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Talking Travel with Michelle Waitzman, Author of Sex in a Tent
Forget hotels and hostels for romantic getaways -- give Mother Nature a spin! That's what writer and adventurer Michelle Waitzman set out to do with her partner. Their first attempt at sex-with-a-change-of-scenery did not go as planned, giving birth to the idea for this guide to stress-free outdoor escapades.
Michelle recently took some time to tell us more about this unique guide to the great outdoors. The interview is accompanied with photos of Michelle and her partner on hiking adventures around New Zealand -- and we've also got a sneak peek at one of Ann Miya's fun illustrations from the book. Read on to see and learn more!
When my partner and I went on our first camping trip together, it was in a brand-new tent he'd just bought. So not only were we still getting to know each other, we were also in an unfamiliar tent. Let's just say it wasn't the most spectacular night of our relationship. On the hike out to the car the next day I said "Someone ought to write a book about how to have sex in a tent." And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to research and write the book myself!
And how does one go about documenting the research done for a guide like this?
The first thing I had to do was reassure people that I wouldn't use their real names unless they wanted me to. People are much more open about their naughty sides when they know they won't be identified! Then I searched camping forums online, contacted hiking clubs, and posted signs at camping shops. I put together a questionnaire that would help to create a picture of what different couples get up to when they disappear into the wilderness. I was surprised by the huge range of answers I got – from those who didn't take their sex life into the woods with them at all, to those who found it was the perfect opportunity to play out their wildest fantasies.
But seriously, is a book on this topic really necessary? Isn't the sexual drive instinctual?
Most of us establish our relationships in an urban context. When you go camping it changes all of the rules. Gender roles get tested, the bedroom disappears, and different dynamics are involved. So the book covers everything you need to know to keep your relationship strong and satisfying – not just your sex life. After all, if you have a big fight trying to put up the tent, you won't be getting any sex anyway! As for the more physical subject matter, we can all benefit from expanding our repertoire a little, can't we?
Is the guide meant for experienced campers only? Or do you offer tips for first-timers campers too?
Sex in a Tent includes tips and advice for all levels of campers. It also deals with the fact that in many relationships, one partner is an experienced camper and the other is a first-timer. The entire first chapter is devoted to making things easier for a beginner, so that you don't scare your partner away. Camping for the first time can be pretty intimidating, and it's easy for someone who's an old hand at it to forget what it felt like the first time. If you get it right to start with, it can lead to a real outdoors "happily ever after". But if you get it wrong, you'll never get a second chance at it.
What are some of the pros and cons of having sex in a tent? Why bother?
The fresh air and natural sounds you experience outdoors at night can be a real turn-on. It can literally bring out our more "animal" instincts. And in some ways having sex in a tent satisfies any exhibitionist urges you might have without actually exposing yourselves in public. There's just a thin layer of fabric between you and the whole world! Some couples also say that they can relax more with their sex lives when they're camping, because their usual routine or schedule doesn't apply. There's a certain freedom to it. No phones ringing, no television, no alarm clock.
Cons? Well, you are in a limited space so you have to be careful. And tents don't block sound at all, so if there are other campers nearby you can't be too loud. It's a bit of a challenge for "screamers".
How about practical and logistical issues that travelers should keep in mind -- For example, what can readers expect to learn in the chapter "How to keep smelling good enough to kiss"?
There are lots of logistics involved in camping, as any camper will tell you. But when you also want to be sexy there are additional things to take into account. You don't want to smell like week-old hiking socks if you are expecting to get cozy with your partner! So finding ways to clean up, keep your breath fresh, and look good can be important. I've got a lot of tips for both men and women.
Women usually have the desire to look and smell better but don't know how. Men, on the other hand, tend to forget about their appearance and odor altogether once they leave the house. So there are some gentle reminders that if they pay a little attention to those things the rewards will be worth it.
Other logistics I discuss include planning romantic meals, packing your backpacks (men and women need to pack differently, and it's not to make room for a hair dryer!), and wearing the right clothing. I also get into trip planning, and ways to make sure that you've put together a trip you're BOTH going to enjoy.
I don't see smores or marshmallows on your list of "foods to put you in the mood" -- But do you think these traditional camping staples might also do the trick?
The foods that turn us on are so individual. For some people it's salty treats, and for others it's sweets. I listed some of the classics, like oysters, licorice and chocolate, but there's no right or wrong. Toasted marshmallows can be very sexy, because they're so warm and gooey. They're also fun to lick off of your partner's fingers!
On the other hand, some of the traditional camping foods might have a strong association in people's minds with a more innocent time in their lives, and it can be hard to feel sexy when you're reliving your childhood.
Our tastes also change when we grow up, so even if you used to just adore heating up a can of Spaghetti-Os over a fire, you might find that you're up for something a little more sophisticated now that you're an adult. I've included some recipes in the book for every meal, which will give couples some fresh ideas for their camping getaways.
Sleeping bags built for two and snow foam (to avoid rug burn) are just two of the items suggested to assist attempts at "shaking the stakes." What are some others?
