Camping in your 30s really reminds one that one is no longer a young whipper-snapper. As a very sociable person who loves adventure, the idea of camping in a large field with a community of like-minded people totally appeals to me. Let alone the fact that the large field is in the middle of a Dutch city, and let alone that it is spring and the temperatures haven’t yet warmed to my preferred sleeping temperature. These things, I only learned recently, might annoy one had one been a keep camper from a very early age.
However, I only truly started camping for the first time in my teenage years, when I finally landed in the British countryside. Actually, to be precise, we were in Wales somewhere, if I recall correctly. The idea was nice, truly, but I didn’t really know what camping was all about yet. There was a dead sheep lying at the bottom of the small narrow valley right next to a stream below the hill and field where we had camped. We had a night of drinking around a fire, telling stories, roasting marshmallows, baking potatoes, cooking up sausages and burgers. It was cold. The stars shone high in the sky. It wasn’t the same as in the desert – stars are different on the equator. I was only in that part of the world for a couple of years and didn’t get the chance to camp again before moving onto the next place, a city, Manchester. My life took on a course of partying in a city that never sleeps rather than venturing out into the “wilds” again.
I recall I didn’t want to go to university, not to learn anyways. I took the opportunity to party my pants off – I had to repeat my first year because of that; the things we do with what life gifts us, hey? How I look back now and see the resentment I had for the way life had turned out on me. At that tender age of 20, I had already given up on having any control over my life or destiny, and threw all caution to the wind. It was brilliant. I rode the waves of life, someone presenting a choice, and I just went for it. Most of them weren’t “good” choices, but I had lost hope. Instead of facing the world and what choices I deemed it had made for me, I buried myself in partying – and had some of the best times of my clubbing days.
I didn’t go camping again until Glastonbury Festival in 2000 – what a weekend! I don’t think I slept much, and I recall at one point seeing David Bowie, tiny in his shiny gold and white suit on stage, singing Changes and Life on Mars. There were thousands of people surrounding me, all equally high – whether on life, the music, drinks or drugs, who could say? We were all one big happy family, most especially because the weather gods had shined down upon us and given us a non-muddy Glastonbury for the first time in years!
The drummers sat at the stone circle overlooking Glastonbury and beat their drums even before I had climbed over the fence to get in, and they continued until after we left on the fourth day. Fire throwers, dancers running naked and pixie like between the bodies lying around the circle and spread throughout the field, waiting for sun to rise on that final day. We were all off our trolleys, I’m sure. But by the end of the four day festival of dance, song, fire and laughter, I remember feeling tired but elated, and hoping to go to another festival in the future, some time soon.
At university though, I was still partying, my grades suffering at the same time. My social life started to do the same – I began to internalise with the guy I had started dating. I began losing friends. The only time at university when I was in nature again was when I went for my year abroad to Austria, living in Innsbruck, then Vienna. It revitalised me. But I still hadn’t been camping, and it was 9 years before I’d see my next festival.
After finishing it with the guy I had met in Manchester, I was living in London, with my beautiful sister! In London they have city camping for music festivals too – there are huge parks in London. Fortunately we lived near Victoria Park, so experienced Groove Armada’s Love Box 2007 without camping. Dancing with my sister barefoot in the rain to Sly and the Family Stone was amazing!
I moved to Luxembourg in 2010. I was 30 at the end of the year. I had not even started to slow down on the partying front yet… new country, new people to meet, new life with which to get on. During the next few years I got to go camping more often, and more often than not in summer, when it’s warm, and I can get to sleep.
In 2010 I slept in one of those new Minis, in the passenger seat, with a couple girlfriends stuffed in as well, after Food For Your Senses Festival – well, we didn’t want to pay for camping, and hadn’t anticipated getting quite that drunk!! Needs must, however… so, at about 4am, cramped and disgruntled, I opened the door to the Mini and rolled out onto the grass of the field – so comfy! I climbed in my sleeping bag, pulling the top right over my head – it was chilly, even while the sky had just started lightening. I woke up a couple hours later, having roasted myself with the sun rising. No toothbrush. No clean clothes. Nothing to eat. Back in the car and back to Luxembourg City, towards home and a shower. Not so much a camping experience as a survival experience!
