Friends' lush gardens are also a great camping site!

Confessions Of A First Time Camper

As an islander, being outdoors usually means sunbathing at a beautiful beach and snorkeling or diving in crystal, blue waters. Rarely will you get an invitation to go camping. My concept of this was basically based on Hollywood movies where the characters sit around a bonfire and sing Kumbaya.

Not quite your usual campfire song :)

As a first time camper, my immediate question was, “Where would we shower?” And the usual answer was, “You don’t.”  I shower twice a day and the thought of going on for days without showering was terrifying. Baby wipes, as friends suggested, would not suffice.

Another concern of mine was safety. I don’t have a fear of ghosts but I am absolutely terrified of being attacked. And again, no thanks to many suspense Hollywood thrillers, I was afraid that we would be prey to some psycho-killer on the loose.

So those were my main concerns – hygiene and safety. “How dare they laugh,” I thought. Those are pretty valid concerns, right? Thankfully, Mike always reassured me that everything would be all right. But the truth was, there was no appeasing this shower-loving and semi-paranoid Filipina. I prepared myself for the worst.

So on our first night, just as I had predicted, I was thrown into what seemed to be the worst-case scenario. After hours of driving and being tourists, we finally decided to camp out in Monterey. We passed several state parks along Big Sur that charged an average of $35 but thought that they were too pricey. We didn’t know any better and didn’t realize that that was as cheap as they would get in touristy areas. We basically drove around for 2 hours in the dark of Monterey and had no idea where we were going to spend the night. Finally, Mike thought he had found the perfect campsite – a secluded parking area by the Monterey marine sanctuary. At that point, all I could think of was my imminent death.  In fairness to my fears, all I could see was darkness. Long story short, Mike realized that it was probably best that we moved somewhere better lit. So this is where we camped out on our first night.

camped out in the burbs of Monterey. Mike was not pleased.

Morning came and I saw everything in a different light, literally. I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and couldn’t help but laugh at the how silly and afraid I had gotten the night before. It was then that I realized that Mike wouldn’t take me anywhere unsafe and that I should trust his judgment more.  It was also then that I made the decision to take more risks and to refrain from letting my unfounded fears stop us from living such a great adventure.

The second night, we camped at the Redwoods in Big Basin. One of my favorite campsites.

Campsite in Mendocino. We had the place all to ourselves and we got to stay for free!

Another one of our favorite campsites - Juniper Creek.

Friends' lush gardens are also a great camping site!

When campsites go bad. Would have been beautiful if not for the dead trees and humongous mosquitoes!

After that night, I learned to embrace everything about the North American outdoors – being in the middle of nowhere, sleeping amongst a sea of trees, waking up to the sound of birds singing and the wind rustling the leaves, cooking with a camp fire, bumping into wild life and yes, even peeing in the woods – and had the time of my life.

This city girl will never be the same again.

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83 thoughts on “Confessions Of A First Time Camper

  1. It’s very beautiful! I hate camping, and I grew up camping with family members. I lived in BC for a while and no one who lives there hates camping (except for me!). I just can’t stand communal showers or worse…NO showers! So, I spend time in nature and then demand that I spend the nights in a hotel. :D Works out for me!

  2. I’ve not yet made the camping plunge, myself, but I do want to do it someday. Like you, I would rather be taken camping by someone who’s experienced.

    I can deal with the no showering thing (to an extent). For me, I think the biggest challenge would be bugs — bugs all over me, in my ears, and up my nose while I sleep. I know there are tents that can close completely up, but bugs always find a way, don’t they? OH… bugs and BEARS. Bears would not be fun, either.

  3. This was very engaging..made me smile and even chuckle a few times!! I emailed this post to a friend who will be having her first experience in two weeks!!

  4. Thanks for dispelling those myths about the murders and lack of showering–both have kept me away from camping as well, but your post gives me hope for the future!

  5. We just camped for the first time this summer, on that same route. We camped near Little River just south of Mendocino, and at Jedediah Smith state park in the redwoods. It sure is beautiful up there.

  6. Good for you for conquering your fears! Big Sur is absolutely stunning part of the State. I have to admit, to me camping is anywhere without cable… but your fab photos just may awaken the call of the wild in me…

  7. This is pretty much how I felt the first time I went to camping. At first I thought to myself, “Why did I come to this place just to be Mosquito bait?” But after seeing the NA outdoors I felt like it was worth living on bug spray and hand sanitizer :P Thanks for sharing!

  8. I’m with you on the showering twice thing, especially if you’re from a place where you need to shower twice because it’s just better for everyone. I lived on Guam for almost 8 years and that humidity just kills you. Two showers is standard. Now living in the Pacific Northwest, and it being cold nearly all year round, bathing twice is not as necessary except maybe on those 90-degree days, which we aren’t used to.

