“Waste not, want not,” my parents used to say. In my childhood days camping with my family was a live off the land, eat what you catch experience.
They taught us how to fish; how to chop wood; how to cook; how to hang a hammock; what fruits were safe for eating; how to dive conchs; how to enjoy the outdoors and most importantly, the joy of doing things together as a family with friends in a stress free environment.
Going green those days was not an option but a way of life. It also meant taking a few extra steps to treat Mother Nature kindly.
One of the reasons that I enjoy camping, is it reminds me of the old days growing up in Cayman without electricity.
Bottle torches, lamplight, smoke pans and the moon were our source of light.
One favourite pastime was making moonshine babies. We did this by collecting broken glass, lying on the ground and letting your friend frame your outline with the broken pieces so that the light from the moon would make it glow.
Water was carried in buckets from the only fresh water well in my neighbourhood; dishes, bottles and pans were used and reused and fingers were the best substitute for forks eating a plate of fried fish.
Not yet exposed to the influence of the outside world, basic necessities were what we lived off.
Today camping can still provide an amazing opportunity to put yourself in a situation where you are almost entirely void of the comforts we’ve grown accustomed to in our modern society.
Camping is something my family enjoys. It is one of the best ways to show our children how our forefathers survived and made good use of what nature provided.
We didn’t have any pack of chips or chocolate chip cookies before lunch; we scoured the bushes for wild fruits and smashed almond seeds for snacks.
Coals for cooking? Not in our day. Driftwood and dried sea grape limbs were gathered and stocked up in camp for cooking and making the camp fire was a form of entertainment, adventure and fun.
We didn’t have any cellular phones, Ipods, fancy camping tents or portable DVD players; what we did have was beach balls, sandcastles, bean vine rope for skipping, sweet sea grapes and cocoplums gathered along the beach.
For the adults it was a machete, calabash utensils, a hammock, the flute, plaiting thatch and relating everyday tales to the merriment of everyone.
Camping days were spent enjoying nature, cooking, singing songs around the campfire, stargazing, collecting colourful seashells, diving mangoes and sea bathing until the sun had us looking like little tar babies.
Adults didn’t sit around all day slurping beer and smashing dominoes. They taught us bible verses, traditional games, catchy tunes and survival techniques.
And yes, gradually we too adapted to the modern way of camping. Each year we spend money stocking up on cases of Styrofoam, plastic and paper commodities; even adding the luxury of seven bedroom camping houses, not tents.
But by doing this we are forgetting traditions and teaching our children less about being independent, saving or survival.
All of this came rushing back to me one night when I was frying fish under the almond tree with my sisters and one brother. We ran out of Styrofoam plates and my sister Cecile reached up plucked an almond leaf off the tree and said, “Here’s your plate, we are going green tonight!
That it is why it is import to teach our children traditional camping techniques.
One of the most important things we can do for the environment and save on camping costs is by using these great tips in creating less litter.
Pick up your litter
Children hate when adults party all night and they have to pick up the trash in the morning and adults hate when they have to haul the litter to the roadside for pick up.
Sometimes it is left sitting there for days and wild animals have a campout of their own with leftovers.
To eliminate this problem take a plate, a cup, and a fork for each person from the cupboard.
Washing with sea sand and salt water will clean anything from the burnt up pot to the greasy plate and fork. Take the plate, run it through the sand, dip in salt water and voila! For a squeaky clean, keep a bucket of soapy water by the sea for everyone to wash their utensils after meals.
To stop the use of extra paper towelling; take old dish towels from home, it saves you a bundle of cash and there goes the litter problem; children will love you for not having them pick up the trash early morning.
Replace electronic equipment with helping kids make designs with collected shells and instead of a lot of sweets, encourage kids to crack almonds, gather sea grapes and dive up mangoes.
Today most countries are looking at cutting back. In Haiti a person survives on less than $1 per day, our Caymanian forefathers depended on the land and sea for survival, children supplemented their meals with searching for fruits, nuts and vegetables, need I say more.
And what better way to teach our children how to survive with the bare necessities
Always, take time to smell the sea, count ants, enjoy fireflies, listen to the wind in the trees, and watch the sunsets. Have fun, you’re out to enjoy yourself.