I went camping last weekend. We got chatting, round the proverbial campfire, about why we — the British, but north Europeans in general — seem to be drawn to taking ourselves away from home for a few nights to sit in a field somewhere and do everything we’d do at home, only with less light, less equipment and a longer walk to the toilet.
The party without the host
One of us made the strong argument that camping appeals because no one is host. Everyone comes to neutral ground. Everyone brings what they can with the object of sharing (food, drink etc.). No one has the pressure of making it a ‘good time’ for everyone else. You are all equally responsible for the experience.
Don’t forget the toaster
A lot of modern camping is ‘kitchen sink’ stuff. With an electric hook-up, we bring every comfort of home we can think of, in order to create the suburban dream, but on a campsite. Why? In most cases, the people in question could afford a hotel — so why choose a field under canvas?
Finding the inner nomad
Could it be that this is some faint hangover of our ancestral past? Are we communing, however tenuously, with our hunter-gatherer forebears? Urban Arabs in the Gulf still return to desert tents with satellite dishes on the edge of futuristic cities for weekends in order to reconnect with a cultural past. Are northern Europeans doing something similar?
Where is Timmy Mallet?
In the simplicity, the resourcefulness, the proximity to nature, there is something of a pre-settled time about the camping experience. We shed civilization — some more than others.
If, like me, you arrive as an amateur (no mallet, no hook-up, no kitchenette, the wrong cylinder for your gas stove, the busiest party weekend of the year) just remember the two-night rule. There’s only so much ancestor worship you need in one holiday.