Camping My Style

December 5 of 31 December-ish posts

I’m no stranger to crazy sleeping conditions when away from home. I’ve travelled far and wide and slept in a thousand different beds, from plush king-size mattresses to wooden bunks in unheated cabins to sleeping bags on the ground with a snow-covered tent just inches from my face.

But somehow 2022 was something of a hotel year.

What do you wish you’d done
less of this past year?

Multiple trips to the mountains and at least a few weeks abroad in 2022 and, if I’m being completely honest, I only spent a single night in a tent.

I mean, sure, they frown on you pitching your own accommodations on the lawns around Disney World, and while I probably could have gotten away with it in New York’s Central Park, I was travelling light and a sleeping bag would have cluttered my carry on.

I joke, but seriously though, I get to the end of 2022 looking back on my travels and outdoor adventures and by random happenstance they all kind of started and ended in reasonably nice hotels. 

We stayed in a pirate themed room in Florida.

My various trips to the mountains included a ski lodge condo, an Airbnb basement suite, renting an entire house with my running friends, and an apartment suite near to the highland games grounds where my daughter was competing that particular weekend.

We booked an anniversary getaway to a nordic spa and I wasn’t going to convince my wife that tenting was a great accompaniment to that adventure.

And in New York last month we were on the 33rd floor of a mid-town hotel overlooking the Hudson river with glimpses of Times Square.

Hotels abounded.

And while we were spoiled for every last one of those trips, I’ve been looking back over two-aught-twenty-two and kinda wish I’d had a few less of those kinds of adventures, and few more in one of our tents.

We have three tents.

Our oldest by far is an early-2000s model backpacking tent. It’s reasonably light, sleeps two, and served us well on numerous hiking trips.

The big tent is our car camping tent, a hefty six person beast that has a full vestibule (into which I could fit either of my other two tents assembled) and it’s what we bought so we could camp as a family with a dog in her kennel everyone on an inflatable bed and yet still keep all the luggage organised.

The newest tent is the three person ultra-compact tent that we bought as a replacement for our first ageing backpacking tent. It’s so lightweight  it practically carries itself up the mountain, and we’ve set it up only four times in as many years, mostly thanks to those particular hiking trails being closed due to the pandemic.

It’s a good thing I cleaned and packed them all so well in 2021 because they didn’t really see much action this year.

Now, I don’t purport this blog to be a camping blog, per se, but there is a certain expectation from even just me that the term “outdoor adventure” comes with a certain frequency of sleeping outdoors. I subscribe to enough other content creators to know that some of those folks are sleeping outdoors on the weekly, and even the local guys I watch truck it out to the coast for the harshest part of winter to keep up their stats.

I checked into hotels a lot this year. And I kinda dropped the ball on the tenting. And I’m actually a little bit sad about that.

Turtle Power

Sunday runday and on my solo five klick shakeout I paused beside path to watch a turtle the size of a football basking in Florida sunshine.

Also, it was nearly fifty degrees celsius warmer than the last time I ran oudoors a little more than a week ago. I haven’t been that sweaty from running five kilometers since the heat of last summer. I could have taken a dip beside that turtle and …

The runaway train of vacation planning never actually found a means of slamming on the brakes and the next thing I knew I was boarding an international flight to Orlando with my face wrapped tightly in a N95 surgical respirator and wondering, sometimes aloud, at the bounds of my own sanity.

Back in the summer, when all things virus had seemed to be packing its bags and getting ready to move out of the basement like all uninvited houseguest should eventually do, we registered in a series of Disney World Marathon run events.

Then we eagerly booked a vacation around that … and waited.

It all went great from there, right? Well … no. We watched anxiously as a viral variant named Omicron washed a new wave of panic all across the world. Triple-vaccinated and packing a smuggler’s haul worth of PPE, we warily tracked the news and tripped over ourselves justifying taking the trip versus the stupidly high costs of cancelling it and just wallowing in pity at ourselves from the safety of our frozen house. A dozen times we came a turtle’s breath away from calling the whole thing off, swallowing the thousands of dollars of lost travel spends, and buying a big bottle of bubbly for new years eve to forget the whole thing and …


And yet, here we are.

And here I am on a Sunday morning, looking out at a resort swimming pool after a five klick shakeout run, sipping a six dollar cup of takeway coffee, having spent the last four days wandering through the densely packed, pandemic-oblivious theme parks of Disney World and giving myself blisters and aches and pains and overwhelming anxiety and exhaustion in the process.

There are a number of smooth and flat walking trails just out the front door of our hotel, winding around lagoons and restaurants and wire-suspended gondolas, leading into and around and between Epcot and a make-believe Star Wars lands. As thousands of racers congregate here over the next few days for races starting later this week, I saw dozens of fellow runners out on the boardwalks and asphalts. I even saw some of the race crew flagging locations for aid stations and mile markers and marshalling points.

We have a couple days to cool off. A few more days of park-hopping and pool lounging. We pick up our race packages mid-week and run before the weekend starts in earnest. I’m wondering how I’m going to tackle a half marathon I didn’t really train for, on which I’m banking on residual fitness and sheer determination, plodding along at a turtle’s pace to finish the thing on pure willpower.

