There are two things you should know about my family. The first thing is that we’re from Southern California. The significance of this is that we’re not well adjusted to the weather common on the East coast. Our summers are as dry as they are hot. The second thing is, as much as I’d hate to admit, we’re kind of wimpy as far as the great outdoors goes. As a family unit, we seem to gravitate toward the comfortable things in life. We’d choose a good meal and hot showers over the “rewards” of living in harmony with nature for a couple days. I wished we were tougher.
Frankly, I’m envious of our cousins. They live in Connecticut, so they can tolerate the Eastern climate. Regardless, they always seem to fare better outdoors than we do.
After two sticky weeks vacationing in Florida, my family drove up to Virginia last summer to camp with our cousins, at the Chippokes Plantation State Park. A swathe of deciduous trees surrounded the campground, which protected us from the sun but not the humidity. To our disappointment, there was not a single acceptable Chinese or Mexican restaurant for miles. Unlike the buzz of L.A. traffic we’re so used to, there was only the buzz of a trillion mosquitoes, all of which were thirsting for our blood.
On our first evening, my mom began to prepare our classic camping meal: pasta with Ragu Sauce. The smell of the sauce hung over the campground. It’s like when you walk past a Cinnabon store at the mall; they pump out that irresistible cinnamon smell, so it’s impossible not to crave a cinnamon bun. I could barely wait to eat. However, above the trees, evil dark clouds were beginning to roll in center stage, at a most frightening pace. It instantaneously began to pour. Branches screeched and buckled as the wind grew. Then we heard the thunder. The sky was obviously falling. Everybody ran to take cover in their respective cars; if this was the next Great Flood, I hoped Volvos float.
We sat in our car for two hours, watching our campsite being desecrated. Our cousins’ tent flew into the woods. Tablecloths, flashlights, and water bottles suffered similar fates. Worst of all, the Ragu was completely ruined. Spaghetti was flying everywhere. I was heartbroken. It was time to abandon camp. We waved goodbye to our cousins still waiting in their van, and left. I was disappointed. Once again, they’d proven to be tougher than us.
One hour down the road we stopped at a Denny’s. By some miracle, they had pasta and tomato sauce available. Nothing ever tasted so good. Finally, my stomach felt satisfied. However, I felt disappointed with our family, because the cousins were still braving the storm.
After a comfortable night at a nearby Best Western, we called the cousins. It turned out that they had gone to stay at a hotel too, and they left about thirty minutes after we did. Afterwards, this experience made me realize something: it’s not so much about being tough. It’s about being smart in a situation. Staying in a campsite all night wouldn’t have worked; sure we’d be “tough”, but we’d be miserable. The cousins, the tough ones, realized that. There’s no point in enduring something solely for the sake of being considered tough.
However, I’m not saying that you should never step out of your comfort zone. After the storm, we returned for two more nights outdoors. Now I know it’s about a balance between comfort and toughness.
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