I started packing bags, folding sleeping bags, filling flasks, writing lists of things I needed, topping up the car with Diesel and checking our travel emergency bag to ensure it had every medicine known to man in it – just in case.
Yes, we were going camping.
On the spur of the moment, I had decided that I was bringing my three daughters on a camping trip. My husband, who couldn’t take time off work, was staying at home, but I was determined that I could do this on my own.
So off we went in the car up to the beautiful mountainous scenery in the heart of Co. Wicklow, all the while my heart pounding thinking about how I would be setting up the huge tent we had bought; how would I manage lighting the fire; where would we go to the toilet; and would we be okay sleeping at night – would we be safe?
Upon our arrival at the campsite, I was pleasantly surprised to meet the staff – answering all my questions and telling me that the site had 24 hour security and that they had onsite facilities such as toilets, showers, kitchen cleaning areas and loads of things for the kids to do such as kayaking, movie nights, archery, rock climbing, and even really funky bumper boats!
But just as I entered the tent zone, my heart started leaping again – would I manage to set up the tent?
The wind was howling, the lovely Irish rain that we’re all accustomed to was starting to pour, and I had to find a place to pitch. My girls, oblivious to my concerns, happily plodded behind me laden with sleeping bags, gas stoves and even their comfort teddy bears!
It was only when I eventually found a big enough space to pitch our tent and proceeded to take out the instructions – that the real panic set in – I didn’t have a clue what I was at.
Being in the Scouts for years, and even being a Scout Leader myself, you would have thought I knew what to do – but I didn’t! I had always left the crucial tent building exercise to those who knew how to do it best!
I started putting down the base, only to realise that the outer cover should go up first, all the while asking my girls to stand on each corner because everything was blowing away. It was probably quite comical if you were a bystander nearby!
And then, just like that, two lovely Malaysian men (who I now know as Roger and Paul) came to my rescue. They quickly took all of my pegs and covers (which were now sprawled all over Ireland it felt- thanks to the wind!) and they proceeded to pitch my tent – in no less than 10 minutes, I might add. I (to my shame) had even forgot to bring a hammer, but these guys did not laugh at me like I thought they might, instead empathising, and telling me they had done the same many years ago.
I was just so grateful to them – they didn’t have to intervene, but they did.
This was the start of me feeling an overwhelming sense of community on the campsite.
The first night we headed over to the log cabins where friends were staying and we all proceeded to work together to cook food, mind each others kids and wash up afterwards.
On the second night we then met with a couple and their little girl who were staying in another tent and we decided to set up a fire on the beach at the river. We were finding it difficult to start our fire but our excuse (that we still stand by!) was that it wasn’t because of our lack of skills in fire-lighting but because the wood wasn’t dry enough 😉 Anyway, just as we were giving up hope, a lovely family beside us were heading off to bed and then offered us their bonfire of a campfire for us to use for our hot chocolate and marshmallows.
We were in our element!
On this same day earlier in the afternoon our girls saw a tent with an inflatable boat and we’re skirting around to see if we could get them one. The lovely owner of this dinghy then kindly came over and offered it for the girls to play in – not long after four teenage girls are deep in the river, with full clothes on, rowing their boat gently down the stream!
All the while our smaller kiddies were catching tadpoles with paper cups and buckets!
I also saw one situation where a daddy was concentrating on his barbeque and his toddler had wandered a little away from the tent – another daddy quickly guided the child back, and the two dads then proceeded to chat and even open a beer together.
Over the next few days, I would hear random people shouting out asking for forks, coal, lighting fluid – and even nappies! You’d suddenly hear a voice come from nowhere offering what they had to help each other out.
Honestly, this was the most wonderful experience I had when camping – the sense of kindness, teamwork, and overall sense of community.
I thought to myself how lucky I am to have fantastic neighbours on each side of me at home in Mayo, and that I knew I could call on them at any time if I ever needed anything. But I also knew from my days living in Dublin, in large estates, that this was not always the case.
I think communities working together is so, so important.
Kindness can go a long way and it doesn’t always take a lot to show it.
In the healthcare arena there is a much need for a joint community approach, and sometimes this is very evident that it is being done – many times, not more so.
Last year the World Health Innovation Summit launched into a global mission to bring local communities together to address healthcare issues that affected their towns, villages and cities. In the heart of Cumbria [UK] in a beautiful city called Carlisle, a collection of local and global leaders came together to discuss the various matters that were affecting their communities. Since this Summit, Carlisle as a community have pulled together, shared work, communicated effectively and now, just one year later, are experiencing this similar community spirit that I witnessed at this little campsite.
Working together to inspire, to share, to be kind.
With the community at the heart of it all.
Not just giving a person a fish, but teaching them how to fish for themselves.
So at the end of my camping trip, so inspired was I to see if I could pitch my tent on my own after watching the lovely Roger and Paul do it for me, I went into my back garden and set up my tent again – I lit the barbeque, put down a fire and invited my family over for some sausages and burgers. I decided to bring my community around me, in my own little garden.
I also learned that while I was scared initially to go on my own with the girls, without my husband, that there was this whole other camping family that were there to help me along the way.
And it drove a simple message home to me – it really does take a village to raise a child!
I couldn’t write this without referring to the campsite I stayed at – it was just so beautiful. In the heart of Co. Wicklow, in a village called Rathdrum, lies the wonderful little Hidden Valley campsite. It was extremely cheap to stay there (€33 a night in a tent) and there was just so much to do with the children. It was clean, safe- and even had a restaurant on site where you could fill your flasks and get pancakes for breakfast!
Highly recommended by myself – an amateur camper – and now expert tent pitcher 😉