If we tried to explain what “KAMP-MAL” means, people who don’t caravan and camp probably wouldn’t understand. It’s a… thing. It’s a… condition.
Now, this “thing” is something you either get born into, or you pick it up as you grow older and wiser. This “thing” is quite incurable, but luckily, it’s not something you want to be rid of! You want it to grow in severity and, quite frankly, it will grow even if left alone.
People suffering from being “kamp mal” will gladly contaminate the next person; very soon this can turn into an epidemic. Of course, this is exactly what these people want. When this happens, they just want to share their experiences and symptoms with others suffering from the same condition. These people give each other advice on how to make their lives easier and better while dealing with the “condition”.
On many occasions, I have seen people who didn’t know each other from a bar of soap become the best of friends. This condition tends to turn into a lifestyle change, and you will most likely live with this for the rest of your life. You might get too old to take part physically, but you will never be cured. Still, you will be there to share your past experiences and enjoy the technical advances and new creations in this ever-changing “condition”
If there is one characteristic about this “condition” that rings very true, it is that it fills you with a sense of community. And, above all else, you want to grow that community with like-minded others. This is exactly what happened to Marieta and me.
We are old family friends, and both our families are suffering quite badly from being “kamp mal”. Both of us joined an online group, but just when we thought that we could put our roots down, it was ripped right out of the ground and we were both again without a “community”.
We spoke about what had happened, and then it hit us: we had to start our own community! Now, you can’t have a community without a name, so the brainstorming started. One day, while we were chatting on the phone, I mentioned the name “Kamp-Mal”. Marieta immediately said “That’s it!” and the condition was named. Today that is the name of our Facebook group, which saw the light in May 2016.
We started off by adding friends and family to the group, and before we could say “life’s a hitch”, the “Kamp-Mal” group was making people crazy from all over the country, and even reaching numerous countries overseas. It’s like bees being attracted to a flower in full bloom.
We are now six months down the line and (at the time of going to print) already have more than 15 000 active people in the group. And suddenly, Marieta and I are spending lots of time during the day just approving people to the group.
It is a group belonging to our members. There are very few rules. as we believe in having it as uncomplicated as possible. As we are all like-minded people in the group, the control is very minimal. We allow all camp-related material and advertisements.
Of course, one thing in our ethos is that we cannot be held liable for advice given by any one member of the group. Different things work for different people in different circumstances. We run photo competitions in the group; the winner with the most likes over a period gets the honour of being our cover photo for 2 weeks.
Soon after we started the group, members were “forcing” us to arrange a camping weekend. We had some suggestions about resorts, but Tshikwalo Lodge got the most votes – resulting in a fantastic “Kamp-Mal” weekend on 29 and 30 October this year. Many new friendships were formed and a lot of talking, braaiing and sharing of experiences went on. A fair amount of advice was given and a whole lot of gadgets were shown and compared.
Ever since then, we’ve been asked to arrange more camping weekends and also to spread them over the country, because, being a Facebook community, we are not bound to areas and borders. We’ve had numerous people offering to arrange the camps elsewhere for us as it will be totally impossible for Marieta and me to be physically involved in all of them.
The enthusiasm of the group is crazy and the vibe is contagious. You might just have a hint of a feeling that you might want to go camping soon, and then, after spending a couple of minutes on the page, your van is packed and you are ready to go.
Marieta and I have an easy job. We let the members chat and share experiences as they like. We obviously do not allow bad language and damage to each other… or to resorts, for that matter. If there are complaints about a resort, we check with the resort and try to get their take on it, to publish on the page. We have found it to be an easy job up to now, and don’t have to intervene too often. Our members are mostly mature, like-minded people, and (being of the camping fraternity) share the same values. Camping and towing and discussing resorts seem to be the focus of most conversations.
We don’t differentiate between the different types of campers, and everybody who is “Kamp Mal” is very welcome to join. Our aim is to give a social home to like-minded camping people; one where they can share experiences, ideas, tips etc. They are free to ask advice, which will gladly be shared. The bonus would be to establish a social media group which can actually arrange camping weekends, thereby building long-lasting relationships. Their success depends on the attitude of the members and the type of control the administrators choose to apply.
Our “Kamp Mal” members have become so proud of their group that they are asking for branded flags, caps, T-shirts… who knows where it will end? All that we are left to say is, “Watch this space.”