We recently read that the Oxford English Dictionary adds approximately 1000 new words to our language each year. Given the challenge of twisting letters into ever new combinations, it’s no surprise that “portmanteaus” (the joining of two existing words) have figured big into the latest additions to the English language. “Jorts” – jean shorts, and “phablet” – phone tablet, have both made the cut, presumable for their cultural importance everyday usefulness.
If the fine folks in Oxford follow summertime vacation trends, they may wish to consider another portmanteau: “glamping”. You guessed it, “glamping” is a marriage of the words “glamorous” and “camping”, two words that until recently, seemed an illogical combination.
But merged they have become, and tourism outfitters everywhere offer an increasingly ridiculous array of pampered camping opportunities. It’s become sort of a social media fuelled camping Cold War. A game of luxury vacation one-upmanship.
Why, these outfitters ask, would you risk getting hot and sweaty lugging your pack, kayak, or bike to some new destination, where, presumably, you could also end up in a rainstorm, sleep in a soggy down-filled sack, and emerge the next morning looking like you just survived the apocalypse?
Wouldn’t it be nicer to stay in a luxuriously appointed wall tent with a real bed, down comforter, two pillows (one firm, one soft), hot showers, and a five star chef designed menu? Isn’t the wilderness more enjoyable with a few more creature comforts?
To them we ask: Isn’t it more enjoyable with a few less?
You see, a few thousand years ago, we humans lived in the wilderness. We hunted, slept under the stars, lived in the rain, and somehow survived just fine. We still have the same bodies today, it’s just the world around us that’s changed. A romp in the wilderness, with as few luxuries as possible offers us a connection with that primal side or ourselves. We learn what we are capable of, stretch our mental fortitude, and realize that opposable thumbs are useful for so much more than tapping a touchscreen.
Paddling hard to complete that channel crossing in the wind or suffering through a wet, cold, miserable trip might stretch us to the breaking point, but at least we learn where our breaking point is, and know that we can probably stretch it even further next time. We’re sure we speak for more than just ourselves when we say that the hardest, most testing wilderness trips are the ones that we remember years later with pride at having persisted, lived fully, and come home a little more badass than before.
When it comes to words, we feel that some should simply not be combined. We were all better off when phones and tablets were different devices, and denim-shorts worked just fine. Let’s leave “glamorous” and “camping” apart for now, because “glamping” just makes you soft.
Albert Keller works at Coast Mountain Expeditions as a guide and logistical monkey. He wishes to clarify that while Coast Mountain kayak trips are comfortable excursions, they are most certainly not glamping.