People are often surprised by my decision to go camping.
It's something you either really love or really despise - the thought of no toilets or showers, setting up, the dirt and mess, cooking over a fire - it makes a lot of people dream of five-star hotels.
And it isn't so much that I love those things - I'd prefer to be clean and use a proper toilet, too. It's more that if we didn't camp, we simply wouldn't be able to go away as often as we do - and my love of travelling wins over all else.
It got me thinking about why I do love it, though, or perhaps why I've learned to love it.
- Getting away from technology, work, stress - it's so good for the soul.
- Spending time as a family, away from all the technology and work, makes up some of the best times we've shared together. No television to turn on, no computer to type madly into; we just sit around a campfire and chat.
- Seeing my gorgeous girl enjoy it. If you look up the term 'happy camper', I'm sure you'll see a photo of Abbey: covered in mud, hair everywhere, daggy clothes... and a huge smile on her face. Truly, this girl is made for camping.
- Jumping into our 4WD and exploring. In it, we see amazing hidden spots - and when I climb into the drivers' seat (sometimes!) I enjoy learning the skills that also make me a better driver elsewhere.
- The food - we eat better than ever while we're camping. Roasts, curries, stirfrys, cakes and puddings - all cooked on the fire (or its coals). It all tastes amazing.
- Spending some time focusing on the basics of life: food, water, shelter, family. Nothing else matters, and for a short time life is uncomplicated and my mind stops racing around.
- We often go camping with some friends, and it's wonderful to catch up with them properly away from a life where we all have other things to do and places to be.
- Watching Abbey enjoy the freedom of having nowhere to be, nothing to race off to. She just plays and helps out and wanders, swims in the river and runs around, before enjoying an evening bath by the campfire. Bliss.
- Our friends are amazing with Abbey, and camping is her time to enjoy their company one-on-one. She wanders with them and talks to them about what they're doing, and they do fun things with her like making rope swings and playing games.
- Watching the dog enjoy her freedom and doing what she loves best: being around people. And eating lots.
- When you camp somewhere, you really experience it. You get to know its dangers, its smells, the great parts about it. In a hotel you could be anywhere, when you're camping it's different everywhere you go.
- Coming home and jumping straight into the shower!