I don’t go camping very much in this phase of my life. Because of that, every time I do go camping, I think about how my family’s frequent camping trips influenced my character development. Many of the positive attributes and skills I think I posess–reliability, accountability, perseverance, athleticism–trace directly back to camping. For instance, in high school, I wasn’t much of an athlete, but because of summer backpacking trips, I had a strong body. When I got to college and joined the rowing team, I was able to adapt and have a successful rowing career.
We made plenty of mistakes and had plenty of tense moments. There was probably some yelling (Dad), and passive-aggressive resistance (me). However, those bad moments were infrequent parts of the whole experience, which was overwhelmingly good. We didn’t just camp, we learned to take care of ourselves. We learned to do things the right way, even if it seemed harder than doing it the easy way. We also practiced getting along together. Sometimes, we used the caterpillar method of climbing a steep hill; other times my brother and I would go ahead, then come back to help everyone else.
To this day, I practice a distinctive style of minimalist camping, and I think it served me and the boys well this past weekend. We were never in danger, but there were times when efficiency and decisiveness helped to keep everyone happy, like when I made camp stew for a late dinner.
At the same time, some of the things that I saw bewildered and frustrated me. The boys stayed up way too late on Friday night, and were tired the next morning. One boy in my group, who in general doesn’t like Scouts, but comes because of his mother, displayed an extreme lack of participation in the challenge activities. With him in particular, and all the boys in general, I don’t know how to get across my feelings that camping is not escapism; it’s a useful microcosm of life, and a time when we learn and grow in ways that have positive transfer to all the aspects of life.
Jenny doesn’t like camping much, but I think that’s because she sees it as all dirt and bugs. She thinks the that the lessons I learned while camping can be found in other places as well. She may be right, but I plan to teach Elena to camp.