Two books inspired me to plan a family camping trip.
First, The Gift of Enough by Marianne Miller, which has also impacted my parenting and overall philosophy of life. It’s about how necessary it is to teach kids what “enough” is if we ever want them to be happy. It doesn’t matter how much money they make or what possessions they own; if they don’t know what enough is, they won’t ever be content. I heard Miller speak about her book, and she made a comment about how her family camped on Cape Cod for a whole week for what an all-inclusive resort would cost for just one day. That got me thinking.
Next, I read a fun book about a family that took a year-long trip around the world, 360 Degrees Longitude by John Higham. The family was committed to sticking to a budget, so they camped all throughout Europe. The book wasn’t just a travel book. It was a book about family-togetherness, fortitude, and finding adventure despite setbacks.
Thinking about the idea of camping, I realized that squeezing in more family adventures can sometimes involve discomfort and a lot of work. If every vacation needs to be comfortable and convenient, then many opportunities for adventure and fun memories will be missed.
The last time we camped, I was eight-months pregnant with my second child. That trip was so traumatizing that it took nine years for me to consider camping again. But, here we were … after consulting with my husband, we booked a campsite on Cape Cod for seven nights at the end of August.
In preparation for our trip, I went online and printed off a list of things that you apparently should bring camping. It was three pages, with two columns each. As a novice camper, I figured I needed the reassurance that an internet list would provide, but this was simply too much! Since we would be camping near civilization, I decided that things like “splinting materials,” triangular bandages, and even hammocks, could be left at home.
The only reason we were able to fit everything into our van was because a friend loaned us a car top carrier! We packed separate bags for our hotel in Boston to keep under our seats. We knew that if we opened the back hatch on our van before we reached our camping spot, we would likely never get it closed again.
Concord, Boston, the Adams family’s home in Quincy, and Plymouth were a fantastic treat. It is awesome to tour historic places with kids, isn’t it? I was so glad that we could see these famous sights, all part of our rich American history. These were places our kids had read about, and it was wonderful to help make history become more alive for them.
After sightseeing for a few days, we headed to our campsite. First of all, I want to tell you this: When a tent advertises a “60-Second Set-Up,” don’t believe it. It’s all a marketing ploy!
The tent’s telescope-style poles didn’t want to open for us, despite the fact that we had already practiced setting up this tent at home. At home it took 30 minutes. At the campsite it took 1.5 hours of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s a testimony of true love that our marriage survived!!
We had some other setbacks on our trip. Two sleeping bags flew out of our car top carrier on the trip east because I failed to properly latch it. A child took a spill on her bike and we had to go to the ER to get seven stitches in her lip. At our hotel in Boston, there was a tornado alert and we wondered what it would be like to be sleeping in a tent worrying about tornadoes ripping through. Thankfully that fear was not realized.
Despite these setbacks and concerns, the camping experience was incredible. The weather was perfect, and the scenery was indescribably beautiful. I wasn’t sure we would be able to relax on this trip, but after a string of days at the beach and exploring some of the most scenic biking trails I have ever seen, we felt fully relaxed and restored. This trip was about family-togetherness and lasting memories. I’m glad we “risked it” to go.
On our last night, gathered around the fire, I asked my husband if he would ever consider camping in Europe. “Or,” I said, “Is it too soon to ask?” He replied: “It’s kind of like after a woman gives birth. You don’t ask her immediately if she wants another baby.”
I think the whole baby analogy means we birthed a very good thing.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images courtesy of Amy Koons.