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A modern-day nomad is anyone who has to ask themselves where their travels begin and where they end, and what exactly counts as the whole soul-searching shebang, anyways? The thing about these collectors of cool things is that their routine is a lack of one. If that’s so, what happens when they enter a highly structured environment that is direct and singular? I’m talking about what happens when they go camping, specifically in the bush of Botswana, largely because that’s where a gang of merry international students and I found ourselves for the first term of the THINK Global School Changemaker Curriculum.
The first event, before the whole camping ordeal, is packing. For me, the reconsideration of possessions started the bush packing process before I even left the hotel room. While I could probably find sneaky ways to get all of my possessions into the campground, the people I look up to tend not to bring everything, including the kitchen sink, with them. Sinks become less useful without running water, as do many things we drag around with us. Do I really need five books, three devices, twenty pairs of socks, and a sore back to enjoy myself? Many people like me come to the answer of no, and some take it a step further and decide that for this trip, they will become a minimalist like no other. Personally, this approach has never turned out picture perfect, but it does represent the start of sacrificing comfort in the hope of gaining something from the lack of it.
Often people tell me that they have one grand reason for which they camp: they want to get closer to nature, they like looking at the stars, or they want a break from city life. In my experience, part of the reason people enjoy camping is that there is no other option but now. When I’m camping, I can’t move in any other direction until I’ve completed what I set out to do. As a group, we must eat when it is time to eat and clean up when it is time to do so or else hyenas will come and eat us. If we do everything immediately, yesterday cannot bother us, and neither can what happened a minute ago. I’ve already dealt with it. Dishes can’t pile up, laundry doesn’t stack in the corner, the tables don’t stay on their side for long. Our only option is now. I believe this is one of the places where expectation and reality often do overlap.
Of course, this takes a while to get used to, and only when each individual decides their position in camp can the whole machine start moving with marvelous efficiency.
There is some quality about a tent that seems to run through all sorts of tents, large and small, canvas and tech material. That commonality tends to be that there are people inside. I’ll talk now about the multi-person tents I used in Botswana since they quickly became my expertise. In such tents, introverts tend to take the back corners or the outside walls and can be found there when others are not, or outside when people are inside. Something about a sleeping and living space is sacred to introverts like me. If such places were to turn into social small talk war zones, then they’d lose their calming reprieve after a long day. This creates conflict with the extroverts who seem to need to populate the place with words in the same way one sets a sleeping bag down and unpacks. The words make it home. The ambiverts float along in this system, going between extremes and settling for a moment. The tent mates eventually work as a single being, rising in the mornings and zoning out at night.
The next division is a group of these tents, also known as a campsite. While not everyone considered it this way, people in tent groups might as well be sharing the same room. Tent walls are only thick enough to keep animals out for a while, not to keep secrets in or eavesdroppers out. Campmates bind each other to the latest sleeping time and the earliest rising time. While we didn’t spend much time talking as a group, we also functioned as a unit in time.
The daily schedules of people across campsites tend to overlap, by nature. Between the sites Camelthorn 1 and Camelthorn 2, we shared activities and story-worthy moments, along with dinner and the task of doing dishes. Because of all this experiential overlap, the conversation between one group of us and another group was often similar, a recount of events or a sharing of unique happenings.
All of the shared experiences and chatter makes me believe that the allure of camping in large groups is the feeling of greater connection to something we each give our own name to. Modern-day nomads can settle very well into camp life and can function well, at least for a while. Though the setting may change, my experience with moving in a group like THINK Global School is that even the freest of souls can settle into any place and adapt to it, but only once they gain that unknown connection to something greater.