I Hate Camping, And Yet, I Have My Life in a Backpack

I Hate Camping, And Yet, I Have My Life in a Backpack

When I was seven years old, I went camping with the Girl Scouts. The night we went, it stormed horribly, and a tornado touched down near the campsite. I was the only one who forgot to put my toothpaste in the car so that it didn’t attract bears. A night spent lying on the floor, certain I would be responsible for our untimely, bear-filled demise inside a tornado funnel, did not instill a love of camping deep within my soul.

Not only do I hate camping, but I also don’t have a particular love of insects. We have an understanding–stay out of sight, and I won’t come looking for you. Even today, when there’s a spider in my shower, I calmly, but very quickly grab the shower head and wash it down the drain, shouting “I’msorryI’msoryI’msorry!!!” the entire time.  So, when I announced that I would be moving to Thailand to spend three months living in very basic conditions to work with Burmese refugees, people were naturally a little surprised.

A night spent lying on the floor, certain I would be responsible for our untimely, bear-filled demise inside a tornado funnel, did not instill a love of camping deep within my soul.

I am a tumbleweed, always on the move. After forty countries visited in ten years, no one ever seems particularly shocked about my picking up and leaving. The preparation for this trip though, has been completely different than it has been for others.
To be honest, I just don’t have that many details about this trip. I know I’ll be spending two weeks at a training center in Nong Khai and then three months living near Mae Sot in Thailand. I have seen a picture of the exterior of the accommodation. I know in my second placement, it is very unlikely I will have internet, and that the amount of electricity I will have is questionable .

This has led me to ask myself some rather interesting questions. First and foremost: am I really doing this? Did I really quit my full-time, stable, university job to sleep under a mosquito net and teach 60 children?

Before signing up for this experience, I did not imagine purchasing a LifeStraw (though I’m now pretty excited about it), and standing in the pharmacy trying to decide what kind of booty wipes to buy (Aloe? Sensitive? Baby fresh?) in case the food and I disagree.

What does one do with their spare time in a remote village where WhatsApp and Facebook really aren’t an option? Personally, I am going to make an effort to cook food and learn the language. Just in case though, I’ve come equipped with a solar charger, a friend’s kindle, four coloring books for adults, and a hilarious book called, “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding”–purchased for me by a friend who really understands me.

While preparing for this trip, I have assumed that I will cope poorly–I figure it’s better to plan for the worst and hope for the best. I’m sure there will be some moment (usually when I travel it’s when something totally trivial happens, like when a pencil breaks or I bang my toe) that makes me have a complete “I don’t fit in here and now everyone hates me because I never tie my sarongs right and I am an embarrassment to my country!” meltdown. So it may be silly, but I am hoping that my organic creamy Meyer lemon face wash somehow comforts me during my time of need.

Did I really quit my full-time, stable, university job to sleep under a mosquito net and teach sixty children?

My whole life from now until the end of December fits in a large camping bag. I’m excited to begin my new adventure, but I’m also nervous about what comes next. I am also really happy that writing these articles will force me into the city every few weeks to post, but I’m hoping that by the end, the city will just be an afterthought.
Oh, and my toothpaste? Chewable tablets. Just in case of bears.
Photo credit: Motohiro Sunouchi

About Liz Sherman

Liz ShermanLiz is from upstate New York and is currently bouncing around the world. From September to December, she will be volunteering in Thailand teaching refugees on the Thai-Myanmar border with Openmind Projects. She has previously lived in Montpellier, France and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. She has three great talents: googling cheap flights (and then booking them), saying “is there cinnamon in this? I’m allergic” in fourteen languages and eating cheese with reckless abandon.

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