A Scout vacation doesn’t fit most people’s definition of a ‘vacation’.
We were out walking uptown at our hometown art stroll last night talking to our friends (most of them present or past Scouts and Scouters).
We chatted about the usual things; how the kids are doing, vacations, the weather. One couple was headed off on a Mediterranean cruise, some of our friends follow the annual migration to Disney world as reliably as the Canadian geese.
Amusement complexes? Cruise ships? Good for you! Have a great time! Please don’t make me go.
Frankly, (this is not a value judgement, just my personal preference), I can’t imagine a worse way to spend a week or two than being shuttled from here to there in a floating hotel or lost in the maze of tourist destinations. Give me a week at summer camp or paddling through the wilds of Ontario.
Give me a week of getting profoundly dirty, grubbing your own way through wild places, carrying heavy things through the forest, that’s my idea of a vacation.
Give me a campsite, a fire, and the endless, mindless chatter of Scouts.
Give me a whopping good storm, a cloud of mosquitoes, and I am a happy camper.
A deck chair? A five-star buffet? No thanks.
It’s not about ‘roughing it’, after all we have it rough enough at home. It’s about finding comfort and solace next to the old brown earth underneath the old blue sky, of spotting a moose or a bear through the woods, of making your own bed and drifting off to sleep by the loon’s lullaby.
It’s rising just before the sun and sipping coffee at the lakeshore as the world wakes up. It’s the flurry of packing and loading the canoes, of striking out for the next shore, of hoping for good paddling.
People take vacations to relax, but Scouting vacations are anything but relaxing. They aren’t a break from the ‘real world’, they are a foray straight into it. They aren’t a retreat into some artificial construct of idealized comfort; they are purposefully uncomfortable, they challenge you to be you. The pretences and poses of life vanish in the woods, you know what you are doing or you don’t, there’s no pretending. You have to confront yourself, you have to be honest with others without hiding behind your adolescent pose (at least not for long).
We arrive home battered and worn, but strangely restored. We bring pictures of our suffering, of natural wonder, of our new-found friends.
Maybe, someday, I’ll get talked into a cruise. For now I’ll take my week doing things that confront the realities of life instead of smoothing them over – that’s a Scout vacation.