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Friday, May 10, 2013

Nature vs. Nurture

A few years ago, during a happy hour mixer held one night at the Overland Expo, a question was posed to me that I haven't stopped thinking about since: As a woman, what can you say to convince other women to get out and explore the outdoors?

The woman who asked me this is actually pretty famous for doing some serious "getting out there." Monika Wescott, along with her husband Gary, travel the world in a camper. They are the reason we chose the camper we did, and they have been a huge inspiration to us. They've traveled extensively in Mexico, crossed Siberia in winter and are presently on a four year trip around the world following the Silk Road. Their website http://turtleexpedition.com  goes into detail about their adventures, but suffice it to say, they are out there exploring.

Mark with Monika Wescott of the Turtle Expedition.

So when she asked me that question it seriously got me thinking. To be clear though, I don't think it's really a man vs. woman thing; I personally know several men that would never consider camping as a vacation choice. My first reaction was a nature/nurture argument; I was pretty young when my dad started taking me camping; my two brothers and I were treated equally as far as chores and expectations; I was and am more of a tomboy than a girly-girl, a fact to which Mark and pretty much everybody that knows me can attest. But why was it that Monika and I were standing in a group of men, most of whom were complaining they couldn't get their wives to come along on trips with them?

I think at least some of it comes down to discomfort. Most of us get up in the morning, take a shower, put on clean clothes and go about our day. We attend to our various grooming rituals to be presentable to the world and each other. We like our coffee in the morning, our toast with butter, our paper on the porch. We like our own bathroom, our own mattress, our own chair in front of our own TV. When that's taken away, it slips into the uncomfortable zone.

Contrary to what most non-campers might think, you don't have to give up all the rituals to go camping. Mark makes his coffee camping the same way he makes it at home: boiling water poured into a cone over his coffee cup. We have a two burner stove that cooks up pretty much anything you could make at home, and a little travel grill that works perfectly for a steak or chicken. Our bed is a foam mattress with the pillows taken from our bed at home. We have a solar shower that we use to clean up in the afternoons, and if there's no sun that day, we heat water on the stove and pour it in to warm it up. After a few days on the road, not wanting to be mistaken for Sasquatch, I stick my feet in a washbasin and shave my legs, using the sun shower to rinse off.  Men do have it easier on that front; Mark just lets his beard grow and gets more handsome by the day (I might be biased).

Our camping Beauty Salon.

The Milky Way: more than just a candy bar.
If you're having a bad hair day, just put on a hat--it's probably best for your sunburned nose anyway. If you wear makeup, bring along a little compact mirror or use the car mirrors. If you want your clothes to smell dryer-fresh, line your duffel bag with dryer sheets (it has the added effect of keeping the mosquitoes at bay, or so I'm told.) If you don't like pit toilets...well, you're going to have to dig your own hole. Or bring a coffee can. Sorry.



The tradeoff for this little bit of extra effort is enormous. To wake up in the morning and see the sun rise over a mountain range, the only sounds coming from the birds in the trees. Seeing the entire Milky Way spread out across the sky at night without any city lights interfering with the view. Meeting people from all over the world that came to enjoy the same experience. It saddens me to think many people will never see these things because they don't want anyone to see them with messy hair.


If taking care of the creature comforts isn't enough to convince you, let me appeal to your pocketbook: the average lodge room in Yosemite costs $220.00/night plus meals (and they're not cheap). A camp spot will cost you just $20.00/night, and you can cook up whatever you want or go out for dinner, your choice. So if you camp for a week, you've just saved $1400.00 that would easily cover the purchase of a tent, sleeping bag, cooler and camp stove, and you will be able to use them for years to come, anywhere you want.

Here in the U.S. (and California in particular), we are really lucky. There are huge areas set aside just for our enjoyment. Ancient trees, snowy mountain ranges, bubbling sulfur pits, sandy beaches, deep caverns, and endangered animals all saved in your name. National, State, Regional and County parks all out there, waiting for people to come see them. Death Valley National Park alone is bigger than some European countries, 5300 square miles set aside just for you. And as taxpayers, you're helping to pay for it. Why not go check out your acreage?
Could you ask for a better washroom view?
North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park