John Cowan - Camping

Publish Date
Thursday, 14 December 2017, 4:16PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

I remember the  reading that camping holidays were a common factor in families that get on well. Could be. Marvellous relationships were formed in bomb shelters during the war and in prisoner-of-war camps, so camping holidays might well weld families together  as they face shared adversity.

I have many recollections of my own childhood holidays in a ten-by -ten tent.

  • The taste of mozzy repellant.
  • The smell of long forgotten lumps of bait in fishing bags.
  • The glee at watching moths singe themselves on the hissing kerosene lamp.
  • The endless games of Monopoly waiting for the weather to clear.
  • Playing “Spot the mosquito” with the torch beams.
  • The sound of Dad digging trenches around the tent in the rain at midnight.
  • The flavour of condensed milk on your Weetbix.
  • The chill of a sleeping bag zipper against the small of my back.
  • Toast made on a Primus that was very much like untoasted bread, except with charred patches and a distinct taste of kerosene.
  • The chilly, torch-lit trip to the long-drop “poop -tent”, where I discovered more than I ever wanted to know about New Zealand’s nocturnal insect life.

Considering all this enriching experience… it’s astounding that I ever spoke to my parents again. It’s perhaps even more astounding that I went on to inflict similar deprivation on my own children.  But I did, and I’m glad I did because holidays  together in a strange environment really do do something for families. Many kids never get to see their Mum or Dad face a bigger challenge than resetting  the microwave clock after a power failure,  but on a camping holiday, their role becomes redefined as they protect and provide for the family in a much more visible way.  Kids learn a taste for adventure – as well as the taste of insect repellent. . And above all, camping is fun, and few things are as healthy for family relationships as having fun together, and sharing great memories.

So go camping this summer.

But don’t forget the mozzy repellant.

About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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