The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 116: Camping Together

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

Outdoors folks have this image of being tough, and of facing risky challenges in adverse situations. But there's also a softer, warmer type of outdoor adventure. This week on The WildeBeat; Camping Together.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number one sixteen.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Imagine a romantic evening with someone you adore. You find a nice spot and you sit together, feeling close to each other. You share some favorite food and perhaps something nice to drink. You give each other that special look, and it's time to retire to your tent. On her visit to San Francisco I talked to an author who says that camping and outdoor adventures can be one of the most romantic experiences you could have with a special someone.

STEVE: I'm talking with Michelle Waitzman. She's the author of the new Wilderness Press book, Sex in a Tent. Michelle, welcome to the show.


STEVE: I guess the first question is: to ask the kind of obvious question that somebody might ask, what makes her think she's the expert on sex in tents?

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: I never thought I was an expert on sex in tents. So what I did was I went out and asked everybody else, and I thought if I collect enough opinions, then we'll be getting somewhere I'll see patterns start to form.

STEVE: The thought that crosses my mind is that our show is focused on ...the more casual outdoors person, and so we tend to focus on beginner topics. So a beginner topic in your category might be, "gee, that's all fine to talk about having sex in a tent, but I've got a few steps before I can get there. I've maybe been in this hiking group in a year, and I haven't even met the right person to take into the tent yet."

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: Yeah, it does help if there's somebody with you, ...finding the right partner is certainly the big first step, and it can take a while. Because it's not enough just to find somebody who's outdoorsy, they have to be the same kind of outdoorsy that you are, at the same sort of level. So that can be awkward, you know. You meet somebody, he says he's really outdoorsy, and that's great, and then you find out his idea of outdoorsy is climbing Mount Everest, and yours is going for a two-hour hike, and that's not going to work out very well.

STEVE: Let's talk first about situations that didn't match up quite right.

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: One of the people I interviewed for this book is Kathleen Meyer, ...and she was a really interesting person, she used to guide river trips. And, of course she was always looking for an outdoorsy man, and apparently wasn't very good at choosing them. She told me that ...she would take these guys out on a trip for the first time, and it never occurred to her, you know, figuring she was the girl, they'd be able to tough it out better than her, that was the scaring the bejeesus out of them their first time ever on a river. So, yeah. She certainly had trouble finding somebody who was at her level, and because she was the girl, I guess, it never occured to her to ease them in a little. She thought, you know, all guys must be ready and up for it.

STEVE: So is there a happy ending to this story? Is there a moment where this all worked out?

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: It did all work out for her. She found a lovely outdoorsy partner named Patrick, and she had already stopped guiding river trips, so they mostly camp. They do do some, I think, canoeing and such on rivers, but to the point where they are so well matched that they sleep outside on their deck in their sleeping bags, normally, from day to day. They don't even have to go camping to sleep outside.

STEVE: So do you have any tips? You've met this person in some, maybe non-outdoorsy situation, that you're hitting it off with, and now you want to take them to somewhere interesting to you, some outdoors place, and so you want to introduce them to this life of yours, and --

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: If they have no background in this sort of thing, if they're purely urban, you really have to take it slow... you really have to make that first experience pleasant. Wait for a good weather forecast, make it one-night only, so that they can have a shower after being a night in the woods, and try to make it special. Try and go somewhere really pretty. Bring some nice food, maybe some extra chocolate, as a reward, and maybe even stop somewhere really nice for a treat on the way back home afterwards, just to say thanks... Romance is really in the eye of the beholder. So you have to go with what is romantic for you. But to me, I think, scenery is so important. If you can get a view from a ridge or somewhere where, you know, it's sort of the landscape is all rolling out in front of you. That's romantic in itself. I think water is romantic. I think if you can be by the side of a lake, especially if it's warm enough to go swimming in the lake, that's allways nice... And I think just being isolated is really important. The fewer people who are around the more romantic and open you're going to feel with each other. The more you're going to appreciate being removed from everyday life.

