Skip to comments.Camping's all white, but you can keep it
Posted on 01/08/2012 1:01:25 PM PST by SJackson
I have just returned from a trip where I lay for hours prone on a thin strip of air with only polystyrene separating my strained back from the ground below. The rain belted down all night and its thud upon the tent sounded like a stream of thunder. I pondered whether nature was overrated while several kookaburras shrieked in unison and dragged me in a kind of aural violence from my first period of restful sleep at 5am.
Welcome to the joys of camping.
According to Monash University academic Bill Garner, camping is essential to the Australian experience. From Sydney Cove to the goldfields, the overland telegraph to the Snowy Mountains scheme, camping has been instrumental to almost every phase of our historical development, he says.
Advertisement: Story continues below It was supposed to be one of those dowdy pastimes that became perversely fashionable for a moment, only to become just as unfashionable again once everybody tried it and found out what it actually entailed.
Yet, according to industry insiders, camping is experiencing a boom, partly due to the lacklustre economy and an aversion to extravagance and environmental unfriendliness.
sleeping in a luxuriously appointed tent someone else has put up for you - is increasingly seen as an acceptable, if not preferable, alternative to a bed-and-breakfast booking.
In our high-tech world, a striving towards gadget-free simplicity and proximity to nature acquires a greater dimension. This may be more apparent in Australia, where our national identity is partly tied to the rugged environment.
But while it has shifted from practical necessity to leisure activity in the past 50 years, there are large sections of Australia that would never consider camping as an idyllic way to spend their holidays - particularly those from ethnic communities.
As I surveyed my surroundings in a coastal caravan park, I was struck that I was the only non-white person among hundreds of gleeful holidaymakers. For many people from ethnic backgrounds, particularly Asian or Mediterranean, the connection between simple living and poverty is just too strong.
Any attempt to brag about my view of green pastures and scenic lakes to my parents is met by comparisons with their own rise from Bangladeshi villages.
In his popular blog "Stuff White People Like", Charles Lander writes: "Once in the camp area, white people will walk around for a while, set up a tent, have a horrible night of sleep, walk around some more. Then they get in the car and go home."
While his blog is often a satire of the bourgeois middle class - our equivalent of the chardonnay socialist - camping arguably unites the white working class and the white middle class in one of their few shared activities, even if they are unlikely to be sharing the same tent.
The late Oxford-based political philosopher G. A. Cohen even used camping as an analogy for why socialism is still the ideal way to organise society.
He described an imaginary camping trip made by several different families, and argued that the trip proceeded according to two principles - "an egalitarian principle" and "a principle of community" - that together captured the socialist vision of a just society.
Nonetheless, after lying awake listening to the nocturnal sounds of nature, I became grateful for our capitalist ability to generate wealth and modern goods and services, including mass production of pharmaceuticals, when I prescribed myself sleeping tablets the following morning.
The prospect of camping becoming a unifying, cultural experience for all Australians remains a possibility, with latter generations of immigrants far more likely to consider it a viable leisure activity.
In fact, in an age where we lack outlets for transcendence, camping has the potential to become the new Buddhism. It encourages us to loosen our attachment to worldly goods, except for expensive outdoor equipment usually transported to a site in a four-wheel-drive. It encourages extended contemplation free from the constant distractions of hectic, modern life.
And finally, it allows for the priceless luxury of simplicity and enjoyment of pure family time, well worth the complexity of preparation required. As Bill Garner put it in an attempt to sell the virtues of this unique leisure activity, "You do just spend a lot of time sitting."
Tanveer Ahmed is a psychiatrist and Herald columnist.
Wouldn't get away with that headline in the US. As to G. A. Cohen even used camping as an analogy for why socialism is still the ideal way to organise society., maybe, we can all be socialists on vacation and take an all inclusive cruse. With no add ons. Or similar resort. And let the capitalists make money.
Good Lord. What is this wuss gonna do when the whole world goes Mad Max?
The outdoors would be great if it weren’t for all that damn nature out there!
The author is talking about vacations. We can’t all do an Obama/Pelosi Hawaii trek. I guess camping vacationers will be prepared, though I’ll hang with the deer camp guys.
I concluded years ago that “Having to put on shoes to get to the ice machine” is about as ‘roughing it’ as I care to get....
Indluding the “wuss” you beat me to it.
Such a sheltered child he is.
I agree with you. It was fun camping when I was a kid, tried it once as an adult and hated it.
I guess there’s some point in there somewhere that pulls the title together with the content of the piece. But damned if I know what it is.
The trick is to find a place with decent bathrooms and showers.
I did my share of sleeping under the stars when I was in the Marine Corps. I spent more than a few nights dragging my sleeping back out onto the desert floor in the Mojave desert to watch the starry skies and hoping that scorpions don't crawl into my boots while I sleep.
I kind of liked camping out back then because the alternative was sleeping in a crowded, hot tent listening to other Marines scratching themselves and snoring all night.
Since getting out of service, camping with the family is not so much fun. Listening to my sons whine about mosquito bites and having to walk everywhere. Getting up in the cold morning to get the coffee heated up and breakfast ready, feeling scuzzy for lack of hot showers. Trying to keep the bugs and animals away from the food. No thanks, the closest I'll get to real camping is renting a cabin or an RV.
For many, camping is the only way to afford a vacation.
Knife, firestarter, meds. I'm ready to camp!
“What is this wuss gonna do when the whole world goes Mad Max?”
LOL I imagine he will long for the good ole days of turndowns and mints on the pillows.
A guy from a brown country full of blowing sand and devoid of infrastructure wrote this...?