    I loved this line, “Mike wouldn’t take me anywhere unsafe and that I should trust his judgment more.” I’ve been in my relationship for almost 9 years now and it took almost this long to come to this conclusion! Can I help having instincts and horrible thoughts? I can go to the dark place fast, and I can agree that Hollywood can cause you to think the craziest things.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I am also interested in checking out your food blog. Spicy vinegar. Yum!

    • Hi Marivic! Glad you found something to relate to in my blog and yes, being Freshly Pressed is extremely exciting for a novice like myself :) Drop by anytime, here and on my food blog and say hi :)

  9. I’ve never really camped either, but you guys sure picked a nice place to do it. I miss the coast over there, and there are more beautiful campsites than I’d know what to do with. Most places I’ve lived, you do have to be careful camping because there are bears about, and even mountain lions… I think in Mendocino you were pretty safe. :D

  10. Hahah, I’ve been camping so many times. I love it. It must be rough going from showering twice a day to not at all, though!

  11. I love camping! When I was a kid, my parents would take us every year for weeks at a time…I loved every moment of it.

    I’m glad you’ve finally had a chance to experience it! And congrats on being Freshly Pressed! :D

  12. Absolutely gorgeous. The idea of camping appeals as does the view and the surroundings but I’m not keen on mozzies or going to the toilet in the bushes LOL. Loved the pics.

  13. Pingback: Confessions Of A First Time Camper (via Keeping Up with the Purita Joneses) « It's impossible to be unhappy on a skateboard.

  14. Thanks for sharing and am glad you survived – ha! I love camping and can say I have gone days without showering and you deal. There is just something about being one with the great outdoors and up close with nature. Congrats on being FP!

  15. Love it! I recently went camping in northern Wisconsin (wild blueberry picking and no cell reception) and spent the following week visiting NYC. Talk about culture shock! Went from no showers to fancy dress….

  16. looolll.. this is great, funny and informative as well.. i personally have never camped and im too scared to even think about trying it.. but maybe years from now i will have the courage.. :-D

  17. I think it’s fantastic that your first camping trip was such a good time! When I was a kid, my family went camping at least three weekends each summer, and at least once in the late spring (when there was still snow on the ground). Now? Well… Now, I “camp” in hotels (ha ha ha). Thanks for sharing your adventure with us!

  18. That’s a great post. I’m glad you survived the first night and had better experiences later. I’m an East-coaster, but I’m heading to California this week for seven days in the wilderness.

  19. Congrats on Freshly Pressed! Hiking is something that, once you get used to it, is hard to go without for too long. It is so natural just being outdoors. Gotta love some of the Pacific Coast for camping.

  20. At least you got good weather! Congratulations on your first outing, and as stated above, a great area to do so!

    I camped in Big Sur a few months ago (my first time in California), and though I loved it, we spent two days in the rain, and it was just a mess. Wouldn’t trade the memories for anything though!

    • Hi Luke, we did find a lot of campgrounds in Big Sur but thought at that time that they were too expensive. Had I known that we were going to have a hard time finding state parks in Monterey, money would not have been an issue :P And you’re absolutely right, the memories are priceless!

  21. Wow, I think you did a lot better than I did when I first went camping. From one city girl to another I had those same fears. We arrived at our campsite in the dark, and it was a mess putting up the tents in pitch black! It rained the entire weekend – just my luck – but once I had some beers in me I was ready to conquer everything. Or so I thought. I heard bears while we were sleeping, i’m sure of it. I am pretty outgoing and loved singing songs around the camp fire… so all in all I’d do it again. Maybe just one more time.

  22. Congratulations on toughing out that first night! State parks almost always have showers and flush toilets, lots of things to see & do, and are very reasonably priced. If you’re planning to do a lot of camping where you have to “make like a bear” and pee in the woods, please take some time to learn how to Leave No Trace. We camped all the way across the country & back last summer, and loved it. Only took motel rooms when we had two days of 12+ hour driving back to back & couldn’t be bothered to set up camp, or when it was too hot to sleep in the tent. So glad you’re enjoying the experience!

  23. I never worry about being attacked unless it’s by mosquitoes. Loved this tho! Congrats on being freshly pressed, whatever that is? I haven’t quite figured this out yet.

  24. Nice post! My parents used to take me and my sister everywhere around Brazil, doing camping. Those were great times.

    Wish you have the best moments doing that.

