BC,  Local Travel

Turning 28 at Shuswap Lake

I’ll be honest: I am not a great camper.

Growing up, we didn’t do a lot of camping. And when we did, it was always a little bit different. With my school friends, we would go up to an annual church camping trip where we slept in tents but got to eat meals prepared in a kitchen and use bathrooms with indoor plumbing. With my cousins, camping was as organized as moving houses. Again, we slept in tents and peed in real bathrooms, but we also packed toaster ovens and griddles that we’d plug into the electric socket at the campsite.

Once or twice I went “real camping” with my dad, Ali and Jade. I remember on one trip we had to portage in, carrying the canoe over our heads, showering in the lake and cooking everything over the campfire. I didn’t want to do my business in the trees so built myself a toilet out of rocks that is still talked about at family parties to this day.

Shuswap Lake

Trailers or RVs were never a big part of my camping or vacation experiences. Once when I was about 12, my dad and Ali rented an RV and we all drove out to the east coast for a week or two. I remember sleeping in the bunk above the driver’s seat with my sister, refusing to use the bathroom (I preferred waiting until we pulled into rest stops) and our poor dog, who got car sick, throwing up on the floor.

Whereas Colin grew up with a trailer (I’m still not sure what the difference between a trailer and an RV is?) parked in his front yard and multiple summer camping trips every year spent living out of that trailer or sleeping in a tent nearby.

So when I say I’m not a camper, I don’t mean that I’m a prissy city girl who has never pitched a tent or peed outside. I’ve done both multiple times. But do I enjoy them? Not so much.

Camping at Shuswap Lake

RV trailer parked at Shuswap Lake

I love the appeal of camping. I love waking up to a beautiful view. I love turning my phone off, disconnecting from the world and spending all day reading and taking in the scenery. I love gathering around a campfire every night, roasting s’mores and looking up at the stars you never see in the city.

But I don’t love sleeping on uncomfortable beds, squeezing into tiny bathrooms that stink, and spending more time packing and unpacking than you do at the campsite. As a larger person with pale skin and tasty blood, I also don’t love the amount of sunscreen and bug repellant I need to lather myself in.

Camping is not my preferred vacation. But I do see the value in it. Our camping trip to Porteau Cove back in 2018 is one of my favourite memories. And this year, I was the one who asked Colin if we should try and reserve a campsite for a few days this summer.

Camping is a lot of work. The part that puts me off the most is all of the things you have to pack and set up before you can have a good time. I spent three weeks in London, Spain and Morocco with just a school-sized backpack and yet for camping, we’re gone two nights and the entire car is full!

Our dog, Ellie, running around the campground
Ellie enjoying her best camping life with Colin’s mom’s dog, Cody!

This year for my 28th birthday, we headed up to Shuswap Lake to join Colin’s mom and cousins for a weekend of camping. It was Colin’s version of camping – trailers – but no electricity or running water beyond the water and propane tanks the trailers held.

Getting out to Shuswap Lake was a struggle. The property we were staying at is only a four hour drive from our house, and yet the journey up there took much longer. It started the night before when we packed up everything from our Vancouver apartment (including bedding and a vacuum!) to transport it and ourselves to Colin’s mom house in Port Coquitlam. The next morning, after a horrible sleep, we were up early to pack the car again, this time adding Margie’s stuff, before getting on the road.

Along the way we hit traffic, stopped for breakfast, took a bathroom break, bought groceries and went to the liquor store. All of that meant the four hour drive was closer to six or seven. Not exactly the way I wanted to spend my birthday, but it made it that much better once we arrived!

Colin building the fire
Colin channeling his inner Boy Scout to build our fire

After unpacking everything into the rented trailer, we settled in. My birthday hadn’t gotten off to a great start but it did end perfectly: sitting around the campfire with loved ones, watching the sun set over the mountains, and blowing out the candle on a cupcake while trying to keep it away from Ellie at the same time!

The next day we headed out on a pontoon boat to explore more of the lake. Boats and I have a rocky history. I have been on two cruises and got horribly seasick on both. I tipped out of a kayak in Vancouver a few years ago and haven’t gotten back in one since. And I went home early from a boat trip we took in Mexico in 2017.

So suffice to say, I was nervous. But the water was fairly calm and we were on a lake, so I told myself it would be okay. Luckily, I was right. My seasickness stayed away and I enjoyed taking in the beautiful views as the wind whipped across my face. We were also worried that Ellie might get seasick but she slept soundly next to me the whole time.

On the water on Shuswap Lake, BC

I enjoyed my time out on the boat but I didn’t make the most of it. We had rented a giant float for tubing off the back of the boat, as well as water skis and a wakeboard. While Colin and his cousins all took turns, I opted out. Honestly, I’m not really sure why I did. I think part of it was being weary that my seasickness could start up anytime. But, if I’m being honest, I think another part of me just always counts myself out.

I’m going to get a bit vulnerable here. I’m a bigger person and I often let that hold me back. Not when it comes to things like work, or travel, or socializing. But anything where I have to depend on my body or put my body in a situation where I won’t automatically succeed, I hold back. I’m not comfortable putting myself on display. I have this inner fear that people will think, “Oh, she’s too fat to do that.”