Most campers are trying to pack as little as possible, so I don't recommend bringing along a whole lot of extras just to spice things up. But there are some light and small items that can make a big difference. Silk sleeping bag liners have a wonderful, luxurious feel to them. Get a double size and suddenly your tent feels like a 5-star hotel! There are these cool "couplers" that keep two sleeping pads connected side-by-side so that you have a double bed to work with. Condoms are helpful even if you don't "need" them for protection because they can keep things tidier. And wet wipes are great for cleaning up, both yourselves and anything in the tent that needs it after a close encounter. I discuss a lot of different sex toys in Sex in a Tent, but the lightest and easiest to pack is a blindfold. Not only can it spice up your night, it can also keep the sun from waking you up too early the next morning!
Can you share some tent techniques tips? How can couples have sex in a tent without destroying it?
The tent is not a good place to work your way through the entire Kama Sutra. Choosing positions that use smaller movements is ideal. Avoid any flailing limbs, as a kick against the side of the tent can bring it down or cause an indoor rainstorm. I won't go into too much detail here, but there are lots of suggestions in the book depending on the shape of the tent and the couple's preferences.
Do you mention specific brands of tents in your book? Are there some you suggest as best suited for getting-it-on outdoors?
The size and shape of the tent are more important than the brand. Some positions require a bit of headroom, so dome tents are preferable to tunnels in that case. Other couples require more length, but don't care about height. So it's important to look at the tent's dimensions if you are tall, or like to spread out. And if you're car camping, bring a three-person tent instead of a two-person tent to open up more possibilities. In fact, some couples bring a family-sized tent and use an inflatable air bed and duvet. Whatever size or shape you choose, make sure it has good ventilation for when things start getting steamy inside!
Outside of the sexual realm, I suggest that couples look for a tent with two doors. That way they can each get out in the middle of the night for a pee without having to climb over their partner.
What if travelers are just not into "tent tango"? What are some of the alternative adventurous locations you suggest?
I found some pretty adventurous and imaginative campers among the couples I surveyed! Sex on a beach is one of the most popular. That sound of crashing waves is a really great soundtrack. The old Canadian cliché of having sex in a canoe has a few fans too. It does take some practice and good balance though. For land-lubbers, wandering away from a hiking trail can be fun and naughty. One couple even managed to do it up in a tree! (I don't recommend this unless you're part monkey. Sounds like a risky proposition to me.) In a deserted campground, picnic tables make perfect outdoor beds. And bringing a hammock with you can be fun too.
What are some of the most romantic campgrounds (in the US and abroad) for travelers who want to let loose in the wild? And what exactly makes them the best?
Most couples rate solitude as the most important factor for romance. So the more isolated the campsite, the more romantic it is going to feel. This is where backpackers and paddlers have an advantage over car campers. Try going off the beaten path (even if you have to sacrifice having a flush toilet) to claim your own private corner of the wilderness.
Again, there are personal preferences when it comes to romance. I think anywhere with both mountains and lakes is romantic. But the desert can do wonders too. I thought the Grand Canyon was a great spot for romance, and Alaska was also fabulous. Hiking in the fall colors in Vermont or Maine can definitely lead to a lot of cuddling.
For those who get the chance to camp overseas, there are even more spectacular options. There are luxury camping chalets in the Alps where you can have gourmet meals after your day's hike. Nepal and Northern India are home to the Himalayas, the world's tallest mountains. Even if you can't climb them (which most of us can't) it's awe-inspiring just to camp in their shadow. Australia has routes along beautiful shores, or in the red desert of the outback, that are sure to be memorable too.
I believe that any location can be romantic if you adopt the right attitude. Romance is more about the two of you enjoying each other and your surroundings than it is about the surroundings themselves. But I list a lot of specific places both in the US and around the world in Sex in a Tent, so if you're short of ideas you might find some inspiration there.
Are there any places that outdoor lovebirds should avoid?
Big, developed family campgrounds can be a hard place to feel the romance (although not impossible). If you are car camping, try to do it in State or National Parks where the campsites are more spread out and left in their natural state. Or look for adult-only campgrounds, where at least you don't have to worry about corrupting small children. If you are stuck in a big campground, ask for a spot in an empty corner somewhere.
Again, wherever you can get the most privacy is the best place for romance. And try to find a place where you can do whatever activities you consider romantic, whether it's canoeing, taking long walks, going for a bike ride, or skinny-dipping in a lake.
Random question: Are there any nudist campgrounds, like there are beaches?
Yes there are! You have to do your homework if you want to go natural at a campground though. Some nude campgrounds are for everyone, while some are adult-only, and others are gay-only. So ask a few questions and make sure that you are going to be comfortable in the place you have chosen, and that the other people there will be comfortable around you. And remember, just because you're allowed to be naked in the campground doesn't necessarily mean you're allowed to have sex in public.
Did you learn of any sex in a tent horror stories while doing research for your book?
A few! There was one couple who had their tent cave in on them – that was probably the worst! Others had more minor problems, like muffling their urge to make noise, having their children wander in at an awkward time, or forgetting to pack birth control. I'm happy to say that none of the horror stories I heard led to anyone needing medical attention!
Did you interview any park rangers? What are their thoughts on sex in the wild?
I didn't actually interview any park rangers. I'm sure they could provide fodder for an entire book of their own!
So what's next in the Sex series? Getting it on in a yurt? Or a train or bus?
Aside from the Park Rangers? I hear there's a new airliner that offers private bedrooms for long-haul flights. I think the mile-high club is about to get a lot of new members if that's the case! As for me, I'll have to go consult with my partner and get back to you later...
Michelle Waitzman's Sex in a Tent (Wilderness Press, $14.95) debuted in bookstores in October 2007.