When I was 13 years old and lived in Romania, my mother decided we would take a vacation over the summer with friends. To the sea, in a tent. Camping. All summer long, she said, so bring lots of books.
We would not be leaving the campgrounds much, and will depend on what we bring and the bare necessities within the facility. The parents would be resting, talking. Fishing. There would be storytelling, campfires, but mostly lights out early every evening. When not playing, we, the kids, would be reading.
You can imagine my confusion. I loved books, but why go all the way to the sea, five hours by train, for the whole summer to read?
“We spend too much time watching TV, talking on the phone,” Mom said. “We live in a world of sensory abundance and bonding poverty. This vacation will make up for that.”
Three weeks later, I found myself on the fly-infested rocky beach along the Black Sea coast in a place so quiet I could hear the earth’s pulse. The moaning of the sea.
Sitting cross-legged in a tent no larger than a closet, I read every evening. I met kids from Bulgaria and Poland. Told stories in quickly improvised sign language. Taught them Romanian words, and learned how to say sea and wind — among other things — in their languages. When nothing worked, we found common ground in our English-speaking skills.
What started as sensory and stimulation withdrawal turned into a heightened awareness of the elements. We listened to sounds the wind picked up from afar — broken sounds, but easily heard.
We listened to the lapping of the waves, the sea whispering its own language or that of creatures inhabiting its depths. Sitting on the beach for hours, we tried to decide if the whistling sounds came from a dolphin or some other fish. We laughed so much.
Since then, I’ve returned for more camping, but it was never like that summer, when I learned to go from crippling fear of boredom to hilarious fun and peace.
This post is part of the WordPress DailyWrite, where the prompt is to share a story about learning something new.