Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Glamping

The pleasure of safe and comfortable time outdoors with loved ones.
An illustration shows the face of the column's author, Dr. Sami Schalk, smiling against a rainbow background. In the foreground are a sandwich, a cup holding a steaming hot beverage, and a stack of books on which the text "Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk" appears. Two candles sit on top of the books. Illustration by Rodney Lambright II.
Illustration by Rodney Lambright II.

The pleasure of safe and comfortable time outdoors with loved ones.

We’re in full summer mode, dear readers, and it’s time to enjoy all that sun and warmth to erase the memories of winter from our bones. As I’ve mentioned here before in regard to hammocks and kayaking, the pandemic really changed my relationship to the outdoors and nature, forcing me to learn how to be outside comfortably in order to spend time with my friends and loved ones. And while it is safer to be indoors with our people these days, I still prioritize outdoor hangouts whenever I can. 

Recently my queer family and I went glamping, and it was so deeply pleasurable on multiple levels. Glamping, or glamorous/fancy camping, is an accessible way to be comfortably in nature for those of us whose bodyminds aren’t up for everything traditional camping entails. My friends and I went to Camp Kettlewood in East Troy, Wisconsin, about an hour east of Madison. Camp Kettlewood is an old Girl Scout camp converted into glamping sites with platform tents, cabins or campers with real, comfortable beds and electrical outlets inside. The sites all have string lights around them to turn on at night, a propane grill, a picnic table, and a large firepit. Some have mini-fridges too. The bathrooms have clean, nice indoor toilets and gorgeous large outdoor showers. 

When you arrive at Camp Kettlewood they have golf carts you can use to drive your stuff to your campsite which is incredibly useful if your crew, like mine, is full of disabled and chronically ill folks! This was our second year glamping at Camp Kettlewood as a family and we absolutely adore it. There are few outdoorsy spaces that feel safe and comfortable for me as a fat, Black, queer, disabled woman and Camp Kettlewood is one of them. So what was so pleasurable about the experience?

The author is shown smiling and holding a plate of food, including roasted marshmallows.
Photos by Sami Schalk.
Smoked brisket on a large cutting board.

First, I got lots of time outside in the sun lying in a hammock watching the tree canopy sway. It was beautiful, peaceful, and an excellent way to be reflective about things going on in my life right now. I was in a car accident a few days before our trip, so I really needed decompression time and a reason to unplug. Second, I got to spend extended time with my chosen family playing games and catching up. Extended time around the campsite meant going deeper than just catching up on the basic facts of someone’s life and being able to open up more complexly with one another. 

Third, I got to watch my friends shine. A fun thing about group camping is that it’s an exercise in interdependence and mutual aid. Each of us brought the skills and resources we had to the trip for the good of the group. One friend brought his smoker on the trip and smoked a brisket overnight for us as well as made “bacon candy”—a sweet and spicy smoked pork belly. Another friend is basically a fire witch who started and sustained our bonfire all weekend and roasted us the most perfect marshmallows. Watching my friends joyfully share their skills is such a delight for me, a mutually pleasurable experience.

I know that Camp Kettlewood isn’t in the cards for everyone, it’s just my particular pleasurable glamping experience. This month, I encourage you to find ways to spend extended time outdoors with your loved ones. Maybe it’s a long day at James Madison Park where you grill out and play yard games. Maybe it’s a good old BBQ in your pals’ backyard. Maybe it’s a date to Olbrich Gardens. Maybe it’s a day trip to a state park. Or maybe you have your own Camp Kettlewood experience. Find ways to safely and comfortably be in outdoor spaces with people you care about this month, use it as a chance to unplug, decompress, and (re)connect with yourself and your fellow badass bitches.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

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