I have never been camping and I don’t know why it’s such a BFD. Anytime I casually mention my camp-free lifestyle to someone they start spit-yelling at me like I’ve never tasted water.
“HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? HOW CAN YOU BE ALIVE?”
The truth is it just never came up. Growing up, neither of my workaholic parents were ever like, “After clocking in 60 hours at the office this week you know what I need? A terrible sleep on a pile of sticks somewhere that a bear could eat my face.” It was more like, “Let’s get a cheap hotel on the beach and no one talk to me.” Which, as it turns out, is my favorite way to vacation. As my therapist says, “We do what we know.”
What is so amazing about camping, anyway? It’s just role playing being super poor. You sleep outside, have no electricity or toilet paper and eat food from a can. Wake up, people! That is called rock bottom. At this stage in my life, I am simply not rich enough to fetishize discomfort. Like most of my friends, I work 40 hours a week at my day job and then unlimited hours trying to “make it happen” as a creative person. If I ever get the chance to take time off, I want a pillow with mints on it, a breakfast buffet with unlimited ham and an itinerary of mild cardio activities like “a stroll through town.” Is that too much to ask? Also, I just re-read the last couple of sentences and realized my spirit animal is a 60 year-old gay man.
But after 29 years of never braving the great outdoors, I was finally presented with an enticing opportunity, when my friend Grace invited me to a yoga retreat in the mountains.
“Come on Rose, it’s gonna be awesome. Are you in or what? We can stay in a cabin.”
I’m trying to be more of a “yes” person, so I said, “Maybe.” (It’s a process). A couple days later, I confirmed.
The retreat was three days in the mountains in upstate New York at a Sufi spiritual center. I packed a couple of skanky bestsellers, enough Xanax and Klonopin to tranquilize a New Yorker and an entire suitcase of hair products because YOU NEVER KNOW.
After a long, sweaty subway-to-train-to-subway-again ride, we finally arrived at the campgrounds.
“Where are the cabins?” I asked the nose-ringed blond at the registration desk. She was wearing a couple of layered Indian scarves around her neck even though it was 90 degrees out. She cares more about fashion than weather… interesting. Maybe we aren’t so different after all.
Yoga lesson #1 – We are not that different from each other.
We followed Asha through the woods and stopped in front of what I thought was an outhouse. “This is your room. Throw your things down and then meet us at the main tent for orientation.”
I inspected our digs. Say what? When my friend said we were staying in a cabin, I pictured a ski lodge with a roaring fireplace, a tiger skin rug and mountains of cocaine. This was the size of a coffin and contained two prison cots. I felt like a Mormon bride who discovers her husband has a micro-peen on their wedding night. HELP, I’VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE! “Is everything okay?” Grace asked. “Just let me take this in,” I said as I reached for a chill pill.
When we got to orientation the demographic was exactly as I imagined; 900 hot, mystical, forest babes and three gay dudes. Nice! Whatever, this trip was not about finding a hot piece, it was about finding myself.
Yoga lesson #2 – Find yourself before you find a hot piece.
“Can everyone please hold hands and try to stand next to someone you don’t know?” Sarah, our gentle leader asked us.
I grabbed some hands and prepped myself for some kind of pagan prayer about nature and gratitude. Surprisingly, there was none of that.
“If you’re parked in the upper parking lot please move your car into the lower parking lot. The upper parking lot is for staff-only. Thanks so much. Okay, lunch time!”
Bottom line: She made us hold hands to talk about parking. Amazing.
Fortunately, lunch was delicious and served buffet style, AKA my favorite style. I was becoming one with my delicious veggie feast when when I spotted him. He was a student at the Sufi center and worked on the campgrounds. Handsome, outdoorsy, serene, he was exactly what I needed: a reason not to hate the trip. As he gathered wood in the distance, I had a Wayne’s World “she will be mine” moment.
That night I tried to sleep in the “cabin,” but it was just not happening. The bed was stiff, I was freezing, and I had to pee — but was scared of going into the woods alone. A million boring hours later when the sun finally rose, I was officially sick. My throat was killing me, I had a fever and I could barely get out of bed. Apparently, all it takes for my body to completely breakdown is one night in nature. Who knew? (I kind of did.) It reminded me of the summer that my dad made my sister and I go to tennis camp and we spent everyday in the nurse’s office because we had heat stroke. The point is, I’m not robust. I need AC and close proximity to great restaurants to thrive.
In some ways, I felt like G-d was sending me a message: You’re not a camper, Rose. Be true to yourself and check into a hotel.
Yoga lesson #3 – Be yourself and don’t feel bad about it.
After calling a few local B&Bs, I finally found a place with a vacancy. When I got to the cottage they showed me to my room. The pillow had no mints on it, but the the little side table did. That night I got a great sleep.
Once I had a little more mojo in my bones, I could focus on bagging my spiritual mountain man. I spied him at every meal because one of his jobs was to wash our dishes. “If anyone could help the staff out with clean up that would be greatly appreciated,” our trip leader said before each meal. It was a perfect excuse to talk to him. But I was torn. I really wanted to get to know him but I also really didn’t want to wash other people’s dirty dishes. Conundrum of the century! It was like Sophie’s Choice if there was nothing at stake and Sophie was a cunt.
It took me three full days of tortuous internal debate, until our very last meal, to decide to help clean up. I know what you’re thinking: This girl is an amazing person, she’s like a cross between JFK and Jesus.
I casually sauntered my sick-ass to the dish washing zone and offered my services.
“Hi, I’m Rose.”
We flirted and chatted about life. I was really curious about how someone ends up working on a Sufi commune in the mountains.
“Where are you from?”
“Are your parents cool with your lifestyle?”
“No, they don’t really understand me. They think I’m in a weird cult. My dad and I don’t really get along.”
“I understand you, Cassidy. Now, why don’t we make love in this industrial-sized sink?” I didn’t say that, but I was thinking it for sure.
“You and me aren’t that different,” he said. “You’re at a yoga retreat, you obviously care about your body and your spiritual path.”
“That’s true,” I said. “But I also like to go out to nice dinners and go to bars and get drinks.”
It sounded so superficial coming out of my mouth but its true, I do like to do those things. After we finished cleaning up it was time for me to head back to the city. I kissed Cassidy on the cheek and prepared to return to my real life.
As I sat on the train back to New York City, I thought about my weekend. I spent $400 to go to yoga camp and did exactly zero minutes of yoga. What I did do was eat food, pop pills, and fantasize about barebacking a Sufi dishwasher. And I’m okay with that. Namaste.