How Camping Brought Us Together

Family of four walking around large Class C motorhome at White Sands in New Mexico.

Travel and friends are essential aspects of who we are.  So much so, that without them, Willie and I would have never met. We connected through a mutual friend I met while camping at a wildlife reserve in Swaziland, during a year-long backpacking trip around the world in my 20s. When I came back from my travels, I visited my new friend in San Diego. There I met Willie, who had just relocated from Lake Tahoe. Willie too had traveled the world, and had lived in an RV for a year. His friends envied his serene home, and preferred visiting him at his RV to hanging out at their apartments. We dated long distance for several years, and found that it was just natural for us to unplug from our busy lives to go outside, hike, explore and camp. We needed it, due to the hectic pace of our personal lives, but also because it made us come alive. We both grew up in families that had a huge love for camping, albeit for different reasons. Willie’s family loved camping because they loved being with family and friends. My family loved nature and the outdoors. Together, we have found ourselves exploring new and different national parks all over the US.

Willie and I learned a lot about each other through roadtripping and camping. During one camping trip with friends in Big Sur, we discovered that while I am more of a backcountry, unbeaten-path kind of girl, Willie prefers glamping. He brought steaks to grill and bottles of wine, while I had packed trail mix and ramen. He was planning on showers and toilets, while I brought beanies to cover up greasy hair and trowels to dig a hole for waste. When I saw a cliff or peak I wanted to get to, I’d start bushwhacking, while Willie would look for the trail to get there.  Let’s just say there were lots of interesting discussions that came up as went camping together! We both had our own ways of doing things prior to meeting each other, but over time, we learned new rhythms to being outdoors together. I learned to enjoy a few fancy things, while he learned that discomfort sometimes pays off as amazing views and adventures.

After we got married, we were determined to raise our kids with our love for the outdoors and roadtripping. When I was pregnant with our second child and our first was just learning to walk, it felt like a good time to begin instilling our love for adventure, so we went camping on the central coast of California. Of course, when we were there, they had some of the highest winds the Central Coast had ever seen. We learned during that trip to always stake our tent down, and eat our meals inside during high winds—and not underneath a grove of pine trees. That trip was only the beginning of a lot of trial and error around camping with small children.

As we added more babies to our family, we just kept trying. When our oldest was two and our youngest was just beginning to crawl, I was pregnant with our third child, and we decided to try camping again with some nearby friends. In the middle of the first night of three, the baby spiked a fever and screamed inconsolably for an hour. Willie sat in the van with the baby so the screams wouldn’t wake our neighboring campers. And every time we’ve gone camping since, there’s been a similar disaster.

After we had our third child, we planned another camping trip to Joshua Tree with friends who had a one year old.  We should have taken it as an omen when we tore a huge rip through our new tent setting it up. Then, in the middle of the night, one of our friends woke up with food poisoning—and a port o’potty that was very, very far away. Shortly after the throwing up began, our middle son started screaming and crying that he wanted to go home, which set off coyote howling throughout the national park that lasted over an hour. Once again, Willie found himself in the van, trying to comfort our screaming and crying son for the rest of the night. Any sane person probably would’ve just headed home, but for some reason, we decided to stick it out. And Willie spent all three nights sitting with our hysterical son, who screamed and cried himself to sleep in the van.

If we were going to raise little campers, we knew we had to change up our game. So, we have slowly but surely discovered how to camp with three kids. We discovered these incredible things called RVs. We have some good friends with kids that are full-time RVers who let us house sit for them, and it gave us a taste of how amazing it is to basically always be home when you are traveling and adventuring.  Willie and I decided to give it a test run for our anniversary and rented an airstream at the beach in Carpenteria, CA, and we didn’t want to ever go home to our house.

After we got married, we were determined to raise our kids with our love for the outdoors and roadtripping.

Now, it was just a matter of getting our kids to be back on board with camping and getting over a slight case of camping anxiety. So, we started to do this awesome thing every few weeks or so. We would wake up in the a.m., pack the van with food and changes of clothes in case we decided to stay the night, and hit the open road with no destination.  We just decided to see where the road would take us. And our kids actually started to love it! We would tell them, “Ok, guys! We are going on a surprise adventure!” And they would be giddy with excitement, in the same way that we would get giddy with excitement. I love seeing their wonder come alive as they look out the window at the passing scenery, and the happy squeals as they jump out of the van and onto a dirt trail.

Even our most recent disastrous attempts at camping with them haven’t deterred them from wanting to get back out there. We can’t believe it—they are actually asking to go camping, so clearly we have done something right! Willie and I, on the other hand, are still trying to mentally gear up for our next attempt. And for that adventure, we’ve decided that we are going to make sure that we’re in an RV—it just makes everything so much easier.


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