5 Things You Learn From Camping (If You Hate the Outdoors)
I have a confession: the great outdoors have never seemed that fucking great to me. If I'm outside, it's for a specific purpose. I go outside to smoke, to tan, or to walk from one indoor place to another indoor place. I do not exist outdoors for fun. I consider purse dogs to be wildlife. I was arrested for buying Four Loko off a homeless man dressed as the Cat in the Hat two years before I saw a cow in real life. All outdoor peeing I've done has been a result of too much alcohol and dwindling shame, rather than a sincere desire to be somewhere without running water. The only vaguely athletic pieces of clothing I own are yoga pants I don't do yoga in. You get the idea.
This is actually my OKCupid profile bio.
I found out just how severe my aversion to nature really is during a trip to Chile earlier this year. Traveling abroad means expanding your horizons, getting out of your comfort zone, and drinking heavily. All of that, somehow, ended in me deciding I should try camping for the first time.
I'd prepped for the inevitable moment when I'd need to learn a new life skill by watching way too many episodes of MTV's Made back in middle school. If that taught me anything, it's that I'd need a mentor of some kind to literally do all the work while I stood there pretending to learn. So with that in mind, I convinced two REI-looking motherfuckers I was friends with to take me camping in the wilderness of the Chilean suburbs. It went poorly. Here's what I learned ...
People Pay Money to Sleep on the Ground
My very vague idea of camping was that you just wandered into some woods that someone had kinda mapped out and just set your tent down on whatever bit of land spoke to your heart (it said "you probably wont get eaten by bears here"). Then you went fishing, cleaned those fish with your Wunder Boner, and grilled up your food like heathens or Paul Bundy. Bunion? It doesn't matter.
What matters is that the Wunder Boner is real and on Facebook.
On the suggestion of a friend, the three of us bused a few miles out of Santiago to some tiny camping town. As soon as we got there, we realized you had to pay to camp. Okay, I realized this. The other two already expected it and laughed at my genuine shock once they realized I wasn't joking. It probably became much less funny after the seventh time I asked, "Like, okay, but why?!"
Everything you see here should be free.
After the guys deemed the camping fees too high, we, as law-abiding youths, immediately found land that seemed unused enough that we could camp on it. And by land, I mean a mountain. And by unused, I mean that there may or may not have been a "no trespassers" sign (we're gringos ... no entendamos?) that we decided to ignore.
Climbing the mountain to the dulcet sounds of my harsh breathing due to my delicate smoker lungs should have tipped us off that I was not meant for this journey, and should have returned to the bus stop. However, I'm a stubborn little shit sometimes, and this was literally a hill I was willing to die on.
We set up camp, which is code for me sitting on a blanket because I was banned from helping set up camp. I found this unfair because I've totally put together IKEA furniture, sort of, so I could probably handle a tent.
I let it go, though, because I'm a forgiving person, and also I still sounded like I'd been shot while running a marathon.
Always Walk in the Back (so No One Can See You Fall)
We went hiking one day during the camping trip. I thought it would be fine, because I climb uphill and push people out of my way on a fairly regular basis anyway.
Walk on the left, stand on the right, motherfuckers!
I started out in the middle, but after delaying our hike for five minutes by getting stuck on a bush somehow (most of the five minutes were spent just laughing at me), I moved to the back of the group. This was good because, not five seconds later, I tripped and fell flat on my face. If you don't think falling is infinitely less embarrassing if no one saw you trip, you clearly don't fall very often, and were probably one of the people who took gym class way too seriously. In the back, I could just bumble along, getting dick-slapped by tree branches and tripping over things without appearing to be quite as out of shape and uncoordinated as I actually am.
At one point, I just sat right the fuck down on the trail and told them to come back for my dead body.
Good thing I've already planned my funeral on Pinterest.
Surprisingly, I was still alive and ready to walk when they came back my way about 20 minutes later.
No One Looks Good Sleeping Outside
REI catalogs are misleading as fuck, okay? I wasn't expecting to look "***Flawless" or anything, but I dated a crust punk once, and I was expecting camping to be more hygienic than that. It fucking wasn't.
This is what voluntary homelessness looks like.
Once we'd set up camp, I stared at some trees to see if I was having fun yet. There was a lot of dirt (in my sandwich) and wildlife (also possibly in my sandwich). After a few minutes of that, I psyched myself up a little bit and wandered off to take a shit in the woods, because that's like 90 percent of what I understand about camping. In case you're curious (and I know you are), it was a lot like shitting at home, in that I still played solitaire on my phone, but it was also different, in that it was fucking grimy and a squirrel made eye contact with me the whole time.
That part was fine.
Undeterred, I walked around on a trail a little bit until I got hot and sat down to have a cigarette. A bug flew into the side of my head, which I thought was rude. We built a fire (I gave up on the boys and lit it with a lighter because I was fucking hungry) and roasted s'mores, which were better than the ones I make over my stove burner when I'm hungover, but weren't to die for or anything. And by this point, I was starting to worry that I actually might die camping.
