Camping might not be everyone’s favourite activity, but if you consider spending a lot of time with certain people in your life, you should absolutely go camping with them!

The camping analogy can shine a light on some very important aspects of life. Let me tell you where this comes from.

I remember a very busy period at the office during the launch of a new offering. Something that I was excited about and built a value proposition around for more than a year. Then came launch day – and absolutely everything went wrong. Just like “Murphy” said it would. I had to manage unreliable, over-promising suppliers, conflicting personalities, late payments, venue issues, rampant logistics, bruised Alpha-male egos and eight strategic partners from various parts of the world. It was a mammoth task and extremely stressful as it was my company’s offer and I was just getting to know our new international partners. I felt frustrated, embarrassed, enraged and perplexed, almost all at once, all of the time.

I remember the head rush and sometimes raw nerves and angst – in the end, luckily all worked out but as I drove one of the partners back to the airport, I felt the need to try and explain, to provide some perspective. I turned to him and said: “We just went camping, do you know that”. A puzzled look from him had me unpack the camping analogy, (and although this applied to a new business relationship, I think it holds water for just about any serious, important connection with another person that might be in your life for a while).

Ask yourself this question. “Can we camp together when things go wrong and still make it to the other side in one respectable piece?” You can go camp with anyone, but the people who stay with you, the ones sharing your life need to be there for the hard patches too. They need to be able to deal with life’s ups and downs, withstand stormy winds and thunderstorms on the journey and together you need to be able to weather the storm – rugged and bruised perhaps but in one piece. Still talking to each other, and helping to make the hardships more bearable for each other, not worse.

You see, camping can teach us a lot of lessons about life as well as each other and I normally pay attention to people’s behaviour when the going gets tough.

Who forgot the tent poles, and the cooler box and how did others react to the inconvenience? Did someone leave the weekend’s meat out on the kitchen table back home and did that result in a meltdown all around? If an inconvenience like this hits, how do people react and what does that mean for the mood for the rest of the trip? Rain and physical discomfort can make it even more interesting as it adds tons of insight to the analogy. When clothes get wet, mattresses soaked and mud clings to more than just toes. Watching behaviour when it is time to pack up is another good teacher. Everyone is tired and wants to get back home. Do we share the load, work together and practise patience and kindness when situations are less than ideal?

Don’t get me wrong, I do not particularly like camping unless it means I can pitch a tent right next to a waterfall while I climb a breath-taking mountain, if my legs will take me there. Or when it makes access to other unspoilt areas of beauty or inspiration possible, so in all honesty, I am already at a disadvantage. I also absolutely realise that no one can be content and patient all of the time, especially when things get devastatingly out of control and nothing but chaos reigns, but do learn to pay attention to how people react when the going gets tough, and what mechanisms they use to get them through it.

When things do not go according to plan, do the people in your life help or hinder progress in the long run? Can you rely on them to make things better or does their mere presence make things worse?

How do they make you feel when you made a mistake and can they apologise when they are in the wrong? Can we work together to overcome and create better outcomes for all? I am sure you have heard this quote by William Gibson before:

“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem…

…first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”

~ William Gibson

I remember many a time when I was “camping” with assholes.

The main experience was constant waves of shouting, irritability, blaming, self-centredness and complaining. Today I know that people show you who they truly are, especially in stressful, unpredictable and disappointing environments, camping or not. We need to listen and learn when the true colours of those around us get exposed unexpectedly.

Off course, all of us are human and can make mistakes. We get lazy and do not want to pack up a campsite, or we might snap when we should not have.  The ability to handle things when the world turns its back, to be understanding, to act as a team player and be dependable are qualities that demonstrate backbone. It is these resilient, kind-spirited people that we want walking next to us on this journey we call life.  

So, if the going got tough recently and you were treated badly if you were blamed, belittled or disappointed by someone’s behaviour in a given situation, see it as a revelation of their camping personality.

Luckily in this camp of life, we get to choose our camping buddies. Make sure you surround yourself with the kind and resilient types so that you can weather life’s storms with someone that adds value, that holds you up and helps you get to the other side – and do the same for them.

Next time when you meet someone, ask yourself if you would go camping with them? If you would, hold them close and cherish them, genuine camping (and life) buddies are not to be found under every tree.

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