Friday, April 30, 2010

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Ever since I've discovered the Casita Club, I've been a fan of the site (even though I've got a Scamp). Fiberglass RV is another one I like, but the Casita Club has a forum for solo campers and that's given me a lot of information and encouragement. Right now, there's a discussion going on about what kind of planning we do before a trip. It's been really interesting to see what people do--and it even surprises me how different we all are.

Some prefer to make no plans at all, no reservations, preferring to follow the road wherever it takes them. Some make minimal plans. Some prefer to travel only a certain amount of miles a day. Some, like me, prefer a mix. I'm not confident enough to head out for parts-unknown without knowing for sure that I have a place to park my camper. I certainly don't have a problem driving 8-10 hours a day if I need to. Maybe it's because I camp solo. Maybe it's because I'm a control freak. Maybe it's all of the above.

I suppose, though, that you can't completely escape the way you grow up and I grew up with a kind of destination-based camping. Every few years (because we couldn't afford it every year), we camped from MN out to California to visit the California Babines--so we had a very specific destination in mind that couldn't be changed. However, the route that we took to get there changed every time we went. There's lots to see in the West. (I'm not sure how it became her job, but K3 was in charge of making the reservations for us.) Camping was the most economical way we had to make that long trip--and our parents wanted to camp with us, so it all worked out well. These days, my camping is similar: I'm not living near my family and camping is the most economical--as well as interesting--way to get from Point A to Point B. Especially with two cats. And maybe, as I said earlier, I just don't have enough confidence to completely eschew the comfort of knowing I'll have a safe place to spend the night.

A few of the posts on this discussion laud the freedom of getting off the road and following it wherever it might lead, that this is one of the true ways to find adventure. There's some truth to that, but I think I disagree. I think that adventure is a state of mind and that you can find adventure no matter where you are. I think it's a matter of being open to what's around you. I may be driving on the interstate system, but that doesn't mean it's less of an adventure. I find that I'm also a lot more adventurous once I've dropped the trailer in the campground. I'm more likely to go exploring once I have a home-base established. Being a traveler or being a tourist and having campground reservations are not mutually exclusive, at least to my mind. I've had plenty of adventures, had many unexpected stops and explorations along the road, made lots of memories, but even when I plan to stop at a place along the route to where I'm going to spend the night, I still don't know what I'll find--and that makes it an adventure for me, even when I'm going back to places I've been before.

A certain measure of planning is essential for me, simply because the Scamp is the vehicle for the writing I plan to do in the near future. I want to write about the Babine's Acadian history, so I want to spend some time up in Maine and Nova Scotia. Someday, I'd like to camp the entire length of the Mississippi, from beginning to end. Someday, I'd like to camp the circumference of Lake Superior. I'd like to get back to the Pacific Northwest, where I spent two years of my life, and see all the places I didn't get to see when I lived there.

Somebody on the forum wondered if the discussion was a moment of "zen and the art of solo camping," which made me smile, simply because that's pretty much exactly what it is. We all have a way of doing what we do and it works for us. Sometimes we may not know exactly why we do what we do--or how we came to prefer that, but the discussion is always interesting.

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