backyard camping at nightAs the holiday approaches, many people are packing for last minute vacations.  And by packing, I mean throwing things in bags and screaming about where their flipflops disappeared to.  “We must enjoy the last bit of summer,” people exclaim.  Families will rush to spend more time in close proximity to one another so school will seem more appealing.  Millions will carry heavy items through lava hot parking lots to sweat at a beach.  Even if you stay at home, you must eat half raw meat and mosquito potato salad with people you’d rather just signed Christmas cards and left you alone.  It seems that we feel compelled to do something on Labor Day.  Anything but labor, of course.  Take the road less traveled, we say, with full acknowledgement that the poem is called “The Road Not Taken.”  

Who wants to do what everyone else does?  On the roadway, it will be an accident if you come out of it alive.  Orange cones will shove you close to angry people on their phones.  You will be stuck behind semis going 55 and a quarter mile an hour passing other semis going 55.  If you make it to the beach, you will be swimming with diapers and breathing sand kicked up by fast-moving zombies in ill-fitting shorts who think they are walking through their living room rather than through a crowd of humans.  

So, how do you avoid all of this?  You cancel all plans to leave the house and tell everyone who has invited you to a weenie roast that you’re on vacation.  Send those you don’t like to the beach.  You will vacation in your backyard.  By yourself.  Or just with those you really like.  

We camped in our backyard a couple weeks ago, and it was one of the most pleasant vacations I can remember.  We slept under the stars, had a great fire, and we never had to worry about who was in the campsite next to us, what foul combination of sock and haggis they were cooking, or why their children sounded like they were on fire.  We didn’t have to shoo unknown cross-species of lizard and cricket out of the drain to take a shower.  We didn’t have to pay for a spot.  Time usually spent driving and unpacking was spent on more important tasks like drinking.  

 

Spending quality time in the yard–a place most people visit only when forced to mow or do other unpleasant tasks–acquaints you with the flora and fauna, with the sounds and sights, often ignored.   We discovered that our neighborhood was quiet at night, and that various creatures will sniff the side of a tent around 3 in the morning if a tent is present to sniff.  For a brief period, a friend came by and sat by the fire with us.  We knew him, so the conversation was pleasant–not like at a campground where those that wander and talk are generally doing so because no one related to them will.  

“I don’t do camping,” you say?  Not a problem.  Simply spend an evening sitting, then go inside.  Really, the only difference between camping and yard sitting is where you end up at the end of the evening.  I guarantee the peacefulness will satisfy your end-of-season needs much better than sitting in the heat without a tree in sight as a kid on a neighboring towel decides to feed every sky rat in the state with his bag of Fritos.  You can watch a fire.  You can look at the sky.  You can chit chat with someone you usually text.  If you can’t burn things in your neighborhood, I’m sure there’s a tofu non-carbon-emitting version of a fire log available at Whole Foods.      

Don’t have a backyard?  Use your neighbor’s.  They will probably be gone for the weekend anyway. While they are stuck in a traffic jam on the way to a beach and peeing in a Gator Aid bottle, send them a photo of yourself sipping a cocktail and lounging on their deck.  “Wish you were here, but glad you’re not,” you can text.  The backyard vacation is the uglY cOUsin destination of choice.