To me, at least in an abstract sense, the American vacation signifies an almost cocky rebuke of biology. Ultimately, we’re all still animals. Highly intelligent and social animals living in a complex modern society, but still animals. We live in an interesting (and very privileged) environment when we’re able to shift our daily concerns from abject survival to cuisine choices, clothing shopping, and desk jobs. And so, when we need refuge from these pains and stresses of everyday modern life, many of us in America venture back into nature, a place with no concern for our survival or enjoyment.
In the Smithsonian article, a grad student named Nina Caruso working at one of the remaining great camps, Santatoni, is quoted saying:
You get a bit of your soul back when you come up here.
And I believe her. I love the wilderness, and part of me feels more real, more aware, in nature. But there’s also the humor in reaching a point in our evolution as a species where we find clarity and quietude in nature, outside of our habitats.