6 Unexpected Learnings from a Family Glamping Trip

This summer, we decided to take some time off and haul our camper up through the Midwest.  As expected, we had a good time, and the small breath of fresh air from our busy lives was refreshing.  However, there were also several unexpected learnings we had along the way.

1.  Glamping is challenging - but worth it.   Ok, so if you know me at all, you know that camping is really not “my thing”.  My thing is more of this. However, once the challenges of setting up a camper are addressed (i.e. figuring out how you deal without the important things you forgot, determining a way to cool the camper down to a bearable temp with a barely working A/C, juggling all your stuff so you can move around, etc., etc.), you can emerge from a hot camper into a quiet “campsite” and feel the breeze, smell the trees, and literally be FORCED into nature – the smell of trees, of laughter around a campfire, of a breeze touching your face.  You can’t do that in a 4 or 5 star hotel…if only they could do something about the shower situation!

2. People who camp are nice.  Ok, so when you first pull up to a “campground”, you’re kind of shocked at what you see.  I mean, people have built dog pens for their dogs! These people are driving a HOUSE, for crying out loud!  Our little 16-ft camper looked like an ant amongst elephants.  Many campers have done A LOT of work to make a “home” in the wild.  It’s fascinating - and the ultimate in “self-sufficiency.”  They have created their environment and they’re happy in it.  So, I’m not sure if there’s something in the nature of campers that is just genuinely nice or if people get nicer the more they’re outdoors and self-sufficient.  But I love it - our daughter took off into a crowd of girls who put her under their wings and parents greeted us with tactful suggestions and useful objects like a fan and leveler for the “camper newbies” – wow!


3. A “family trip” is not the same as a “vacation”…

a.     “Vacation” connotes something magical, whether it’s full of adventure OR reading on a beach. A vacation is about “me”, “my time”, what “I” want to do. 

b.     “Family trip”, on the other hand, immediately changes my perception of what it is - it’s a time when we are together 24/7.  We’re together no matter what.  It’s negotiating. It’s messy.  Yes, it’s beautiful but it requires effort – in some ways, just like work.

What I realized is that using the word “vacation” when taking a “family trip” sets me up for disappointment - but as with many things in life…these ideas come from experience.  I gave this “vacation” an overall ranking of 6 (on scale of 1-10) but I gave the “family trip” a 9 when I changed my perspective.  Our daughter gave it a 12 :)   


4.    Being Cousin Eddie is kind of cool. This was our first voyage in our camper, and we eventually made our way to visit friends in Des Moines where we parked it in front of their house for several days.  Historically, I’ve assumed that parking a camper in front of a friend’s house was not the best way to keep said friend, primarily after my first viewing of Christmas Vacation years ago.  However, I never really understood the immense value of staying JUST OUTSIDE your friend’s house!  Having some physical separation and some space of your own, even if it is via a camper creates a talking piece, a spirit of adventure and a place to go when you need time alone.  Everyone loved it, and as far as I know, we still have our friends!


5.    It’s Not Where You Are, It’s Who You’re With - When I think of all the places I’ve been on vacation and all the places I want to go, I never really had Des Moines, IA on the radar!  But that’s where our gracious, dear friends live.  It’s true - that where you vacation is less about where you are because I can’t think of a trip I would have enjoyed more when we landed in Johnson, Iowa - a small town outside of Des Moines.  The excitement that week was one of the neighbors had a potbelly pig, Babe, who escaped.  A neighborhood rally occurred to try to find him.  Then, the police got involved when he was found running along the soccer field. Seriously - you can’t make this stuff up.   I’m so grateful to have a family trip that gave me the chance to experience time with my sweet, amazing friends!

6.     Taking Time Away Cultivates Gratitude -  When you run your own business, work doesn’t stop when you physically separate from it.  Sometimes, I get resentful of never being able to “break free” from it.   Typically when I’m on vacation, many of my work worries start to stack up, which stresses me out, and “unstacking them” takes a LOT of intention.  For 8 years I have wanted that to be different.  BUT - for whatever reason (maybe it was my new camper friends or being Cousin Eddy or chasing after a pot belly pig), whatever it was, I decided (I chose) to think about my work differently.  This trip made me more grateful of having work that allows me to do something like take a camper through the hot (and eventually cooler) Midwest, and see friends and frolic in the grass. 

I guess that’s what perspective is all about.  The more I think about it; maybe our “family glamping trip” was a 12 after all!