Monday, June 8, 2009

The Indoor Gal's Guide to Camping

It would probably come as no surprise to you that I am an indoor girl. Meaning I'd choose a luxury spa over the harsh jungle any day of the week. DH, on the other hand, is the handsome rugged type. Not afraid to get his hands dirty or sweat puddles. Opposites attract, I suppose.

However, considering our lean vacation budget this year, I temporarily lost my sanity and accepted an invitation for a spontaneous family camping trip with the in-laws. Primitive camping. None of this prissy cabin business with electricity that I had enjoyed once upon a time. We're talking dome tent with languid air mattress to mark your territory. Showering that requires shoes - and clemency for hard water. Resisting urination as you walk a mile uphill to the closest restroom facility. A persistent film of sunscreen, bug spray, smoke and dirt sealed on your skin.

While I knew up front it wasn't really my cup of tea, I reasoned that we so rarely get to act on impulse these days. We should take advantage of an opportunity to escape the normalcy. Variety is the spice of life, they say. And being the minority in my household with the lone vagina, I had better pull up my big girl panties and get accustomed to grime and filth. No better time than the present. So, we packed up the Jeep and drove for two hours to get here, preparing for our new adventure.

Things were off to a rough start as we hit stop-and-go traffic for the entire span of I-95. As we inched along, I had a moment of clairty and began to stress about the logistics of outdoor living with a 10-month old. I was tempted to turn the car around and call it off but I pushed on, motivated by DH's eagerness and excitement. The weather was turbulent and the rain cascaded over the hoods of our ponchos as we checked into the site and set up our gear. Well, I should say DH set up. I was on baby duty since Nate declined to sit in the comfort of his new warm, dry convertible carseat. It was cold and muddy. But I fought the will to complain. Instead, I quipped about what a hardcore camper I was. How my dedication should earn me some sort of merit badge. This led to a humorous discussion and chuckling over pieces of "flair".

That's pretty much how the trip went. We made lemonade from the lemons that were dealt.

I got zero sleep between a panic-stricken Nate waking repeatedly during the night and the sound of snoring coming from FIL's tent. But I still woke up with a smile on my face. Although I admit I was first in line for the instant coffee. Reeking of sweat and desperation.

When we discovered a tiny tick on Nate's neck and had to borrow tweezers from a neighbor to swiftly remove it, I laughed that despite dressing him in long sleeves and pants, the sucker - literally - was able to find the one bare spot on its defenseless victim. After the shock wore off, of course.

When DH spent the entire Saturday fishing and seemlingly deserted us, my frustration mounted but I remained composed. A little dripping sarcasm - and the ever useful silent treatment - earned me a deserved apology.

When a hike to Fossil Beach left us empty-handed of the remains for which we sought, we joked that at least we got our exercise for the day. And when I arrived at the beach to find I had forgotten my nursing cover - and had no blanket on hand - I nursed in public. Modestly and in a shaded area. But to hell with the consequences. It felt incredibly powerful to shed my timidity.

When Nate attempted to eat a fistful of dirt and rocks from the campground playground, I chided him and told him that he need not resort to sordid grub as a protein source.

It was a popular weekend at the campsite and there was never a dull moment. Peace and quiet were elusive. But there was one moment the first night - with the baby asleep in his playpen - where I laid awake in bed and stared at the apex of the tent, listening to the raindrops pelt us and slide down the nylon. At that moment, I felt detente. My stress melted off of me and I was ready to face the next day. Until Nate woke up, that is.

I ate so many hot dogs that I will likely have an aversion to them for months. I indulged in enough Little Hugs to warrant a cavity. But somehow I fell asleep and missed out on the classic campfire smores. If I have one regret, that would be it.

After roughing it for three days and two nights, it felt strange to come back home to plush carpeting and warm water. I - epitome of the indoor girl- almost missed the natural habitat. Unbelievable, right?!

I have to say this experience has given me a sense of pride. I have proven to myself that I can survive without television or a hairdryer. I extended my boundaries and surpassed my expectations. As did Nate, who I greatly underestimated. An unexpected side effect was to be able to truly distinguish necessities from luxuries. Toilet paper: necessity. Pillow: luxury.

This trip compelled me to put down the laptop and resist the usual distractions in order to focus on what's really important: making memories with family. So often, I'm caught up in documenting the happenings in my life that I fail to fully relish in it. It's in my nature to be introspective and that is unlikely to change. But when I can let go of the camera and the keyboard, I find that I am able to savor so much more. It's like being partially blind and resuming full vision. I can open my eyes and see the big picture instead of noticing things peripherally.

That explains why this is the one and only photo I took of our weekend getaway:

This has encouraged me. It's been a wakeup call. Maybe I need to put the blinders on more often.


Fertilized said...

You go girl!

Mel said...

Oh my goodness, I hate camping. Good for you for sucking it up and having such a great time! Boys surely bring a whole different life force with them!!