Friday, May 15, 2015

Strangers In A Strange Land - Making Friends While Camping

Camping brings opportunities and provides many benefits. It can bring you close to nature and mend your soul, bring families together that are separated by miles, and even provide opportunities to make new friends. When I was a kid, we knew every family on our street and most on the next street or two over. Everyone looked out for each other, kids played together, we even camped together. This was fairly common way of life so many years ago. However, it seems like times have changed, people get so caught up in their daily lives that people often barely know their neighbors. You may have a friend across the country that you met on Facebook and know everything about them but you barely know the person 50 feet from your front door. You might give a friendly head nod as they pull in their driveway or wave as they are mowing their lawn but you may not really know much else about them.  It shouldn't be this way, humans are social beings, it is part of our DNA. We band together because it makes us stronger and safer but also because it fills our need to have human contact and interaction. 

Camping has a way of bringing people together. While camping, people tend to open up more, embracing human interaction. But how do you meet new people, strike up a conversation? Some people are just not good at making new friends, they find it hard to get engaged. Perhaps they are shy or just awkward in social situations, but we all need and crave human contact. I for one have never been much of a social's never been easy for me to engage strangers in a crowded room. However, I have discovered a way that works for me to meet people while camping. While I did not do this on purpose, one of the best ways I have found to meet new people while camping is to inadvertently leave something at home. Everyone does it, the one item you forgot to pack, it might be a tool or lighter fluid for the coals, but there is always something.

In our case, it was a can opener. While on our maiden voyage with our trailer, we decided to celebrate our first night in our trailer with some steak, broccoli and ranch style beans. However, as we started to prepare dinner we realized we had no way to open the can of beans. So, we reached out to our nearest camp neighbors to borrow a can opener. It was the perfect icebreaker to start a conversation. As it turned out, it was their maiden voyage as well. We spent the entire weekend hanging with our camp neighbors and discovering that we had a lot in common. We enjoyed their company so much, we have stayed in contact with them and even went on other camping trips together.

We have been on both the borrowing end and the lending end. On yet another camping trip, one of our nearest neighbors was having trouble getting their coals lit due to rain the night before. As it so happened, I had an extra bag of coals that were dry. So, when they came over for some help, I was glad to provide some coals and help them get them started. In both cases, it turned out to be a great way to meet camp neighbors and make new friends.

Getting to know your camp neighbors can not only be fun, but also provide useful. Just like at home, camp neighbors that know one another tend to look out for each other. While not common, thieves have targeted campgrounds in the past. They might steal chairs, generators or coolers and friendly camp neighbors can help deter strangers from lurking around your campsite while you might be away. Friendly camp neighbors help form a sort of neighborhood watch.

So, next time you are out camping, leave your can opener at home and take a moment and get to know your camp neighbors. You just might make a lifelong friend and make your camping trip much more enjoyable. Oh, as for the can opener? Well, we never did get the can open as our neighbors didn't have one either but I am still glad we forgot to pack ours.

Some images used in this post provided under Creative Commons License