STEVE: That brings up a point as to why this whole topic might have been interesting to you in the first place, right? The solitude of being in a wilderness location affects your thought processes a little bit.

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: It does. It removes you from your normal anxieties and your normal relationship, even, with your partner. You know, the phone isn't going to ring. The T.V. isn't on. Nobody's going to drop by. And it takes away all of those things that maybe create friction or distance between you. So for a lot of people, getting away to camp, you know, even one weekend a month, is a real relief from their normal stress levels. And really allows them to remember why they like each other.

STEVE: So I'm planning a romantic backpacking overnight with my partner. And what are some of the things you recommend that I would plan beyond a backpacking trip with a hiking buddy of some other sort.

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: If you're trying to make the trip romantic, if that's your goal, the first thing to think about is the location. Make sure it's going to be somewhere you can avoid other people. And I would try to make it not terribly ambitous, unless you're both really go-getters. If you have a little extra time on your hands at the end of the day, you're going to have that time to relax, to make a nicer meal, to watch the sunset, and all those things that will up the romance of the trip. And then just, comfort is important. So make sure you have good sleeping pads, maybe invest in a sleeping bags that zip together, and a lot of people really like the silk sleeping bag liners, because all of a sudden, you know, you feel pretty fancy inside one of those.

STEVE: I know you've told some interesting stories in the sidebars of your book of other people's experiences. Could you relate a couple of those?

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: Sure there's all kinds of things people told me, and I was very thankful that so many people were so honest with me, because some the stories are a bit embarrassing. You know, I heard from a couple who went on their first canoe trip in a long time, and realized that they weren't very good at paddling and kept going around in circles. And that's one of the challenges for a couple some time, just getting your skills together to go in a straight line. Whether it's in a canoe or a kayak, or on a hiking trail, you really have to work together to accomplish your goals. So there were several stories like that, and then there were some interesting stories about hygiene. Because I did ask people about that, and got all sorts of answers, but generally speaking the women were very concerned with how they looked and smelled. There was one girl who said she would take pictures of herself with her digital camera so she could see how her hair looked, and whether it needed fixing. Which I thought was quite funny, and apparently her partner thought it was even funnier... You think of outdoorsy people as not caring about that sort of thing, but some of them do. And then you know, there was a guy who said, there comes a time in the trip when my partner will just lean over and go, "you might want to borrow my toothpaste." And he realizes that he hasn't really been looking after himself. So everybody has their own level of tolerance for these things, and some couples are, you know, "we go into the woods, we smell, we don't care." And some couples, you know, get a little tense about it, and some couples act almost like they're still in the city.

STEVE: So are you still collecting stories of people's romantic experiences outdoors?

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: I am... But I just find it fascinating to hear what other people get up to when they're camping, because, you know, if they're having a romantic trip, then you're not ever going to see that, hopefully, so this is really the only way to find out what people do in the privacy of their own tent. And I think it's really interesting because there's such a range and people come up with things I never thought of. So live and learn I guess, learn from others.

STEVE: So has this whole experience of researching and writing this book changed your own relationship?

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: A little bit, yeah. We've certainly come up with some new ideas, ...and I think learning from other people's mistakes is wonderful, because you don't have to go through it all yourself.

STEVE: Michelle Waitzman is the author of the Wilderness Press book, Sex in a Tent. Michelle, thank you for talking to me.

MICHELLE WAITZMAN: Thank you very much.

STEVE: Has the outdoors played an important role in your love life? Do you have any other comments or suggestions for our show? You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You'll find a link to Michelle's blog, information about her book, and an extended version of this show, on our web site.

STEVE: WildeBeat members can download some of the stuff we had to edit out of this G-rated version, from our WildeBeat Insiders web pages. Also, become a WildeBeat member and get up to five books as thank you gifts, courtesy of Wilderness Press.

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Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. If we helped you get into the wilderness, could you help us do the same for others? Just click on our support link and become a member. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a nonprofit educational project of Earth Island Institute.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number one sixteen. Thank you for listening.

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Next time -- Baking in the Sun.

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