On Camping

Written by Mike Parish, Illustrated by Dan Tarnowski
On Camping

Real Campers

To camp is to escape. There’s no real reason that anyone needs to camp anymore, unless of course one enjoys camping. Wilderness adventurers and thrill seekers camp quite often but who I’m talking about is the everyday person.

Explorers used to camp for a large portion of their lives because camping was a necessary part of their job. When you’re sailing half way around the world and you’re thousands of miles from home, what choice do you have other than to set up shop in a foreign land for the night? Or Lewis and Clark who charted the great western wilderness of the U. S.; those guys were campers.

Today, camping is a hobby at best. It is fun to subject oneself to the elements and live in the woods foregoing modern amenities and comforts. But when you get tired of such a lifestyle or just want a “real” hot meal, it’s as easy as taking a hike back to the car, (or for car campers, jumping in the car), and heading for home.

The people that really amaze me when I think about them are the first European settlers here in America, who literally left their homes to create a new one. In a sense, they were, and still are, the eternal campers.

Camping in for a Landing

Here would probably be a good place to clarify what the word “camping” means. Camping is sleeping outside under the stars or in a tent or other similarly fashioned shelter, in a place that is wild or secluded and away from civilization, in natural areas that are somewhat “untouched.”

Camping outside of an electronics store on Black Friday so you can get a deal on a plasma TV while also accidentally trampling and killing an employee would not be considered camping: That would be considered murder. Car camping, where you just pull up to a campsite and throw some wieners on a grill and pitch a tent even pushes the limits of what I would traditionally consider camping. It’s definitely in the vicinity of camping, but come on, it’s car camping.

Affordable Housing

Often, my friend John and I have discussed the possibility of camping indefinitely in a state park. (I guess this probably isn’t the best place to be writing this in case it could ever be used to indict me), but if I suddenly couldn’t afford to pay rent in another few months, I would try it out. Don’t get me wrong; I’m actually considering this as a viable living option.

In On Homeless, I talked about the prospect of homelessness actually being an indefinite hike in a city, in this case, in New York. While New York cannot be considered a wilderness area, it is often referred to as the “big jungle,” so in that right, it can be covered in my previous blanket definition of camping. If public property in the wild can be used for camping, why not public property in the city?

The only argument against pitching a tent in Central Park on Sheep Meadow is probably sanitation. Where are you going to go to the bathroom? When you’re camping, the world is your bathroom. But when you’re in a city, things get complicated.

In All Campiness

While much of what I have said has been in jest, camping is an activity everyone should try. In a way, we’re all campers; we’ve set up camp in the houses we call home. But living the nomadic life and making a home in the wild, for even just a few days, makes one appreciate what they have and truly reconsider what they want. When all is said and done, is it better to live a life of comfort and convenience, or to strike out against the world, and strike your fire under truly starry skies?

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