Everyone views camping as a time to rough it up and get your hands dirty. Although the basic idea of camping itself has not changed a great deal over the years, the mentality and practical side of it certainly has.
I remember different times over the years when I was a little tacker when my family would stay at a camping site in Rosebud. It wasn’t just my immediate family that went; my cousins and their parents would come too! It was grouse, but more so in hindsight than at the time if I’m honest.
Back then, in the 1990s, I was all about Nintendo. All I wanted to do was play those games. The closest I wanted to get out into the wilderness was the green kingdom in Super Mario Bros. Much to the chagrin of my parents and my cousins’ parents; we’d bring our Gameboys along and trade Pokemon to increase each other’s Pokedexes. I simply didn’t want to be away from my games.
However, the ‘90s are well and truly over now, and so is my obsession with video games. I’m now a man who’s all about seeing the world, and that includes the bush. Whenever I’ve prepared my camper trailer for a getaway, video games don’t cross my mind at all.
Parents these days whinge about kids being addicted to their smartphones and not being “in the moment”. While they have a point, I’d be a hypocrite if I sided with them, since I just wanted to play video games, so it’s the same issue. In any case, there’s heaps of differences between camping as a kid and camping as an adult.
Camping as a kid
I’m showing my age here, but I clearly remember camping around the mid and late 1990s. My cousins, sisters, and I would muck around from playing little pranks on one another or at the very least be smart arses. From typical kids games like chasey to forty forty, we did it all.
If you’re a parent and your kids are complaining about being bored shitless, which in turn is ruining your getaway, then most campsites have activities that are perfect for the kids. If there’s enough room, they can chuck a footy around playing kick to kick or play a bit of cricket if you’ve brought the stumps and a cricket bat along. If there’s a bike trail where you’re staying, then connect your bikes to the back or the roof of your camper. All kids love riding their bikes, so why not get them to do some sightseeing around the bushes or a forest surrounding the campsite. Alternatively, if you didn’t bring your bikes along, there would surely be a bushwalking trail you can stroll along.
Some campsites have facilities set up for people to try some activities they couldn’t do back home. They could perfect their aim with some archery, have a thrill by flying through the air on a flying fox or do some rowing on a lake.
These activities are good for kids to not only have a bit of fun but also further develop their social skills and learn some life skills for camping for when they’re adults. These are things that kids don’t notice at the time, due to living in the moment and being too young to fully understand such developmental skills, but it all helps.
Kids are kids, no matter what generation they belong to, and they’ll be keen to have fun (although there’s less flannelette and backwards caps worn nowadays).
One of the biggest generational differences between Generation X and Generation Y is their use of technology. You always hear parents complain, ‘Argh, kids these days are always on their bloody phones!’ It’s the bane of any parent’s existence and the saviour of the kids at the same time.
These parents whinge about kids being addicted to their smartphones and not being “in the moment”. While they have a point, I’d be a hypocrite if I sided with them, since I just wanted to play video games when I was a kid, so it’s the same issue of some sort of technology getting in the way.
I couldn’t simply go on my phone and watch videos on my phone or fiddle with apps back then. My parents might’ve let me bring a Gameboy along, and that was if I was lucky! They were all about me experiencing nature in full, and not being distracted by a little screen in my hands.
Whenever the parents convinced us to get away from our Gameboys, we’d kick the footy around. Nowadays, we’d use the phone to watch the footy or to keep up with the footy scores. You had to remember to take a radio with you to find out what was happening in the footy. Playing a sport is something kids still do nowadays when they’re camping (some things never change, no matter how much time passes).
Unless any of us brought spare batteries, my cousins and I would have to stop playing our Gameboys once the batteries died. The same could be said about smartphone batteries unless you brought a portable charger with you. While smartphones do need to be charged to make phone calls, let’s face it, people mostly use them to scroll through Facebook and Instagram more than anything else. Embrace a dead phone as a parent, and enjoy the time being switched off. Trust us; you’ll like it.
