Explaining The Concept of “Camping” To A Rural Asian or African Villager

Jean Claude, with his adopted daughter Caroline. In the hangar where I slept and we had all our conversations over the years. Photo from taken in 1997

Talk about hurdles in cross-cultural communication. Here is a great example of a Canadian tradition that simply does not translate very well into another culture.

Camping, it is not their vacation, it is their life. Camping is a confession that………

Reaching way back to 1997 with this story.

My friend Jean Claude lives in the village of Ebillasekro, Côte d’Ivoire, in West Africa. This village is located 48 km in the rain forest, just SE of Abengourou. No power, no amenities, squat over a hole toilets. A simple African village.

Some family members eventually escape the village life, land jobs in the city of Abidjan, or some office position in a larger administrative town somewhere where they now live in a basic villa with power, a small refrigerator, bank accounts, phone, and even an old bucket of a car, but a car none the less. They are not, in any manner, “well-to-do” by our western standards. Though comparatively they are doing fine.

A few times a year they return to the village to visit family. You can easily see their struggle with the village. The village is tough for even them now, especially their kids. Many of their kids don’t want to go to the bush village of their grandparents, so are left home.

Over the years Jean Claude and I have chatted about many things as we rested in the hammocks in the late evenings.  Had a very interesting conversation one evening.,

“What do you Canadians do for vacation?”

Since many go camping. I began explaining the concept of camping.

“Families leave their comfortable homes rough it in the woods where there are no stoves, fancy beds, ovens, refrigerators, or power. They sit outside in the bugs around a fire at night, visit, laugh, tell stories, cooking meat (Hotdogs and smores) over fire (BBQ). They like to make life more simple, get back closer to nature. They, walk in the woods, and swim in the river and …..”

At this point Jean Claude is looking at me with this look of clear disbelief that said, “What the Hell?”

I suddenly realized that what I was describing as “camping”, was how he, his wife, and his children live EVERY freaking day. Camping is their life.

So I stopped right where I was, mid explanation, and quickly ended by saying something more culturally understandable.

“They go back to their families village.”

“Oh, that is what the rich Africans do too.” Jean Claude affirmed.

So yes, I encourage you to try explaining “camping” to a villager in Africa or Asia. Camping is a rich person’s creation and concept.

Camping, it is not their vacation, it is their every day life.

Camping is also a kind of confession – A confession that our advancements often cut us off from the healing, rejuvenating, and soul discovering effects of the natural creation. At times we need to toss aside our soul numbing comfort, go back there, to heal, and feel, again.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I imagine another impossible one to imagine would be the practice of dieting, if you were explaining to someone living in severe poverty.


    1. 🙂 Dieting, brilliant observation. That would be tough also for Sure. But even in Mali there are fat people. But you see that more in a small town than a village. I may write an article about the fat thing….. now that you brought up the subject.. A story from an interaction with the same guy…


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