Camping is the weirdest and most-rewarding outdoor hobby I have. It is also weird and rewarding for the exact same reason: it’s an escape from civilization’s comforts. I’m a city-dweller, and like any city-dweller, I value convenience. Mass transit. Restaurants of every conceivable variety. Art shows, plays, pro sports, movies, and concerts going on all the time. To live in a city like Chicago is to have almost anything you want within minutes.
With that in mind, every few months, Ayako and I pack up her car with a tent, two sleeping bags, clothing made from more nylon than usual, and the kind of food normally eaten by hobos and college students, and we head out into the wilderness where we can’t be hassled and bothered by a vast, impossibly intricate and complex assortment of human systems of capital and culture that exists almost solely to pleasure me however I desire.
Because sometimes urban life is all too much. Sometimes I don’t want to be able to eat really good tortas at 3 a.m. Sometimes I don’t want to walk 2 blocks to a bar that has more beers on tap than I could drink in a lifetime. Sometimes I just want to feel like an insignificant speck all alone in an infinite ocean of utter darkness teeming with creatures unspeakable and hungry.
And nothing makes you feel as insignificant, and as edible, as camping. So, we go deep into the woods. We pitch our tent. We make our fire. We roll out or sleeping bags. And as we drift off beneath a sky aglow with the light of a thousand stars, I always wonder what our ancestors who lived in the wilderness would say seeing us there. Some nights I can almost hear them, almost hear a voice whispering in the darkness out of the deep well of time. And it sounds something like this:
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?! GO BACK TO THE CITY, YOU FOOL! Do you not realize we spent 35,000 years toiling and dying and being eaten by bears to build a civilization so you could sleep in comfy beds and NOT worry about getting eaten by bears?! Jackass, there are actual bears out here! You left a place that is 100% free of thousand pound apex predators that feast on human flesh to come sleep among them! And you don’t even have a weapon! Our genetic lineage could be wiped out because you want to make effin’ s’mores and wear nylon pants! You’re spitting in the face of billions of years of evolutionary adaptation! Don’t you realize we’re descended from fish that crawled out of the ocean to escape sharks! And then the sharks crawled out of the ocean and became bears! So we built cities so the shark-bears couldn’t get us?! FOOL! GO BACK WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!”