and secure. However, there was one campsite, in the middle of the peak tourist season, where we were a little skeptical about the safety of the tent and the stuff lying inside. What we did still makes us laugh! We cut a hair band and tied it through the zippers of the tent, so that they would not open! Anyone capable of opening knots, let alone someone with a pair of scissors would have been able to get by! That however, did the job. We felt secure, and enjoyed a good day out. After all, 3 knots aren’t a joke.
We don’t have a car, we have been taking buses and trams everywhere, and it works! The public network is really well laid out, with a bus stop within walking distance from the camp site. There are generally vending machines or a petrol pump or a street-food vendor nearby for the emergency snack when all else is exhausted. There are lockers available at some sites, in other cases, a small bag can be accommodated safely in a neighbor’s caravan or at the friendly reception. There are washing machines, cooking areas, areas to clean the utensils and sometimes even restaurants on site. Germany continues to impress us as there is waste segregation at the campsites too. At other places, we just filter the waste on our own before disposing it. There are small bakeries which bring fresh, hot bread early in the morning. This can be pre-ordered the evening before. Some campsites give you daily bus passes for the city, which again means the convenient of hopping buses at will, free of charge, and free of fishing for change every-time!
We also saw some really creative and very interesting ‘live-in sculptures’ which were available for rent. Needless to say, there are several design iterations which we have started sketching in!
But, for me, a tent exists at the boundary of indoors and outdoors. It is where you can hear the raindrops, be close to the swaying branches of the trees, feel the wind batter you, and still stay dry (and generally warm).
Just what the doctor ordered.