Classism and Stigma, Why Its Wrong, and What You Miss Out On; Reflections From Our Camping Trip

Having just come back from a very enjoyable and practically free camping vacation on the beach with my family, I've been doing a lot of thinking. How many people would never do what I did. And not because they don't like camping, and not because they don't like the beach, and not because they don't like the combination of the two. But because of biases and stigmas and discrimination, not to mention a whole bunch of 'ism's.

The first time I announced that I was going camping at this camp site, I got lots of people warning me not to go. That it's a bad idea. That we'd have a miserable time. That we should pick another place to camp. Anywhere but there.

And do you know why?

Because it was bus accessible and free.

And because of that, it attracts the 'wrong type' of people. Now what type of people is that? Oh, the type of people that don't want to spend money and the type of people that don't have a car. Specifically the combination. Which would make it a terrible place to be.

And this isn't the first time I've heard such sentiments.

There is this common sentiment that I've heard that any place that is free and bus accessible is filled with the "wrong type" of people. The type of people you wouldn't want to be around.

Near me there are two nature parks, very similar types of places. One costs money and the other is free. People generally would rather go to the one which costs money because the free one "is filled with people from [two different minority groups] because they don't want to pay money for things, so best go to the one that costs money."

I wanted to be part of a certain homeschooling get together in my country a while back but never could attend because all get-togethers were held in a place where there was no public transportation because they wanted a more exclusive group to come. Only people with cars.

Do you know how this attitude is defined?

It's called classism, plain and simple. And connected to this classism is racism and ageism as well.

The fact that people automatically assume that a place is sub-par if it's accessible to people short on cash and/or without a car.

Not because the place itself is sub-par, but because the presence of people that aren't wealthy enough to have a car or wealthy enough to pay entrance fees when there is a free alternative makes it 'a bad environment' and 'the wrong crowd'.

And it isn't even just rich people with this attitude. I know people struggling financially that still won't go to those kinds of places. Reminds me of Groucho Marx's line about not wanting to be part of a club that would have him as a member.

Classism is wrong. Assuming that people with less money are people you don't want to be around is wrong. Assuming that people with less money will ruin an environment is wrong.

And yes, there are plenty of people who say that they don't want to go somewhere bus accessible because groups of teenagers without cars will be there, and that means that it'll also be a bad experience, because don't you know, teenagers are horrible people that ruin things for everyone? (Sarcasm intended, heavily.)

Judging people purely based on how little money they have is wrong. Judging people because they don't have a car is wrong. Judging people because of their age is wrong. Judging people because of their race is wrong.

Just treat people as human beings. Human beings are wonderful things, and each class, age, race, socioeconomic status is filled with lots of wonderful and decent human beings. Assuming you automatically know who would be good company and who would be bad company simply because of their socioeconomic status, age, or race is not only wrong, but makes you miss out on the opportunity to meet many wonderful people and also would make you miss out on wonderful experiences like our family just had camping.

So, let me tell you about this wonderful place that we camped, the one that so many people avoid simply because its free and bus accessible, and how many great amenities it had that these classist people would be missing out on.

First off, you get to camp right on the beach. The water is only a few hundred feet away or less, depending on the spot you pick. Its beautiful and there's a built in entertainment system for the kids and yourself, a spectacular sea breeze, gorgeous sunsets, and the relaxing sounds of the waves as you sleep.

Second, in terms of amenities, this place has bathrooms open 24/7, showers on the beach open 24/7, showers with stalls, separate for men and women, open 24/7. And of course fresh water for drinking, free shaded areas, picnic tables in the shade, and lifeguards on duty for most of the day.

And there is a fully stocked supermarket (and mall) a short walk and even shorter drive away, so if you forget anything, or run out of anything while camping, you can go and buy.

There's also a first aid station open with free medical care, for small things and bigger things. I got equipment to remove a splinter, they gave us aloe for our sunburns, and they also treat people for painful chafing. Not to mention more serious things. My kids asked me "Is this for free?" Of course it is.

