Vicky Sambunaris on Camping

1. What was camping like as a kid?

Camping as a kid was disappointing. My dad bought a bunch of camping equipment - a tent, cots, stove, etc. but we never actually went!

My first real camping experience was when I was in Girl Scouts. Things went wrong. I got sent home from camp due to an innocent joy ride with some neighboring Boy Scouts The police were called and that was the end of camping as a child for me.

2. Was it something your family got you into, or did you discover it yourself? 

In 2003, I drove across Canada from New York to Alaska. In economic terms, there was no choice but for me to camp. I learned the art of camping alone. I held fast to my hatchet to get through the first night. After that, it’s been a breeze.

3. How is it different as an adult? 

For most people, camping is a form of recreation. But, it’s a necessity in my work. When I’m camping for months at a time, motels are not an option. Long gone are the days of the $28 motel. The advantage of camping is I wake up on site and don’t have to worry about bed bugs.

4. What makes a perfect camping location for you? 

Breathless view, edge of a cliff, silence, solo.

5. Tell us about a time you felt unsure or worried while camping? 

There have been a few but one that sticks out was camping at a Texas State campground with no other campers and surrounded by big signs that said “Caution: Venomous Snakes”. I thought I landed in a snake pit.

6. What's something most people don't realize about camping?

When camping alone, it becomes a form of meditation and ritual. Time slows down and awareness of the most minute details are enhanced. Every act from gathering kindling to boiling water to hearing distant sounds to watching the sun set becomes exaggerated and is a form of perception.

7. How has camping influenced or changed you as a person? 

Camping has made me aware of the many issues of land use in the west from industrial tourism, to water issues, to the extraction of natural resources from public lands to mining reclamation. I can read every article about the environmental issues but there is no comparison to being out there and seeing it first-hand.

8. How does it affect your photography? 

Camping has enabled me stay out in the field for months at a time and places me both physically and psychologically at the center of my interests. It allows me to stay hyper-focused on the work while removing the distractions that are created when tethered to my home, for instance.

9. Where do you dream of visiting in a tent?

Patagonia and also camping my way up to Alaska.