Unequivocally Ambiguous

Humorous Stories on Parenting, Culture and Life

Got Malady? Go Camping!

by | Feb 15, 2024 | Travel | 0 comments

The Cure-It-All Solution for All Your Existential Dissatisfactions (11/40)

There are a lot of things that confuse me about American culture, but none of them do it me more than the love Americans have for camping.

You know what camping translates to in Spanish?

Being poor!

Camping wasn’t a thing when I was growing up in Barranquilla.


We were thrilled we had a roof over our heads every single night. We celebrated being inside, something that took centuries and thousands of technological developments from our ancestors to accomplish.

We don’t do that in any other area of human progress. We don’t decide to go pantless with leotards once a month; we don’t settle marital disputes by using clubs, and we don’t paint in caves with blood.

But every now and then, in order to find ourselves, we spit in the architectural marvel of the modern home.

“What the hell are you doing?”
“What? This is my once-a-month time to be naked, to communicate with my ancestors, to do things the way they were meant to be done.”
“But why?”
“I just really feel one with the universe when I’m camping. It’s the only time I can experience all at once the joys of nature like my back hurting, being cold and wiping with what could be poison ivy.”

You know you are in the presence of a scheme when millions of dollars are poured into its advertising.

I’m not going to lie; I secretly love getting the flyers. I love being pitched a life-altering experience meant to fix decades of trauma with a weekend in nature.

They show a man or a woman holding a piping hot cup of coffee, sitting on a rock at the edge of a cliff, looking into the horizon, and experiencing transformational bliss while wearing clothes that look way too expensive and that will soon be covered in mud.

Isn’t it fascinating you need such expensive gear to go into nature?

Remember nature?

Our ancestors did everything they could to escape it. But while they were trying to escape it, they wore almost NOTHING!!!! Or maybe they killed an animal and wore the entire animal — the entire animal except for the intestines because they ate that al carpaccio. That’s right! Raw!

But you can’t do nature like that anymore.


Now you need the expensive adventure gear.

How else would anyone know you are an adventurer when you are sitting in your cubicle getting tanned by the UVB rays from the overhead fluorescent light?

Maybe we know something is broken in the way we currently live, but we don’t know how to fix it.

So we search for adventure.

But you can’t go after adventure full-time because you are saddled with educational loans.

You must remain a lawyer because you might’ve become a lawyer to make Gram-Gram proud. But now Gram-Gram is gone, and in her place is a frame with a piece of paper and massive un-defaultable debt to prove that you did go to that fancy university nobody cares about.

Just to be clear, Gram-Gram is not dead; she is in Florida.

Although, it is just a matter of time.

The year before leaving Colombia, I volunteered for a non-profit that worked with a community in Las Flores. Despite its beautiful name, The Flowers, this wasn’t an architecturally pleasant community. It was a community of extremely impoverished people in poorly constructed temporary tents.

I like to think of the parallels between these two “campers.”

The camper in the States, near a creek, looking out at a mountain.

The camper in Las Flores, near a creek, looking at a mountain that isn’t a mountain but a landfill. Of course, landfill is an euphemism for land that is filled with trash. So, it’s more of a trashfill.

The camper in the States has a tent made of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene that is flame retardant, UV resistant, and translucent, attached to a frame of titanium poles.

The camper in Las Flores has a tent made of plastic bags attached to a frame of cardboard and empty political promises.

The camper in the States does not fear the inclemency of the weather, especially not tornados or hurricanes.

The camper in Las Flores hopes for drought because a slight drizzle means that he will have to rebuild.

The camper in the States has a house, a lake house, a timeshare somewhere exotic, and two or three tents with enough room to house entire families of twelve.

The camper in Las Flores has a “tent” that can only fit one person. That doesn’t prevent him from fitting in more people, which he does. He houses his family of five, three dogs and one pig — or at least one of the ones I stepped into did.

And you want to know the biggest difference?

There is one of these campers who is happy.

Let me give you a hint: it’s not the person with the giant garage full of widgets, gaskets, and gizmos wearing black Patagonia puffy vests and oversized Columbia hiking boots.

No, sir.

It’s not them.

It’s the people in the structurally dubious shanty houses.

I talked to a few of them, and I asked them what they wanted most in life. Even though I knew the only thing I could give them that day was enough groceries to cook a meal on Christmas. Still; I asked the question out of curiosity.

They didn’t ask for potable water; they didn’t ask for a sewer system; they didn’t ask for the trashfill to be relocated.

You want to know what they asked for?

They asked for shoes.

The person who has two tents probably has 100 shoes, too. Most of them still in boxes — boxes that are more structurally sound than the houses the people in Las Flores lived in.

Isn’t it a fascinating difference?

Here are these people with no proper house, no sewer, no potable water, no shoes, wanting some Nikes, but if they don’t get them, they will still be fine.

And here we have these other people living in the richest time in history, in one of the richest countries in the world, in historical unprecedented abundance and because they are not a one-percenter, they can’t be happy.

Maybe camping will fix that.

I don’t know how.

Or why.

But the flyers tell us it will.

And if the flyers tell us, then it must be true.


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