Then there's the wheelchair ramp that goes from the parking lot all the way down to the water front, making this a very accessible beach, something very important.

And this time I discovered that there were lockers that you could rent for two dollars a day, and not only can you keep your valuables there, but there also are USB charging ports so you can charge your phone while you're at the beach! (Those close at six pm, unfortunately, but you can charge your phone during the day.) I didn't rent one of these this time, since I only discovered it the last day, but definitely will be utilizing those next time so that I don't have to skimp on my phone use (that I was using for work, etc...) and bring a million portable chargers with me.

Then there's the fact that dogs are allowed. Officially they aren't, but the people I met there, and the people who work there, all say that its a known thing, that this is a beach where dogs are allowed, so people come from near and far to be able to bring their dogs to this beach. I know for many people this wouldn't be a perk, but for ourselves, a family with a dog, a dog friendly beach is amazing. Everyone was friendly and loving to the dogs, our dog made friends with other dogs, etc...

The other rules, though, are more strictly enforced. Only making fires in or on the provided metal barrels. No loudspeakers. No permanent structures. And there is security, making sure nothing goes wrong there, and to keep people following the rules.

And of course, there's a concession stand where you can buy stuff if you want. (I didn't.) They also sell firewood and umbrellas, and rent out beach chairs. (Didn't use that either.)

Not to mention that this is a short walk away from a sea turtle sanctuary that you can visit for free, and a river with a gorgeous hike where you can see soft shelled turtles.

So these are the amenities of this place that you'd missing out on if you were avoiding it because of the people. But what about the people there? What were they like?

I will admit, the vast majority of the people there were teenagers. Probably fifty percent, or close to it. Groups of friends having a nice time together. But I don't begrudge teenagers from having a nice time. There are all sorts of bad ways for teenagers to enjoy themselves, getting up to trouble, but this is a good healthy fun outlet for them, and none of them were making problems. At all. There were no loud ruckuses, roughhousing, inappropriate behavior. Just good, clean, fun.

Then there were also a bunch of families that were there. I met quite a few single moms with their kids, aunts taking their nieces and nephews to the beach, and nice families. One family actually had a son in my son's school, live in the next town over, and we also ended up camping with them last time we were at the beach. Also some older retired couples.

Everyone I met at the beach was nice. Sweet. Friendly. Kind. And generous.

When we needed help with something, we asked our camping neighbors if they could help out. If people were short on something, they asked around, and someone was sure to supply them. There was such a communal, familial feel there. We started out a bunch of strangers, but ended up feeling like a large family that was taking care of each other. If you needed some sort of help, there would be people to pitch in. There was such a generosity of spirit. Even if you didn't need something, there were people who were offering to give it to you, and didn't want to be turned down. (We got gifted with so much food from people, not to mention a beach chair, wood, etc... not to mention physical help.)

It was beautiful.

It was actually such an amazing testament to humanity.

These were the types of people that others want to avoid because they are "too young", "too poor", "too low socioeconomically", or "too whatever".

This post was also to talk about how wonderful my trip was, but also to get you to think. If you avoid places or activities because of the "type of people" that would be there, you'd be missing out on such beautiful experiences like I experienced.

Have you ever decided to not go someplace because it was free and the type of people that would be there? I really hope this post will get you to reconsider such attitudes. Have you ever experienced classism, ageism, or "otherism" yourself? Do you have any thoughts to contribute on the matter?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Great write-up, great sentiments. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wonderful post. I surely did camp for free, since my budget is limited, and I experienced simmilar community feeling. It is nice to read about your experience and the good time you had (and also seeing you decided to go and managed to have fun and rest as a single mum with four kids without a car! That is really a great accomplishment, if you ask me!)

  3. This is a really important post, and should get a lot of people thinking (including myself). Good work!

  4. Good post. This sounds like a wonderful site. Every vacation during my childhood was camping. Raising 4 children was expensive, but because we camped, we got to see a lot of America. We went to museums, historic sites, national parks, and visited relatives. We didn't buy souvenir trinkets, but used our imaginations to the fullest. When my sixth-grade teacher asked us what we did during our summer vacation (we had driven to the Dakotas and seen Mount Rushmore), he made the kids who went to Disneyland feel like they wasted their time, and made me feel special because I learned some history. So grateful for my parents.

