The Campground: A More Civilized Society?

Does camping make people nicer? Spending time in nature makes people happier and healthier and reduces stress (according to research), so I think it’s perfectly feasible. I have always found people to be generally more pleasant, friendly, patient and generous in campgrounds. I would love to see (or do) research on this. Anyone want to fund a study?

This past weekend, we took a camping trip to Algonquin Park. In my family, this is a tradition that is almost a pilgrimage of sorts (and looking up the official definition of pilgrimage, it seems to qualify). It wasn’t the most relaxing trip (parenting an 18 month old puts the concept of “relaxing” on the back burner for a while). It was, however, a good chance to reconnect with our special places, disconnect from the electronic world and introduce our littlest one to the family tradition. (I talk about taking my eldest son there for the first time in this post: Special Places)

I observed, as I have many times before, that there seems to be an unsImagepoken understanding in campgrounds (a brotherhood, if you will). “I camp. You camp. I like trees. You like trees. I can deal with a few mosquitoes. So can you. I eat food I cooked on a stick. So do you. We have something in common. You must be a decent human being if you choose to spend time here.”

Paddling a canoe along the Madawaska River, you will smile, nod and exchange pleasantries with the occupants of every canoe that passes. That’s just what’s done. It’s the same on trails, and it’s the same when you pass people going to the washroom. If you don’t participate in this tradition while camping, you’re doing it wrong. (As are these guys)  It’s different in the city, despite those of us who try, and despite campaigns like this one:  Say Hi Campaign 

So, why is there a change in attitude? Is there something in the great outdoors that makes people nicer? Is it just the vacation, the break from work? Is it the increased consumption of alcohol? A marshmallow sugar high? Is there something in the pine-scented air? In the bug spray formula? Who knows? But, whatever it is, it is yet another reason to spend time in nature, and camping in particular. Image

Need another reason to camp? Recent research shows that camping can actually reset your biological clock due to the change in dependence on artificial lighting. If you’d like to be able to get up earlier, camping just might help.

Oh, and here’s one more piece of evidence of camper goodwill. After two nights of my toddler screaming for long stretches in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning, not one person complained. On behalf of parents camping with babies everywhere, we are REALLY, REALLY sorry, and thank you for understanding. We left a night early. You’re welcome.

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8 Responses to The Campground: A More Civilized Society?

  1. Miriam says:

    I agree with you that camping makes people nicer, more civilized. It must fulfill some basic need inside of us- how else can we explain why we would go to so much trouble just to “rough it” for a few days? I think an 18 month old must be the hardest age to camp with. Kids are SO busy at that age, yet still have no real safety awareness. It will get easier!

  2. crproductions says:

    Cathy…I love your post! My fondest childhood memories are of our summer family camping trips. Upon arrival, I ALWAYS took off to “check out the neighborhood”. Someone had to come looking for me, and there I was right in the middle of a camp site chatting away with folks who often became friends of my family. Thanks for reminding me of some great memories!

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  5. lesyabudna says:

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. We’ve noticed that too. People tend to be so much nicer when they spend time outdoors, probably for a number of reasons: positive effects of nature, being free from schedules and feeling more relaxed and open, or, in case of backcountry trips, realizing that there aren’t that many people around and you have to rely on each other. Although, occasionally you come across people who should be banned from visiting parks altogether. Luckily, those don’t happen very often.
    Your post also reminded about camping with our son when he was 18 month old. We were at Killarney and our campsite ended in a big rocky ledge with a steep descent to Lake George so most of our stay there was focused on keeping him off that ledge. But you are right it gets easier and then they grow up to be nature lovers for life!

    • Thanks! I agree…there are people who don’t seem to understand campground etiquette. (On our most recent trip there was someone chopping wood with a wedge….so metal on metal for an hour at midnight!!)

      Site on a ledge is definitely not ideal for the wee ones!

      I posted this two years ago, and it does get so much easier once the kids are older. Our past trip was a joy!

      Thanks for reading!

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