I’m not sure of the moment I thought: Why not camp my way across the U.S.? But somewhere between the delirium of finishing my thesis and receiving an email from my yoga friend in the East Bay of California who asked me to house sit, watch her dog, and teach her yoga classes, the thought occurred. I was going to Cali to house sit so why not make an adventure out of it?
Somewhere between the idea and the action plan came the reality that I don’t know how to camp. I have camped once and that was three months before the trip when I was (gratefully) taken to Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia, by four girlfriends who range in experience from top camp dog to assistant pup herder. They took me—a lame canine (to take the metaphor a length longer)—to the campsite. They did everything but read me a bedtime story. They put up my tent; they hung the hammock, clothes line, and table tarp; and, they brought out an ax to splinter the wood for the fire pit where they cooked dinner—the meal they fed me. There were all kinds of contraptions and groovy accouterments. Any guest at the Four Seasons would envy. I was thrilled, excited, and ready to head back to a camp ground as quick as you could sing Camp Town Girls Won’t You Come out Tonight.
I meant to camp again…with another friend or two. The truth is, I didn’t camp. Not once has that REI tent—The Passage 2—touched the bare earth since that weekend. Not once have I rolled around in my North Face Cat Meow’s aqua sleeping bag. Not once have I boiled water on my Primus stove.
Thus…trepidation has set in.
Plans sound good from the screen of a laptop. Inside a cozy house where the tea kettle boils on command and the refrigerator is steps away from the next meal anything seems possible. But the thought to toss me outside, in the woods, with a tent and camp stove…minus the posse of female frontierswomen….and more is simmering inside me than any quick boil plate can compete. There is not fear of being alone or even going hungry. It’s the fear of being stupid.
Around these last moments of realizing how stupid this whole expedition could get, the Universe stepped in. I imagine a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life, where Clarence, the reluctant angel, is called upon to help one desperate, but good man—George Bailey. I think the Universe was looking down and said—Whoa Nelly, we better send that poor girl some help. So April appeared—not the month, but person—the person with more camping experience than I will be able to amass if I start camping now and do not quit until the next decade rolls around. She is the angel to this Camper Chick.
At home I rent my guest room out through Airbnb. A great way to share my home and meet new and interesting people. That’s how I met April who was coming through town. She stayed three nights but let me know she was looking for a place for roughly twelve weeks. She is a traveling Occupational Therapist. She likes the flexibility of the job because it allows her to do a profession she loves while also affording her time for her passion: camping, canoeing, hiking, and basically taking on any adventure she darn well pleases. She not only owns a tent, she owns a camper!
Within hours of meeting, I knew something had conspired to bring us together and I was not going to let the opportunity slip by. April moved in and while she unpacked from her last endeavor: a three month canoe trip through the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, I began laying out all my gear for a car camping expedition—(a trip that rather palls in comparison to going solo on the lakes between two countries where April had to portage her canoe on her head and set up camp wherever dry land could be found). As I sorted and culled through a list that I had created using REI’s Camping Checklist and the brilliant notes garnered from a multitude of friends, April began her work.
Turning to the floor covered in gadgets and gizmos—she made quick assessments. “Put the tent, tarp, mallet and stakes in one tub. Sleeping bag and other tent needs in a second. Keep those at the back of the Subaru, open the hatch and pull them out. In the rain you can be set up in no time. You can keep other stuff dry and keep the wet and dirty stuff contained.”
I am sure anyone with an ounce of experience is saying: Duh!
But I said: “Brilliant!”
Now can you see where the Stupid comes in?
Certainly April wasn’t drawing plans for a rocket ship, but I stood there with my mouth agape. I probably said “Right” or “Yes, brilliant” after every sentence that April offered. For a few miraculous moments, April let me believe I could do this without any worry. “Be organized and don’t keep going back and forth to your car. Look like you know what you’re doing so you won’t advertise the fact that you are alone.”
The quick translation: Fake it til you make it. Well, dang…I’ve been doing that all my life. Maybe I’m not so stupid. Yet I definitely realize: Where experience lacks, I am open open to the Universe intervening. Thanks Universe.