  5. I have never refused to go anywhere that was free. I have refused to go plenty of places that wanted to charge admission, though :-)

    I will say, though, that for a long time I avoided our local Aldi because it was just awful: tight, cramped aisles, messy displays, nothing was anywhere you'd think it ought to be. But then it got rebuilt, and the store got redesigned, and now it's much easier to navigate, and things are easy to find, and the displays are neat and tidy. I go every week, because their sales simply cannot be beat, and for some (but not all!) basics they've got the lowest prices. It's not classism, I think, that kept me away from it, more like "I feel like a store should look like this".

  6. Is this in the USA? If so, which state? Thanks!

  7. We had lots of camping vacations when I was growing up. More, um, fastidious people did not go there b/c of the outhouses and the proximity of other people and blah blah. And no showers. I don't camp now because we live in the country and people come here to go I suppose we should go camp in NYC or something. Except that would cost a fortune, assuming one could even do it.

    More seriously, this is a very good, thoughtful post on the ways people subtly segregate themselves. Better zip codes (and pay a lot of money for a house in the right neighborhood), the right clothes, the right place to go on vacation. Good job titles. We mark status in so many ways. What does that do to us spiritually?

  8. This is why i find living in a poorer country (coming from a rich western country myself) not a bad idea. Being confronted so many times with those kind of attitudes which basically you won't find a lot in the country that i'm currently living in. Even some people in my home country that would describe themselves as being frugal had certain thoughts that i now would describe as arrogant. Also being poor and poverty in general was regarded as something bad while in reality I havent seen people more generous than a lot of poor people here.

    Very good blog, keep up the good work.

  9. Sounds wonderful. I'm glad you had a good time. We're also carless, so it's nice to know.

  10. I don't like crowds, waiting in line, or loud anything... so... paying is sometimes worthwhile.

  11. You're making some good points here -- but to some extent, this kind of bias has always been there. And sadly, it probably always will be, to some extent. Not that you shouldn't fight to erase it, or protest against it...because you should. But there will always be some bigheaded people who will make bigoted or narrowminded statements. The world is full of them.

    We are running into this somewhat now, by moving from a large house (which was too big for us, after the kids grew up) into a 32-foot fifth-wheel. We've lived in it quite happily while our house was on the market. And in some ways, it's much nicer and more up-to-date than our 'old' house! But I've still heard some spoken/implied comments that suggest we're doing this because we're broke.
    Well, we're not.

    So hang in there, keep growing that thick skin you've developed from blogging so successfully...because it may be jealousy, as much as ignorance.

  12. Great post. Discrimination exists world wide unfortunately. People do end up missing out and having a narrower life experience. So glad that you and your family had an amazing experience.

  13. I never knew people thought like that! Eye opener for me but then I'm a minority and I suppose that's why? People are so odd sometimes. Thanks for the post and I'm glad you had a good time. It's made me think about going camping in Hocking Hills instead of renting a cabin which is what we've done before.

  14. I do not see this attitude in my country (Canada). Everyone goes to free events and I've never yet heard of someone not going because of the kind of people they attract. That being said, there is NO free camping in my part of Ontario and sadly camping has become quite expensive to do. I envy you!

  15. I'm so glad your family had such a wonderful vacation. Great photos and wonderful memories. Wish I could be more like you but I'm not that adventurous.

    Now, about those "ism's". I found this on psychologytoday website: Research has found that people tend to overestimate personality and underestimate the situation when making attributions, especially with people they do not know well. Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about others’ behaviors, so that we can move through the world without spending too much time or energy on understanding everything we see.

    That's why I'm learning to be mindful. It's hard, but I'm getting better. Being less judgmental and more open minded makes me less stressed. All I do is ask myself "why do I care?" I don't, moving on...

    Keep up the great posts. Loving 'em!

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