Why We Camp . . .
I grew up camping. My dad was a college professor with summers off and my mom had the travel bug. There were six of us so the most economical way for us to travel was to camp. We camped from one end of the United States to the other and even spent a summer camping in Europe.
My husband, Pat, and I did some tent camping when we were first married and when our children were young, but children's activities and work consumed us for a couple of decades. We began camping again when our daughter was in college and playing soccer. We found ourselves traveling around the midwest to her games and staying in hotels. I don't know about anyone else but I always feel claustrophobic in hotel rooms. Generally there isn't a patio or balcony to even get outside, nor really any place to go once you get outside. So we bought a teardrop camper and followed her team throughout the midwest. We had so much fun camping, hiking and seeing the local sights when we weren't attending her games.
But after she graduated we gravitated away from camping again. After the tear drop camper sat in our driveway for a couple of years, we gave it to our son. A few years later, as I was winding down my career we began to again have conversations about camping. Pat and I have running conversations, literally while we are running, and what to do when we retire was an ongoing running conversation. We knew we wanted to travel and seeing the U.S. was a priority. I was interested in visiting places I had been to when I was young and he was interested in going to places he had never been to. We also wanted to immerse ourselves at a deeper level than we could if we flew somewhere and stayed for a week or two. We both liked car travel, being able to stop when you want and see sights that look interesting. Additionally, from a financial perspective, we could be out and about a lot more if we camped.
So after some deliberation we bought a 19-foot Forest River No Boundaries, also known as NOBO. Our NOBO is a travel trailer with all the necessary amenities - bathroom, kitchen, bed. It is the perfect first camper. We have been as far as South Dakota and Florida, with the longest trip being nearly 3 weeks and the shortest being weekend trips to local state parks. We have loved every minute of it.
It was especially fortuitous to have a camper when the country closed down due to Covid. After a period of time, campgrounds were allowing self-contained campers to stay at their facilities. We traveled many places and felt as safe as if we had stayed at home, minimally interacting with others - usually only when we had to go to the grocery store or fill up with gas.
Besides the obvious - fresh air, the smell of bacon cooking, kids racing round on bikes and playing pick-up soccer games, and families spending time together - here are some of the reasons why we camp:
Cost. Four weeks of camping is about half the cost of one week at an oceanfront resort or rental. Sometimes we stay at campgrounds that have a few more amenities and sometimes we stay at campgrounds that are a bit more rustic, but the average cost per night is about $50. We have a trip planned this summer for four weeks and our total "housing" cost is $1,450. One week of housing at the beach generally costs us more than $4,000.
Less suitcase carrying and no coolers needed. It's great to carry your belongings with you and not have to drag them into a hotel room each time you switch locations. The refrigerator runs on electricity, but when moving from place to place it can run off the propane so we can travel with it loaded with food.
Being outside. Generally, campgrounds are pleasant areas that include places to go for a walk or a run, ride your bike, or go for a swim.
Healthier food/lower food costs. You can cook OR you can eat out. Even if you want to eat dinner out every night, you still have the advantage of having food in the camper for breakfast and lunch. It's also great to be able to pull into a rest area and have food available in the camper. This is great from a cost and health standpoint.
Relationships. I've found that camping is great if you want to meet others OR if you don't. It's quite easy to strike up a conversation, but most campers are adept at reading clues if you aren't really in the mood to make new friends. We found that during this time of the pandemic, other campers were very considerate about not approaching us at our campsite unless masked or invited.
Toys. We like to ride bikes and kayak and it's awesome to be able to take our own with us when we travel. It's cost effective to not to have to rent them and its great to be able to use the equipment we are accustomed to.
Freedom. Being able to stop when you want, change plans if you need to, even extending your stay if you want. Not always, but often, campgrounds, if there are sites available, are accommodating to campers' change of plans.
Travel planning is fun. I have always enjoyed planning vacations almost as much as taking them . . . . When planning a camping trip, it's fun to consider all the possibilities, like what sights you want to see, what activities are near by, what kind of campground you want to stay at. There is an area in Michigan we like to go to in August because we can ride on a really great bike path to a cool brewery/lunch spot and its also blueberry picking season so we come home with several pounds of blueberries every year. The planning can be tedious at times, but very satisfying when the plan comes together.