Months on the road: 31
Miles traveled: 46,197
Words written: 147,211
Photos posted: 1,046
Destinations visited: 185
National parks or monuments explored: 62
State capitol buildings toured: 15
People who started talking to us because they thought we were Texans: 42
People who lost interest upon learning we are really New Yorkers: 40
Sharks snorkeled with: 7
Countries visited: 4
Days spent scooping rabbit turds: 1
Museums frequented: 32
Plays seen: 5
Caves spelunked: 3
Planes jumped from: 1
People flipped off: 3
People who deserved it: 176
Campfires lit: 0
This last one is something that fascinates me. In the roughly 880 nights we’ve spent in campgrounds we never once lit a campfire. Moreover, we never felt the urge to light one. And yet almost everywhere we go someone nearby feels compelled to set something ablaze. I don’t quite understand it.
To be clear, we’re not talking about fires lit for cooking purposes. No, these are often set within a few meters of a fully functioning and completely ignored barbeque grill. These fires are lit purely for the sake of seeing something burn. What is it about campgrounds that brings out the pyromaniac in so many of us?
Lets face it, almost no one sits around a fire in their every day lives. Even those who own fireplaces mostly don’t use them – their owners preferring to spend evenings basking in the warm glow of a television set rather than in front of a roaring fire. But move these same people to a campground, even one smack in the middle of an urban environment that is nothing more than a parking lot for motor homes, and the blazes pop up like torches on an episode of Survivor.
You might say that there is something about camping that arouses a deep nostalgia for a more primitive way of life; one where a fire is an essential part the daily routine. And that might make sense if these fires were not normally set in front of massive motor homes complete with running water, endless electricity, and propane furnaces. Whatever allure there is to primitive living, it only runs so deep it seems.
More than that, though, I’d wager that the ubiquitous campground fire is simply an example of the ways in which stereotypes and expectations influence our actions. When we think about camping the first mental image we conjure is likely to be people sitting around a campfire. We build fires because, in some sense, we’re expected to build campfires. It’s what camping is – or at least what it is supposed to be.
It’s not that people love sitting around fires, although some may find it mildly enjoyable or, more probably, novel. If they truly loved sitting fireside they’d do it far more often. They certainly wouldn’t save all that fiery goodness for the few occasions when they travel to a designated campground. They’d set them elsewhere, too. Houses would come with fire pits instead of swimming pools. Town parks would have places for locals to burn things the way they have party pavilions. If we wanted fires, we’d make room for them in our lives and our communities. But mostly we don’t want them – except when we’re at a place called a campground and then we can’t seem to get enough of them. How strange.