The next proper camping experiences were with my ex here in Luxembourg and a number of friends. We would head over to Esch-sur-Sure and camp out overlooking the man made dam there. This is when I first really grew to love camping – we had water in which to dive, sunshine in which to bathe, beers being kept cool in the shallows and fire which was fed by the dry branches laying all around.
Then I got to know more girls, and especially friends who are mums, or would soon be mums… and I didn’t get the opportunity to hang out with them as much as I liked. So I created the Ladies Camping Weekend. My intention was to get all my girlfriends who are mums in one place, and party! We had a blast that first year: Camping, lady style, and the second too:
This year, however, I had for some reason decided to host two camping trips – one to be held in April, and the next in August.
You know, we haven’t really had many freezing cold or snowy Aprils in my lifetime… or at least, none in my life in the various countries in which I have lived. Due to climate change, however, I experienced snow in April for the first time ever this year – twice, and while camping!
For the Roadburn Festival, 2016, we decided to camp out in the Dutch City of Tilburg to join in with some rock shenanigans. I will say this as plainly as possible for all to comprehend:
IT WAS FUCKING FREEZING OUT THERE.
Granted, when we had first arrived, it was quite sunny – putting up the tents, getting some food and beers out, having a wee picnic, and finally going for a pee after holding it in for a couple of hours. But as the night rolled on, the cold began to set in as we went from venue to venue, stopping every now and again so that I could have a very legal smokey smoke (the joys of it being legal, yay!) in between bands’ shows. Fortunately there was cloud coverage, and it only rained that first evening, and the following morning – I had an alright night’s sleep. It continued to drizzle right up until early afternoon, when the sky became clear. The sun set, the twinkling stars peeping out of the dark blanket of night, the temperatures plummeting – I dozed fitfully that night, catching a few winks of REM sleep. It was no warmer when I got out the tent the next morning – I checked the weather forecast later that day; it had been -5 degrees centigrade overnight, and no one there with whom I could have cuddled!!!
That day the sun shone, but the wind was icy in the gaps found between my clothes. We were trapped in the big tent at one point, hail stones coming down in sheets, sleet too. After about half an hour, we wondered back to the tents to see how they stood – soaked, covered in sleet, but still standing.
I dreamed mogwai’s were crawling over me and jumping around my tent that night.
Yes, it was so cold that I REM-slept again, and this time actually dreamed a dream I remembered. It could have been because my friend also reminds me of a mogwai, and we had chosen to share her tent that night – it didn’t help with the cold, but it was a nice thought.
All in all, the music festival was amazing, and only spoiled slightly by the freezing cold temperatures. It was an experience, at the very least!
And so, the following weekend, for whatever idiotic reason, I had already planned and organised our annual Lady’s Camping Weekend – Part A. I should know better by now that I need at least one weekend off before going on a weekend away again, especially with the freezing cold experience still fresh in mind.
But one can’t let down the LADEEEEEEES… oh no, definitely not!
A smaller group than previously, 6 of us went camping last weekend. We froze, again. But this time it didn’t actually snow until the morning we packed up. All in all, we had the usual copious amounts of fun, and many drunken cackling laughs, and between 6 women we covered breakfast, lunch, liquid lunches and breakfasts and dinners, and dinner – we totally smashed it! Just shame about the two freezing nights – fortunately I had a girlfriend to snuggle up to on this occasion, yay! But we still woke up with smiles and had a steak for breakfast, followed by beer – breakfast of champions I say!
On the Sunday morning we woke to cold overcast skies – while we packed up, it started to snow. Thank goodness we got out of there and aimed for warm baths when we got home!
Still, after all these years, and being in my mid 30s now, I can safely say that I really love camping and going to festivals, nothing has changed except my love for both those experiences. Even when it was freezing cold and I got little or no sleep. I now think about how I chose to camp 6 out of 10 nights on the cold, hard ground in freezing temperatures – and that was the awful part of my recent camping and festival experiences. But refugees over here in Europe right now did not choose their fate. For those who don’t know what the refugees in Europe are experiencing right now, go try out my last two weekends. Though I have no regrets – I had the best of times, and the coldest of nights out in my life. It was brilliant! I am so grateful to have awesome friends with whom I can share these experiences…
And you’ll also perhaps notice that I have no photos from pre 2010 showing in this blog post. That’s because life before Luxembourg wasn’t so financially agreeable as it became for me post 2010 – I didn’t own a camera till I got my first smart phone over here!