Everyone is different and something that’s going to be fun to one person isn’t going to be fun to everyone else. One person might enjoy camping while another person enjoys going to parks. You may have someone who enjoys rv parks while someone else enjoys traveling in cities and reading on the banks of a river. It all depends on the type of person and whether they enjoy spending time alone or together with other people. But, whatever type of person you are, there are certain things that just bring people together. There are certain activities that just act as certain natural bonding agents on a social level. Being outdoors for any extended length of time is one of those activities and it has been for about as long as there have been people at all. Some of the earliest stories our historical records are about people traveling together into the wilderness to find new lands or fight monsters. It’s practically built into our narrative DNA. But why and how do we enjoy camping so much? What does camping mean socially and how did it come to represent a certain kind of person and a certain kind of life?
- The origins of camping as a sport and as recreation
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origins of camping. It isn’t a practice that started out with something as complex as cabin rentals and three person tents. Even though we have these cabin rentals, deluxe cabin rentals, wilderness lodges and other assorted wilderness outlets, simple camping wasn’t always just done for recreation. Even in the not so distant past, camping was sometimes a matter of necessity rather than something done just for fun. Let’s take a look at a concrete example to understand this idea a little better. If you were, say, a farmer in the seventeen hundreds, you likely lived in a small house with your large family. Your living, such as it was, depended entirely on the animals and crops you could raise in different seasonal conditions. Sometimes, if you were lucky, this went well. It was the best you could hope for but it didn’t always happen. If you were less than lucky, your crops wouldn’t flourish and you’d be out a year’s wages. If you very unlucky, you’d lose everything and there was no safety net to help you. You’d end up without a home and cast out of your village. There were no cabin rentals to help you either. You’d be truly stuck.
The changing face of camping
If this happened, you’d have to learn how to survive on your own. You’d have to rely on help from the other villagers or figure out how to steal or forage for your own food. Living in the woods was seen as a sign of a couple things, none of them socially standard. You were either poor or wicked, depending on the culture you were raised within. Alternatively, you were of another world entirely. You were a sage or a monk, someone disconnected from society at large to study the larger mysteries of life. In this way, nature was seen as encompassing something bigger than standard human life. Ironic, considering that is, in fact, infinitely larger than human life. But, then, how did this disconnected practice of living in the world translate into something that anyone could do? How did it go from something only done by those cut off from the world to something that people did as a sport? Well, the origins lie in historical context. A quite difficult historical context, actually.
The changing society of the eighteen hundreds
It wasn’t until the mid eighteen hundreds that the social conception of nature began to change, at least in western society. Where it was once seen as a hostile, difficult place to survive, mostly because it was in the great majority of circumstances, enlightenment age thinkers started to view nature differently. They, along with the Romantic poets and writers, saw nature as a more perfect version of the human soul and the act of communing with nature as necessary for the growth of the spirit. This caught on and now we have sport camping.