There’s no denying the young ones love using smartphones and social media, but to say they’re not interested in what the real world has to offer is rubbish. Many kids always have, and always will love playing outside with other kids. You might just have to give them a bit of a nudge now and then.
Camping as an adult
Now that I’m an adult, I have to take care of my finances, set up my own camper, pack my own equipment (and of course use it correctly), and all the other aspects involved in going away that my parents had to sort out when I was a kid. This also includes any permits you need to camp in the bush, the logistical checks and anything else you can think of.
Parents who have seen the movie Grown Ups will more than relate to this movie if they’ve gone camping. The kids in that movie have zero interest in the sports and activities their parents are trying to get them to do. However, towards the end of the film, the kids come around and realise there’s more to life than their phones and video games. In the ‘90s, my cousins and I were a bit like the kids in the film, and the parents like the adults; now, we’re more like the parents.
Although it’d be good to get the kids to help with setting up, let’s face it, the grown-ups are the ones who’ll be doing most of the hard yakka. From setting up your camper trailer, in to cooking a few snags and burgers on a barbie, and of course a campfire to heat up some marshmallows, parents have to take care of the preparation for both the kids and themselves.
Despite all that kid talk, the parents can have their own fun too. Once the little ones are asleep, the parents can continue sitting around the campfire and have a few tinnies and laughs.
Anyone who’s had to set up a campsite knows how tedious it can be. It’s even worse when you have loud, energised kids hassling you while you’re at it. But isn’t one of the reasons that families go camping to interact and bond?
Campsites are places where you make memories. For instance, my mum had accidentally left her wedding ring at the Rosebud one year, so my dad had to go all the way back to the campsite after we had left to find it. We live in the western suburbs of Melbourne, so Rosebud is a big hike from home. Luckily, my old man did manage to find the ring in the dirt. Although that isn’t technically a “good” memory, it’s still a talking point around the dinner table.
All of us cousins would sleep while being cooped up in a tent, laying very close to each other because the tent’s so bloody small. We’d talk for ages and have plenty of laughs before eventually falling asleep. Our folks would yell at us from their tent to keep it down at night as they couldn’t sleep with the noise we’d make, but they wanted us to bond, and that’s exactly what we were doing. We’d hear the wind outside, and it’d be loud since the walls of the tent was a heck of a lot thinner than the walls at home. Our parents wanted us to get closer to nature, and we were doing exactly that.
My old man worked in finance, and he couldn’t wait to go away camping whenever he could. My mum lives for travelling, so she would take any excuse to get away for a few days as well. Now that I’m an adult, I can see their point. Anyone would want a taste of nature after being stuck in an office for hours and hours on end.
There was a time at Lakes Entrance when my older sister was using a pedal boat, but she lost her balance and fell into the lake! That was over 20 years ago, and she still hasn’t lived it down. (Don’t worry, my sister has a sense of humour about it). My parents and sisters have brought it up so many times over the years, and each time ends with laughter.
There was another time when my family went to Uluru many years ago and climbed Ayers Rock. My old man and sisters went all the way up the Rock where they got a ripper of a view of the Outback. Rather than climbing back down, my sisters slid down the Rock, putting big holes in the backsides of their shorts, exposing their undies! This is yet another memory my family still laughs about all these years later.
Despite what I said before about technology, one of the benefits of having smartphones handy are their camera function since everyone can take photos and videos of the moment as it’s happening. When I was a kid, my parents’ camera used film that only took so many pics before the film ran out, and that was it. Nowadays, mobiles can take a crazy amount of pics, so there’s no need to choose which moments are worth taking photos of and which ones aren’t.
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Treat both yourself and your kids to a grouse getaway. No matter what part of Australia you’re heading to, you’ll have both fun and memories that’ll last a lifetime. Get in touch with Mars Campers today.
Originally published here at marscampers.com.au on March 2019