Which I know is ridiculous! Lots of people in bigger bodies are out there running marathons, teaching yoga, lifting weights and, I’m sure, wakeboarding and water skiing. And, of course, there are lots of people in smaller bodies who can’t do those things. Case in point: Colin’s very athletic cousin wasn’t able to get up on the water skis. But my negative self-talk told me that if it were me, everyone would assume it was because of my weight.

And that really sucks. I hate that my brain goes there. And I really hate that it holds me back. I want to be more comfortable in my own skin and push myself to try new things. Even the next day, when Colin and his cousins were out in the water on the trampoline and stand up paddleboards, I didn’t get in. I used to love the water. And now I’m letting my body hang ups hold me back.

Shuswap Lake, BC, Canada

Sitting by the campfire

Looking back on our weekend at Shuswap Lake, I really enjoyed it. I loved hanging out with Colin’s family who we don’t get to see often. I enjoyed roasting marshmallows by the fire, turning my phone off for the weekend, finishing a couple of books, and having the most gorgeous view of the lake. But I also feel a little disappointed. I think I let myself down. I held myself back from enjoying the weekend as much as I could, and that’s not how I wanted to start my 28th year.

But maybe that’s a part of getting older? Learning lessons and sometimes learning them the hard way. I’m not trying to wrap this post up with a bow and say I learned to love my body and put myself out there. But I’m working on it. And I’ve learned how awful it is let some of my negative thinking hold me back.

So, maybe for my 29th birthday, I’ll try the camping thing again and actually get in the water this time!

Sunset over Shuswap Lake, BC


  • Brooklyn

    Loved reading this. For one, I’m also a bigger person and completely relate to what you wrote. My mind does the same to me. It’s hard to get those thoughts away.
    And two. I’m from Ontario. The first time I ever came to the West coast was to visit family for Thanksgiving when I was 15. My uncle had a trailer for camping in the same spot on Shuswap lake for years, so we ended up driving to Shuswap for two nights. Those were some of the best two nights!
    Now the campsite is gone and cabins were built there, but still gorgeous!

    • Riana

      Thank you so much, Brooklyn! I really appreciate your comment. It is so hard to get out of some of those toxic thought patterns.
      And what a funny world that we’re both from Ontario and have family camp spots on Shuswap Lake. It really is beautiful up there!

  • JoJo Hall

    Awesome post! I’m in the same boat because I didn’t really grow up camping (didn’t get to camp much since we lived in NYC) and the only time I went camping was when I was older with my boyfriend. It’s great that you got out of your comfort zone and I know you’ll be even better next year! Glad to see a great birthday trip!

  • Jordanne | Ofaglasgowgirl

    It looks absolutely beautiful where you were! I’m someone who loves camping, I would prefer a campervan but we have been going more this year with tents and waking up to the views was worth it but agree, the uncomfortable beds aren’t great and I have a chronic illness which makes it a little harder, but it does make for some good memories. Ps. Happy belated birthday.

    Jordanne || Thelifeofaglasgowgirl.co.uk

  • Anika

    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your trip, it looks like loads of fun too and the views are incredible. I love your outlook on learning lessons, I’m still learning too, so it’s good to hear I’m not the only one!

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  • Brooke Ressell

    My weight has fluctuated a lot throughout my life so I understand what you were saying. But I also know that when I see people of all sizes doing active things, I think good for them and it inspires me to be more active that day. as well We are always hard on ourselves and kind to others. Live your best life and don’t worry about what others may or may not be doing (they are probably busy wondering if you are noticing things about them that they are self-conscious about).

    • Riana

      Thanks so much for the kind comment, Brooke! You’re so right – people are often too busy worrying about themselves to worry about others.

  • Agnes

    Great post! As a relentless yo-yo dieter, I feel you on the water sports. I’ve just never been that girl comfortable in a suit, let along letting it all hang out on a water tube or something. You’re awesome. Hope to see more of this!

  • Sophie

    This was such an interesting read. First of all, I’m definitely not a camper either – at all. I like the nice bathroom and comfortable bed when it comes to travel. But I’m glad you made the best of it and had a good time! I’m very small, and I always put off trying things because of the automatic assumption that I’d be too weak to manage. Sometimes that’s right, but I’ve learnt in the last couple of years that I’m stronger than I think I am a lot of the time and you never know unless you try. I hope the next year can push you out of your comfort zone a little x


  • The Holidaymaker / Renee

    I grew up camping, that was our source of holidays when I was a kid. I introduced my husband to camping and we spent our “younger” years camping. I won’t do it now. It’s just not my thing. So I hear you. But I’m glad your 28th birthday ended on that high note of campfire, sunset, and a cupcake!

  • Kenny Lim

    Happy belated birthday. 🙂

    I’ve never gone camping. I’ve actually haven’t gone out that much in the past six years, long before the pandemic. I guess that ended up being a good thing. :p I wouldn’t mind going camping and socializing more, but I’m an extreme introvert and I’m just much more comfortable being home by myself.

  • Emma

    Awesome post, I secondly relate to the feeling like you let yourself down part of this. I often don’t want to try and fail at something so when given the option I’ll usually opt out and then the more people try to encourage me to do it the more I dig my heels in. But I like that you have identified this reluctance about yourself and are resolving to change that. I’m also not much of a camper but also just need to keep pushing myself out of my comfort level because I always enjoy myself in the end

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