By the end of the trip, I looked like a psychotic forest hag. While we were waiting for our bus back to Santiago, someone pointed out two beetles having sex in my hair. Sometime between those two points in the weekend, I gave up. I became one with the natural grime. I was like Peeta Mellark, outwardly becoming one with nature, except a more realistic version where he just throws dust on his body and stares apathetically at anything that moves.
Seriously, what a bullshit fucking talent.
You maybe consider Febrezing yourself once in a while, but you've also probably peed on your shoes six times or more at this point, so who cares?
Everything in Nature Tastes Like Dirt (or Worse)
This whole "fuck there's so much dirt in nature" thing was impossible to escape when it came to eating. I was slightly unnerved by that initial dirt sandwich, but as someone who pretty much exclusively lives on sugar-free Red Bull, liquor, and chicken-flavored ramen, I shockingly don't get a lot of the proteins I need. My doctor would probably be thrilled about me eating dirt as long as there was an ant or two in it.
The steak of the future.
Though I was totally down with accidentally eating bugs after a while (three hours outside changes a person, it really does), one thing I was not going to live without was coffee. In Chile, most of the coffee is instant Nescafe. For the record, it's just as fucking awful with a little bit of dirt in it as it is without. Unfortunately, on our last morning, I woke up to find that there wasn't any water. In fact, we literally had no liquids other than really cheap vodka. I'm sure you can guess where this is going.
And I accept all judgment.
I removed the cap from the vodka, scooped Nescafe into it, dumped it in my mouth, and swigged straight from the bottle. Four times. It was the second-worst drinking experience I've ever had only because I once took a double shot of Everclear for reasons I'm still not aware of, and then had to go lie down. I did not have to lie down after this one. Once I accepted the shame of what I had just done, I immediately started excitedly packing for our trip back down the mountain and to Santiago. I was so jacked up on LIFE.
Nescafvodka IS life.
You know how I keep talking about how fucking uncoordinated I am? Well, for the trip back, we add a backpack, a drunken lack of respect for gravity, and mouthfuls of vodka-infused coffee crystals into the mix.
Alcohol and Mountains Don't Mix
We began our climb back down the mountain. The other times I'd gone down, I did that dainty "lean back and slide on your butt" maneuver. That day though, I decided to be bold, like 5 Gum. The world was my oyster, and I was going to seize it and fuck it. I was going to face the mountain standing tall and proud. Fight me, Mother fucking Nature.
"I'm about to."
Standing up, I began to jog down like the guys were doing. If the smiley face in sunglasses emoji was an emotion, that was me. A big old drunk idiot jogging down a mountain feeling the fucking epitome of cool. I was going to contact MTV and Dr. Phil to tell them about how I was the success story to end all success stories.
It wasn't long after that when I noticed I was going faster down the mountain than the two guys, who'd spent all fucking weekend sprinting around like puppies while I spent most of my energy on complaining and standing up after falling. Not now, though. Suddenly, I was the motherfucking Road Runner, and I was here to make everyone else look like modified-push-up-doing bitches. It was not the natural order of things.
Then I thought, "Wait, when the fuck did I start running?" Jogging, skipping, and power walking I'm down with, but no amount of feel-good emotional bullshit will make me run ... but gravity will! The hill was getting steeper, and without realizing it, I was sprinting down it, my feet desperately trying to keep up with how fast my body was hurtling downhill. I thought, "Aw, fuck. I'm totally going to fall" maybe two seconds before I pitched forward and ate shit. I then continued to eat shit as I fucking somersaulted down the mountain.
Once my fragile doll body had flopped to the bottom, I just sort of laid there dazed, and contemplated my life choices. That was cut short by the guys running up to make sure I wasn't dead so they wouldn't feel bad about laughing. I was not dead, unfortunately. Mother Nature had just put me in my place, and that place was flat on my ass, bleeding profusely from all of the places from which I had just sacrificed skin to the mountainside.
I bought water in the town and tried to clean myself off. I was not Claritin Clear, I was Neosporin Defeated. I think, sensing how disappointed I was, one of the guys bought me a small box of wine, which I stuck a straw in and moodily drank from at the bus stop. I got on the bus with matted, post-beetle-sex hair, and glazed in a mix of dried blood and dirt. At least I had boxed wine, which classes up any occasion, including almost dying.
It took weeks for everything to heal. Every time I moved or showered or picked a fucking pebble out of my shoulder, I felt a grudging respect for nature. To this day, I will jaywalk while texting, I will stand too close to the edge of the metro platform, I will talk back to drunk, screaming homeless men, I will brazenly eat raw cookie dough, but never again am I fucking with nature.
Alice Jane Axness is a boxed wine model who hopes you will follow her on Twitter.
For more insider perspectives, check out 7 Things No One Tells You About Being Homeless and 6 Unexpected Things I Learned From Being a Drug Dealer.
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