Susan C. Anthony

Camping with the CarCamping

Camping was easy and by far the least expensive accommodation available. By camping and cooking our own food, we were able to do everything we wanted for $40 a day for the two of us. Campgrounds were generally equipped with hot showers, laundry facilities and shops, and in Germany and Holland were extremely easy to find with signposts alone.

My two-man backpacking tent served us well, and along with my mat, Dennis' air mattress and good sleeping bags, kept us warm even in sub-freezing temperatures.

We met a young couple in Amsterdam just finishing a trip like ours. They gave us their camp stove, cookware and lantern for a tiny fraction of its cost. Dennis had brought a foldable camp chair and I picked one up in East Berlin for only $7.00. In Bonn, we found some discarded lumber and Dennis built a gable that hooked over the open back of the station wagon. A sheet sleeping bag served as a tablecloth and voila, we were cooking and eating in comfort (see photo).

After I was drenched by Edinburgh rain and developed the cold of a lifetime, we began staying in Youth Hostels. They were a bit more expensive, but quite cozy. We'd gotten into the habit of going to bed soon after dark, and by late October, dark was coming early. In the hostels, we could read, write, and visit with other travelers until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.

We knew we'd have to spend a week in London in early November in order to sell the car, mail some things home, and prepare for the trip to Africa. We dreaded it. Accommodations there are extremely expensive. Even a Youth Hostel would cost nearly $15 a night, if there were any beds available.

We camped. Only a couple of campgrounds are open in November in London. One is at Pickett's Lock Sports Centre in Lower Edmonton, a 45-minute trip by public transport from Central London. The cost was only $9.00 a night with the car, $5.50 without. The sports center is a huge complex, with gymnasiums, weight rooms, swimming pool, golf course, outdoor playing fields, roller skating rink, bowling green and much more. We had access to hot indoor showers and, best of all, a sort of snack bar / lounge where we could get in out of the weather to read, write, and drink tea.

A "Capitalcard" for about $3.75 each got us a day's transportation to anywhere in London by bus, train and tube. Even in this expensive city, we found we could live on less than $40 a day.

Exodus canvas tentOf course, we camped almost the entire four months we were in Africa with Exodus Expeditions. There were few established campgrounds but lots of desert sand and gravel pits alongside the road. We had our own free-standing tent, but generally used the canvas tent they provided, shown in the photo. Once we set up the free-standing tent on rock hard ground. People were angry because they had to pound the stakes into concrete. Good GRIEF!

When we returned from Africa to Europe, we knew we'd be without a car or other vehicle, and that we'd have to haul everything on our backs. We considered taking only sheet sleeping bags and staying in Youth Hostels instead of camping, but it would have been a mistake. The very night we left Bergamo, where we stored excess baggage to lighten our loads, we camped in a park in Florence. On the ferries, we traveled as deck passengers for a fraction of the normal cost. We erected our tent in an isolated place just before going to bed and had all of the advantages of a private cabin. In Israel, we rented a car and were able to save the cost of the rental by camping and cooking our own food.

We even camped on the ferry boats from Italy to Greece and Greece to Israel. We'd wait until everything quieted down on the ship, find a remote spot, set up the tent and sleep, getting up early the next morning to pack everything up. It was a lot nicer than sharing a stateroom, and a lot cheaper. The first night on the ferry to Crete, however, we had a scare. The ship left late, so things didn't settle down as early as usual. We found an isolated place on deck, set up the tent, and were drifting off to sleep when we heard loud talking outside the tent. Of course, we don't speak Greek. It seemed clear he was talking to us, but what was he saying. Were we in trouble? Should we get dressed and get up?

Our tent on the ferryEventually whoever it was tried as many languages as he knew and we heard the word "Ticket." Ticket? Dennis zipped down the tent door a little ways and handed out our ticket. It was stamped and returned to his waiting hand, then all settled down. We weren't in trouble. The guy was just checking our tickets! 

In Israel, we were singled out for additional questioning by security. We were deck passengers who had rented a car. We didn't fit a normal profile. It helped us realize how lucky we are to live on a "frontier" (Alaska) that doesn't socially require that people with money wear certain clothes or do certain things. In Alaska, people can have money and travel as deck passengers. No one thinks a thing about it.

After a year of sleeping on the ground, even Dennis, dedicated outdoorsman that he is, admitted that the glamor had worn off. Camping had become the norm rather than an exciting adventure!

Go on to Berlin
Source:, ┬ęSusan C. Anthony