Oh, the places we’ll go

The view from my camper window on Saturday morning
The view from my camper window on Saturday morning (complete with baby’s carseat on the picnic table)

I camped a lot as a kid. My parents started us off tent camping as babies (can you imagine?), but when I was ten or eleven, they bought a pop-up camper. We went everywhere with that thing bopping along behind my dad’s truck. We drove up and down the length of New England, all the way up to Maine and down to Key Largo (from Toledo) multiple times, to the Outer Banks, to northern Michigan. My mother planned all our trips, and recently told me that they often set out with only a few hundred dollars and a destination in mind. We found some of the most lovely campgrounds, and saw a good bit of the country this way. My fondest memories of my childhood all come from our camping trips.

My husband and I bought an RV a couple months ago, and I am so excited that we now we get to continue that tradition with our own children.

The first trip–only an hour and a half away–wasn’t easy. It was 90 degrees, a thousand percent humidity, and the campground was in a rather bare state park with nothing fun for the kids to do. The baby had a terrible time adjusting to sleeping in the pack ‘n play–until that day, he’s never slept anywhere except my bed and his own crib–and we all woke up irritable on that first morning. But the second night, everyone slept well and we woke up happier. We got our sea legs, so to speak, on that trip.

This trip over Fourth of July weekend, only our second, was a lot better in many ways. It took us ten hours to get there, which was decidedly not fun with two small children, but they were such champs! The campground (Keen Lake in Waymart, PA) was the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen. Situated on a lake ringed by tall trees, the campground had two playgrounds, a pristine pool, a small beach with chairs and umbrellas, a rustic camp store, boat rental and endless beautiful campsites. The baby slept like an old pro and both boys played in the creek at the bottom of the hill near our site. My oldest learned how to build a fire and got to use pie irons for the first time. He loves camping, and it fills my heart with happiness to watch him get excited about things like making s’mores and getting in his little bunk at night to go to sleep. The baby loved it, too: walking up the hill and saying hi to all the women who passed by (he loves the ladies, and the ladies loooove him), pushing his little red car up and down the road, sitting at the picnic table like a big boy. At the end of each day, they were dirty and tired and happy.

Kids ran loose in packs all over the campground. I didn’t see a single child with an electronic device in their hands, but I saw plenty of kids chasing each other and riding bikes. On our last morning there, I heard two little boys a few sites away calling out to one another what they’d found: “I got a grasshopper!” “I got an ant!” It made me smile.

My father was excited when he found out we got a camper; he told us we would make the best memories by going camping together as a family. He was right. I can’t imagine a better way for the four of us to spend time together.

I can’t wait for our next trip.

About the Author

Amy Collini is a writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two young sons. She's completed a novel, Now is the Hour, and is currently at work on a memoir-in-essays.

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