British Columbia

As COVID changes the way we gather, one B.C. family gets creative with camping

A Vancouver Island family was supposed to be celebrating their 50th annual camping trip this year, but had to find a new way to connect when the pandemic threw a wrench in their plans.

The Gurney family from Vancouver Island are spending their 50th annual camping trip online

The Gurney family and their friends have been gathering together for annual camping trip for 50 years. This year, due to COVID-19, they've gone digital. (Submitted by Karen Gurney-Corba)

For the Gurneys, 2020 was supposed to mark their 50th annual camping trip for them and a number of friends.

But like everyone else who has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nanaimo, B.C.-based family had to scrap those plans and come up with a creative alternative.

Bruce Gurney said the annual event started when he and his high school friends decided "to join the throng of flower children and go pitch our pup tents on Long Beach on Vancouver Island for a weekend."

"Now we're on the cusp of old age and we haven't missed a year," said Gurney.

The group, which includes about a dozen friends plus their children and now grandchildren, served as a big extended family, says Karen Gurney-Corba, Bruce's daughter.

"My dad's high school friends are like my second family," she said.

"It's third generation," added Bruce. "We've got the grandkids who are good buddies with one another. It's interesting to see how all of this has continued and grown and been kept alive through traditions and enduring friendships for so long."

This year's reunion took place via Zoom. (Submitted by Karen Gurney-Corba)

This year, however, it was decided early on that an in-person trip would not be feasible. Instead, the group got online via a Zoom call on the weekend the camping trip was planned for.

"We got together and compared some stories, tried to sing some of our old anthem songs with a ¾-second delay — it comes out sounding a little strange," said Bruce. 

"It's not quite the same, but we're all still there."

The Gurney family and their friends, of course, are not alone.

Meg Holden, a professor of urban studies and geography at Simon Fraser University, says the pandemic has forced everyone to think in new ways about our homes and our relationships.

"The whole of our economy has been pushing us toward grow-grow-grow," said Holden. 

"So much about urban life in an increasing sense has been speeding up and getting the most out of our urban lives in order to get to the next place. Well,  something different happens when ... we have a chance to slow down and look around us."

A previous Gurney family camping trip. Karen Gurney-Corba says one of the greatest takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic has been to learn to be creative in maintaining family traditions. (Submitted by Karen Gurney-Corba)

For Gurney-Corba, this summer has been a chance to cherish and reflect on those relationships and traditions held dear.

"One of the greatest takeaways from COVID has been to learn to be creative, to do the things we're used to doing when we can't do them the way we're used to doing them ...This camping trip is no exception to that," she said.

With files from On The Coast, The Early Edition

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