  25. I adored camping as a child and young adult. My husband doesn’t camp, and I wonder if I ever will again. I do have some friends who camp, but they only do a yearly “winter survival” trip, camping in the snow. Last time, two of the tents collapsed…at night. I don’t see myself camping with them!

  26. Very fascinating!

    I was entertained with your confessions and I can’t refrain to congratulate you! I got some vivid reminiscing of my adventure during a survival camping I had. =) Doing campfire and singing “kumbaya” has been part of my childhood, but college life wouldn’t be crazy complete enough without outdoor camps and survival camping! As a nature buff, I appreciate this post, but more than that, I’m amazed to find a woman with the same blood, paving her way to Freshly Pressed ^_^ KUDOS! keep it up!

  27. I recently had my first camping adventure near Fort Bragg, CA. To my pleasure, it only lasted one night. I am not a sleeping outside kind of girl. Kudos for embracing and enjoying your camping time.

  28. Its no wonder you were worried about not showering if you are from the Philippines. If I’m in Boracay for the summer where it’s 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity then I probably shower 5 times a day. But in California its very dry so you can go a few days without showering without getting that horrible sticky feeling on your skin. I would never go camping in the Tropics but its great in California.

  29. I’m afraid despite your description, and my own experiences of camping, I’m still a city girl. I’ve had a couple of camping trips, each with bits I hated. Brownie camp trips, to Scarborough, on holiday. Not my cup of tea I’m afraid! Plus, I’m England, we haven’t really got the weather or the scenery to camp.. Unless we go to the mountains or lakes. I’m sure my mother would love to read your post, she’s an outdoorsy kind of woman. But me, I’m afraid, will always prefer the indoors and city life! I’m glad you had a good experience though, it’s always good to try new things! Well done on being Freshly Pressed!

  30. In terms of hygiene, you should check out solar showers. You can get a pretty decent sized one for cheap. Fill it with water and let the sun heat it for a few hours. It can actually make the outdoors almost just like home. Almost. :-)

  31. I’m a city girl too, and camping has never appealed to me. I did it once, and it wasn’t much fun, but I was in a tent with people I didn’t really know. Maybe if I went with my husband sometime it would be better. But I require a real bathroom, no peeing in the bushes for me! lol

  32. I found the way you described your fears about camping (and coming to grips with them) fascinating to read. Kudos for being so honest!

    I do think there is a distinction between feeling ‘vulnerable’ and feeling in danger. (doesn’t mean you can;t feel both though – especially if you camp near human settlements!). But what I mean by that distinction is that when you are camping and surrounded by darkness and ‘the unknown’ you are by definition vulnerable. But while the ‘thinking brain’ (that watches too much TV) freaks out, the human senses themselves absolutely love this feeling.

    I soon learned when first camping that my body *loves* to sleep outdoors in nature surrounded by noises, darkness, the wind, trees creaking etc. It loves being alert – being ABLE to be alert for a change. Your body simply can not be this alert when indoors. There’s another distinction that’s easy to confuse: being (bodily, mentally) alert and with an awareness being literally ‘flooded with raw perception’ vs being frightened.

    Usually in a house, the only time our senses really open up is when we think there is an intruder trying to break in downstairs! Hence the connection we make between bodily alertness and fear/ anxiety.

    I think living in comfortable, secure houses with lights and TV blaring etc is a form of sensory overload AND sensory deprivation both at the same time.

    When you sleep outside every part of you becomes an ‘ear’ listening…. it’s a form of heightened awareness. I love it!

    And I think the vulnerability experienced when camping (especially when on your own) is something we can all benefit from. I bet if sleeping outdoors was more a part of our culture there would be a lot less stress, violence, fear, rudeness and obnoxiousness in daily life. Sleeping outdoors makes you a little more humbled and awe inspired in equal amounts. (The complete opposite of how this indoor, consumer driven society makes people feel!)

    I believe so many of the social problems that plague western societies really are unnatural to us … in the sense that they are born of our disconnect from nature! :)

    I would go as far as to say I don’t think we can ever truly know ourselves if we have never spent a night on our own out in the wild, away from human settlements and amenities (including campsites).

    I’m with the Aborigines on that one! :)

  33. Pingback: On Being Freshly Pressed | Keeping Up with the Purita Joneses

  34. I saw your post on Freshly Pressed and being a camping lover I wanted to read about your first time camping experience. Great post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! I have camped since I was a kid and I love it even more as an adult. I am happy to hear that you had a wonderful experience. Nature is awesome and when the conditions and locations are right, it’s something you will never forget.

  35. Pingback: Thank You, 2011. | Keeping Up with the Purita Joneses

  36. Pingback: Thank You, 2011. | Keeping Up with the Purita Joneses

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