Travel blogger Marius Miliunas explains how NZ is doing 'freedom camping' wrong.
OPINION: In the future, I predict silence will be a stupidly expensive commodity and unadulterated nature even rarer.
Right now, I'm lying in my tent, beside a tree-encircled pond, near a flowing river, under pounding rain in New Zealand.
It feels like nature, except for the droning bass in the distance, which shatters any notion that I'm alone.
Once I embraced the fact that I'm a loner, being alone is what I desired most in this hectic system called life.
With three-quarters of New Zealand's population on the North Island, I thought I'd find peace and nature on the untamed South Island. Tonight, however, I'm not.
I'm 'freedom camping'.
- Freedom campers banned from two Queenstown hotspots
- DoC's advice for freedom campers: 'Make your own poo tube'
- Vandals cut brakelines of freedom campers' vehicles in Gisborne
When I arrived here, everything told me freedom camping is the NZ term for 'wild camping'.
My host, who has camped in the wild, told me so and all the people who pick me up hitchhiking only know one term - freedom camping.
Like I said, I thought freedom camping was the same as wild camping, sometimes illegally, where you decide in nature.
In theory, freedom sounded fitting. Though not as 'wild' as wild camping, I could understand New Zealanders having their own word for it.
I had to reframe it in my mind as something like 'be free to camp where you want' or 'have the freedom to choose where you'll camp'.
I went along with it. I've been going along with it... until now.
I've slept the past 24 nights in my tent all over the island and freedom camping is not wild camping.
The real freedom camping
Freedom camping is like communism - it sounds good in theory, but breaks down in reality.
With Communism, you got lousy administration, leading to food shortages and a starving population.
With freedom camping, you get intermittent resonating bass, a reeking closet full of shit and piss to avoid, a trashed camp spot and sometimes beautiful nature.
Word-of-mouth from the locals reached me that that NZ [Government] was underfunded to maintain the freedom-camping sites.
To me, there's a flaw in the system and NZ is far from the worst example.
NZ tourism is a consumerist package. Everything from rental vans and adventure activities in Queenstown to camping is made possible with a credit card.
Alongside that, its laws prohibit camping in the wild, restrict people to campsites and let them continue consumerist tendencies.
For that, you get freedom camping, a pretentious name for free camping.
These past three weeks, I've been wandering off, looking for the pathway so overgrown with thorns that it deters others
Or the hidden path that leads me somewhere scenic and solitary.
I choose to wild camp. Although the locals look at me confused when I explain it and think in terms of official campsites, they eventually help me find somewhere to sleep, with the understanding that I'll leave the site spotless.
I think wild camping could be completely sustainable, if governments and communities made an effort to teach people how to do it instead of telling them not to do it.
This also got me wondering how the wording we use subconsciously defines an activity.
Freedom is such an abstract word. Using that term with camping makes the definition fuzzy, because everyone has a different definition for freedom.
Let's not forget about the money-focused, who see it only as FREE camping. There are also the upholders, afraid to get a fine.
There's a comfort in going camping in a safe spot, where there's no chance of midnight visits from park rangers or, worse, angry owners.
I get it, but I think we're fooling ourselves by calling it 'freedom camping'.
That said, wild camping in NZ does exist. I've wild-camped in many countries around Europe and it's unique here.
If you want to experience NZ for what makes her unique, learn what it takes to wild camp responsibly, leave your car and dive into the nature with your tent to experience the only thing better than silence - the ambience of nature.
Hell, it's natural.
Marius Miliunas is an IT developer and travel blogger from Michigan, USA. Check out Maruf hops Maps.