One of the family traditions that we are trying to start is regular camping trips to familiar campsites. This year we visited three different campgrounds; two of them were national parks and one was more locally administered. We hiked, we ate smores, we splashed in the water and we took pictures. Except for when we got rained on, the kids did remarkably well. The people around us varied quite a bit, some were younger and some much older, some lent us things we needed and some needed to borrow from us, some had more luxurious RVs and cabins than us and others … I don’t know, can you get any less comfortable than a tent?
We had blow up mattresses and extra blankets, so we were fine, but I was personally surprised at the number of non-Canadians who were tenting it. And I don’t mean that I walked by a campsite and could tell that they were cooking curry so I assumed they couldn’t be Canadians. No, I talked to people who were visiting from various other countries and had chosen to spend their international vacation sleeping on thin foam mattresses on rock hard ground. Don’t get me wrong. I love camping, but if I’m crossing an ocean, I expect to sleep in a bed.
And these weren’t isolated cases, there is a whole industry around this. One couple rented a kit with a tent, sleeping bags, camp stove and anything you could think of for a camping vacation. Another group had a tour guide that camped with them and lead them on hikes and little daytrips from their campsite. I don’t know if being this kind of professional camper would be a good job or a bad one.
I asked a few of them why they had come all this way to sleep outside with only a synthetic fabric protecting them. Their answer was simple. “Because camping is the best way to experience all of this.” And they would gesture around at the mountains, the forests and the lakes. It was obvious.
It struck me that these people were camping for the same reasons that I was camping. They knew that if you just wanted to see the mountains, you could look at pictures on the Internet, but if you wanted to experience the mountains, you have to sleep in their shadows.
These people loved the mountains as much as I did, or more, and had sacrificed more to experience them. And maybe they were in fact more Canadian than the people who live here but have never seen the sunset behind the moutains or the morning mist lift from a lake. This was a reminder to me that the insiders often have as much to learn from the outsiders as the other way around, especially when it comes to appreciation, love and even worship.