This morning on my tour of the hotel trails, weaving around families walking towards the park gates, and as I trotted by wearing my 2014 Disney Half Marathon running shirt, one of the race setup workers looked up, pointed and snapped a photo of me from his phone. I smiled. It was probably the only time I’ve been out in public this week without a mask so it took a moment to remember how. I guess if you see a sweaty forty-something guy smirking akwardly on the runDisney socials this week … maybe it’s me?

Or maybe I should have posed with my new friend the turtle. I’d bet we have more in common these days than we realize.

Travel Advisory

It seems almost ironic that the day I set aside to sum up my year in travel, the government of my country leaked that they’ve decided to reinstitute yet another travel advisory sometime in the next day or so.

Here we go again.

Or, really, here we don’t go anywhere.

What is travel anyhow? Getting away from your house? Your city? Your country?

Did you travel in 2021?

I’ve been fortunate enough that despite multiple ebbs and flows of restrictions and limitations we’ve made our way around our beautiful province this past year.

In particular, a couple week-long trips to the mountains this past summer broke up the monotony of working from home and the never ending bad news cycle.

We packed up and spent a week exploring the world famous sights around Banff, hiking through day trips up mountains and through canyons and into cute little restaurants for elaborate lunches.

We spent another week in the mountain town of Jasper later in the summer, doing more hiking, meeting old friends for wild runs, and dabbling in the icy waters afloat in our new inflatable kayak.

For the last couple decades we’ve been fortunate enough to be travellers of a more worldly sort. The year before the pandemic we spent nearly three weeks between Scotland and Ireland. We tripped through some of America’s interesting cities like New York, Los Angeles, Maui, Las Vegas and Orlando. For a couple years we got into cruising and snorkeling off the back of a boat and from exotic island beaches. One summer we even donned our winter clothes and spent ten days touring Iceland. It has been a life spent on experience rather than things.

The past couple years have been tough and we tried to make up as best we could with local adventures, and made those adventures as satisfying as possible given the realities of a locked down world.

Tomorrow the news is either going to be bad or really bad. Either we’re spending the holidays worried, or we’re spending them locked down at home once again. It’s the right thing, I know. I believe. But it doesn’t make the yearning for distant adventures any easier to bear.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.

Travel: Disney in the Time of COVID

My wife has been waking up at three thirty in the morning lately. Deliberately. Her alarm goes off, she activates her phone, logs into the Disneyworld website, and queues up her virtual reservation system trying to get us a dinner seating at a reasonable time and place … for some time next year.

I’m not a planner.

For example, when a couple years back I ditched the official tour group, our dance studio travelling companions, for a couple days to head off in advance to Ireland leaving them behind in Scotland, I arrived in Dublin, checked into my hotel and then, simply, went for a walk.

No real destination planned. No expectations. No reservations. Not even a proper bus ticket to get me back to the start. Just me and my feet, wandering.

I plan vacations, of course. But more often than not when I get there I like to explore, take things as they come, and see what the trip presents me.

It’s great.

But here’s the thing …

We’re planning a trip to Florida for the new year.

We’re even crossing an international border, no less.

And I assumed the planning part, including booking flights, hotels, and a car rental was complete. (In fact I assumed it was complete almost two years ago when we booked it the first time but then it got cancelled and we had all these travel credits and … deep breath!)

I was wrong. In 2022 a trip to the magical magic kingdom is rife with a less-than-cavalier planning problem. You can’t just show up. You can’t “wing it.” You can’t arrive without a charged phone with the Disney app, nor lacking a catalog of ride times, neither walking in out of the parking lot hoping for anything but a day of disappointment and disaster … which brings me back to three-thirty this morning, when my wife’s alarm went off.

See, between crowd limits and general popularity, it seems as though Disneyworld has its own planning problem: tens of thousands of people arrive each and every day into their parks and all those people want to enter, play, ride, shop, eat, and exit to go back to their hotels. Rinse. Repeat.

In order to get a meal that isn’t served at a kiosk from a paper plate, we need a reservation, and reservations open so many days in advance at six in the morning Florida time, fill up in literal minutes, and we’re not on Florida time. So, if she waits until the morning … hello quick serve pizza slices for supper.

See, guys like me throw off the flow.

Disney can’t just have everyone … or really anyone … showing up and wandering, no plans, no structure, lacking expectations or reservations.

In fact, those literal reservations need to be made months in advance, setting up plans about which rides you plan to be riding on which days and which meals you intend to eat at what time and when and where … and perhaps even why…

All that spontaneous family fun, it turns out, needs to be carefully orchestrated months before the suitcases come out of storage. I already know what days and times we’ll be standing in line for that Star Wars ride or It’s a Small World, or just Starbucks to keep my eyes open with a venti coffee to help keep me alert as I reach the point of exhaustion from the meticulously planned vacation.

Partly I blame COVID. The need to organize people flow around health rules has exacerbated the drive towards app-driven, technology-backed, ultra-planned everything.

Partly it is also a symptom of going somewhere nearly universally popular.

And partly, I take the blame as someone who doesn’t thrive in this type of vacation … and taking one for the “team” so that the family can have a long-planned trip.

Next time, though, I’m just going to leave my phone at home and go get lost in the woods.