The Cheaper Vacation: Camping

When I was a kid, a family vacation always meant camping.  A pop-up camper on the back of a giant station wagon, and we were off.  And I hated it.  Muddy campgrounds.  Long walks to public washrooms.  Trapped in the stuffy camper when it rains.  Long drives stuck in the back seat of the family truckster in the middle between my older siblings.  So I asked my mom why we always had to camp when we went on vacation.  Why couldn’t we stay in hotels or motels like normal people?  Her answer was simple.  We just couldn’t afford to take these trips if we had to pay for lodging.  But my parents wanted to give us experiences and make sure we could see places beyond our home in TheMiddleofNowhere Pennsylvania.  So we camped.

Pop up camper

At the time I didn’t really understand or appreciate what my parents were doing for me.  And when I was a Yuppie in Chicago in my twenties and early thirties, I made it my mission to vacation like a “normal” person.  In cities.  In hotels.  Eating in restaurants.  I didn’t have a mortgage or a car payment (or even a car) or any other significant financial responsibilities.  It seemed reasonable to spend my money this way.

Fast forward another ten years, and how do I vacation?  I camp.  I have embraced the tent.  I look forward to fully removing myself from the hustle and bustle of a busy life and disappearing into the woods.  The way I do it, it’s not quite glamping, but it’s pretty comfortable.  A big tent with a double high air mattress.  A shade canopy.  A folding table where I can cook on my propane grill and my propane stove.  Comfortable folding chairs where I can sit and read or play my guitar or toast marshmallows over a camp fire.  It’s relaxing.  It’s fun.  And it’s a really nice break from normal life.  And it’s cheap.  Now that I do have the financial burdens of mortgage and car payments, camping makes it possible for me to get away from home without spending more money than necessary.  Less expensive trips means more frequent trips.  And that’s a plus.

Think camping isn’t for you?  Give it some time.  You may change your mind.


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