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Freedom Camping? Enough to give you the s**ts!

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This story out of New Zealand has raised attention and once again the social habits of our overseas visitors who choose camping as an affordable way to see the world is brought into question.

At first, you are drawn to the fact that someone is taking a dump in the street. Fair enough, that’s undoubtedly not the socially acceptable norm, is it? However, as usual, the mobs are waiting with tar and feathers to run these free-loading ne’er do wells out of town, or the country, mainly.

Yes there is a problem with the habits on display from some vanpackers. On display usually because they’re camped in public areas not van parks and that raises some people’s ire for that simple fact: They’re not paying. From rubbish, to noise, to toilet paper and the stuff it ‘gift wraps’ in parks, to the washing of the dishes under the tap at the dump point! Yep, all of that is acknowledged here.

But, and I use that term advisably in this case, it makes me wonder. Here we have a young woman making herself potentially vulnerable in public. If you watch the video, the business owner with the security cameras points out that there is a 24-hour servo across the street. Do you really think that she might not have tried that option? How many servos have you been to where toilets are for either paying customers or, worse, staff only? Maybe she’d been there before, was now caught short, and had no option. We don’t know, nor will we as the couple declined to comment, as I expect most of us would. Maybe they’re not allowed to be ‘camping’ in that street in any event.

The bottom line (oh dear) is the whole tourist van- or backpacker situation needs cleaning up. And that starts with the locals. Us. Especially those with a direct financial stake. For everyone else, much as people love to scream ‘it might be socially acceptable to do that where you come from’ but truth is, it isn’t. France, and most of Europe for that matter, has fairly well-established social norms, or etiquette, you might say. Most of these tourists that contribute much to the local economy are kids, and if a van-hire company doesn’t equip them with the facilities or tells them it’s okay to crap in a plastic bag and place it in a waste bin … then you get what you get. Or if these visitors buy their own vehicle rather than hire it then they may be even more in the dark. If their language skills are a bit ordinaire, or they’ve already come up against some negative attitudes maybe they’re scared to ask.

Over Christmas I watched two youngsters mightily concerned at the stream of water running onto the ground from beneath their camper. Once I’d asked them if they had their aircon cranking we put their minds at rest but as they admitted “we know nothing”.
Who knows where they were heading in this wide and sometimes dangerous land? Obviously a huge learning curve ahead.

So, no, I don’t condone taking a dump in the street but nor do I condone the ridiculous comments made by some who simply put no thought into their overreaction. Plenty of locals are easily prepared to trash their own backyard, or yours. There is lots of thought to be put into the education of our visitors before we scare them all away. And if we scare them away, who will pick your mangoes next Christmas. Think on!

Tim Scott, editor, RV Daily


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