I do have some camping in my history -- as a kid and as a newlywed. The latter camping experiences were really more about the adventures attached to them -- whitewater rafting, canoeing or riding the Sea-Doos (want to send a shout out to the Six Pack!). It's the memories from the former that inspired us to consider investing in a pop-up camper.
We have a tent from those early camping days, but there is no way that our family of five would fit amicably, let alone comfortably, in that tent beyond the occasional backyard foray (where the kitchen and bathroom are handy, and there is no need for luggage). So, based upon Jeff's memories of the illustrious pop-up camper (quite the clever design, speaking as an engineer) and knowing it would not cost a king's fortune to get a decent used one, we started looking.
We checked out a couple alongside the road for sale last year. We didn't quite agree on how big it should be or the required attributes (remember, I am "spa-girl"), so needless to say, my pre-requisites were costlier and, therefore, eliminated anything that I liked from the pickings. This past spring, Jeff heard of someone at work selling their pop-up camper. When Jeff asked him about it, he offered to let us take it for a weekend to try it out before buying it. Bonus! So, we booked a weekend at Holly Recreation Area and made plans to go camping. Meanwhile, we had heard of another camper that one of my in-laws' neighbors was selling. But, we felt some loyalty to the first seller because of the "test camp" he had offered us. Well, Jeff brought that unit home and ...let me put it this way... I believe we doubled it's value just by cleaning it up a little. So, we high-tailed it over to the in-laws' neighborhood and bought the other camper --after all, we had reservations.
Now, my kids' idea of a camper was a 34 foot fifth wheel with 3 slide-outs that one set of their grandparents live in out west during the winter months. They were surprised to find out that that was not quite the category our little vacation home fell into. So they entered our first weekend a bit skeptical about this whole camping thing. But we have had nothing but fun (everything is fun given enough time to heal and gain perspective) and special memories ever since.
We have survived the rain with no leaks (Yeah! You just know we were sweating that one as a consequence of buying a "previously owned" unit). We have setup in the rain. We have found wild animal paw prints on our table in the morning. One child has already puked in the camper (thank goodness it is so open and airy). Jeff has been poked in the face with a burning stick (the result of the new game he taught the girls -- for the record, it was the 2 year old that got him). This was a great reminder that there is usually a good story behind every rule. Our marriage has been strengthened through the forging processes of planning, packing, going, setting up, camping, packing up, going home and unpacking. The girls have been able to learn some life skills that we don't address at home (I don't ever wash dishes by hand at home. I can't avoid it when we are camping.) The girls have been given more accountability and freedom. They have met new friends and we have been able to watch their hearts in action as they are faced with others who don't have the same worldview we do. As they meet new people with different family situations, we are able to discuss the blessings we have as a family. And, while some kids are running around the park late into the evening, we always end the nights as a family by the fire with s'mores and games. We have fun developing our own routines -- pancakes and bacon for breakfast (I promised I would not fix it all winter so that they will look forward to it again next summer). We get to see new places together and enjoy an ice cream in every one of them. And being away from home where our "have-tos" seem to nag at us, we can spend the afternoon hanging out at the playground or the beach. We've had great times camping with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, too. We've lost goggles at the bottom of Bluegill Lake and Jeff, with his superhero strength, annihilated my dollar store broom on its maiden voyage (but he got to engineer a new one). We've seen sunrises and sunsets, getting to marvel each time at some part of God's creation. It was a great summer!
Now, I said all that to say this -- go camping with your family! You will not come back from even a one-night trip without some special memory. It provides great time with your kids and your spouse, each of you learning something from one another, whether it is a life lesson or perspective. I'll be honest -- it's not as relaxing as the spa, or even as camping without kids, but it is fun and it is so worth it!