Photo: Jenna Gilbert

I know that not everyone loves the great outdoors. But, if you don’t, bear with me here for a minute. Have you been outside??

Early last year our little family bought a little trailer on a little campsite by a decent sized state lake. It fit our budget, and the lot rent is reasonable. The summer before that we had done some short camping trips in a tent and discovered that we loved it as a family. This seemed like the obvious next step. And the most affordable way to guarantee that we would use it…or waste it. If the latter happened, we agreed to sell and run.

I think the biggest bonus of having a site that we can return to and land that we are responsible for, no matter how big or small, is the sense of community that you can get. We also (okay…I ALSO) love the heat and the air conditioning. I love storing things there and not having to fill the van so full every single time we go overnight. The downside being that we didn’t do any other camping last year so we didn’t experience any other campgrounds. But, that is a whole different post. And maybe it will happen since I seem to have a lot to say about it.

Camping, in any form, has been a wonderful experience for me. It wasn’t something that I did much as a kid. Let me just sum up how it has made us more tight knit as a family with these simple five conclusions. I am even going to count down for the maximum effect:

5. Good scenery feels like a reward.

Hiking, swimming in a lake, playing “baseball” in a field, riding our bikes, going for a walk…all of these things generally produce pretty darn good scenery. People pay good money for that! And sometimes they pay good money to have the fake version of that. Think: white noise machines, sounds of the ocean on cd, rainforest noises to calm down, pictures of scenic overlooks scrolling on our home screens. Heck, you can even choose an option on most email systems to put an ocean scene or the Grand Canyon in the background.

How does that bring us closer, you ask? Easy. We are calm and happy. How could we argue with views like that? How could we not feel closer to God or whatever it is that you believe in? Mother Nature can give us the ultimate peace. Combine that with experiencing it all together and BAM. Instant family therapy.

4. My husband and I can show off our goods.

Okay. Perv. This is a FAMILY vacation. Not those kind of goods. I am talking about the stuff that we are both really good at doing that we don’t get to do all the time. I, personally, tend to rock the coolest comfiest camping clothes like it is my business. And in those I am totally relaxed. I get to remind him how incredibly cool it is of me to be all “No Make-up, Messy Hair, Don’t Care.” Then I cook with limited tools and that’s it. He falls madly in love with me all over again.

For him, he wears sleeveless shirts and kills a lot of bugs. Not to mention all the fire building and s’more making. Damn.

This is good marriage material. Just saying.

3. My (Your) kids are soaking it up.

Just skip this one if you don’t have kids. But, I suppose you could apply some of it to your four-legged kiddos! There is so much to learn outside. Here are some things that we have tried or have on our list:

Plan a scavenger hunt, start a soccer/Frisbee tournament, sit around a campfire and tell stories, make s’mores, learn about the different kinds of birds together, breathe cleaner air, get out flashlights and hunt for leprechauns, have great books to read and learn to appreciate the quiet time.

And, for goodness sakes, let them get DIRTY. This one is a must. Just dance in the rain, I promise it can be fun. I have no doubt this will make them happy, which will also make your family happy. We have done it. And it does!


I can not stress the importance of this one enough with our family. We get to unplug. We have just enough service that we can make or get emergency calls. My advice- let everyone know that you aren’t AVAILABLE. Seriously. That is a thing!

How many times a week do you look up and your whole family is together but they are all on their phones, laptops, iPads, xbox, minecraft computer weird I can’t understand it game? Force them to be with you without a screen. I think it’s the only way, force. You are their only hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Only slight sarcasm.) They scream boredom? Good, right? That’s means they will have to play cards with you.

1.  You ARE closer- even in sleep.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Not in this tent or tiny trailer! We breathe the same air, use the same sink, table, water tap, heck- even sleep pretty much in the same ROOM. We are in this TOGETHER. I get bit by mosquitos? Possible my son gets the same bites I do. We can even compare.

Seriously though, in the great outdoors there are many ways and places to find some alone time. But, at the end of the day, we are together. And that is what keeps us that way.