This essay originally appeared in our monthly newsletter for The Mom Hour podcast. To get our emails, subscribe here. –Meagan
Since I can remember, I’ve wanted a camper.
Partly, it’s nostalgia: my family briefly had a small pop-up when I was a kid, large enough only for my dad and stepmom to sleep in, and I remember thinking that when I was an adult, it would be my turn to sleep in it while my kids piled into the tent.
Partly, it’s the practicality: I love camping, both the rustic and glamping kind; but I’ve always loved the idea of a self-contained unit that has all our necessities ready to go, so we can skip the day of packing and get right to the outdoor fun.
Partly, it’s the sense of camaraderie: RV parks are fun places to be, and I love how friendly everyone is to everyone else. There’s definitely a sense of homey adventuring that everyone seems to share.
Partly, it’s the way campers allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds at once: the outdoors and nature are just a few steps away at any moment, but you can also sit around a table and play cards if it rains.
And partly, it’s the appeal of a small space that I can decorate any way I want, a home away from home that can wrap my family in comfort while we explore the world. For a while I dreamed about taking the kids out of school and traveling the US in the camper for a year, and even started making plans that obviously, never came to fruition.
The camper, let alone the year-long road trip, is just one of many dreams of mine that never came to fruition while I was married. I certainly wouldn’t blame it on my ex – while camper travel wasn’t “his thing”, with some planning and creativity I could have made it mine, many times over. But that’s the funny thing about relationships that aren’t working: when you’re busy riding out bumps, taking the temperature of what’s going on around you, and scrambling to try to make the other person happy, a whole lot of things that you really do want to happen just…don’t. Next thing you know 20 years have gone by since you first thought about (insert your dream here), and lo and behold, you never did it.
That’s how I made it to 40 years old without ever having owned a camper.
Meet Beatrice, my 1999 Jayco Eagle pop-up camper. I started looking for her a year ago, but had a difficult time finding a camper that a) is in great shape b) is a good value c) could fit my whole family or at least most of us d) is light enough for my Jeep Cherokee to tow and e) crossed my path at the right time for me to commit.
The other day I happened to look at Craigslist, and there she was. My brother and I went out to look at her, he figuratively kicked the tires with the elderly couple selling her, and when we left to discuss, gave me some pointers on negotiating the deal. Within an hour it was done, and the other day, we went and picked her up.
I have lots of plans for Beatrice. For the last week, I’ve been obsessively researching both interior remodel how-to’s and road trip ideas, and while taking off to live in the trailer for a year probably isn’t in the cards for me any time soon, I’ve been planning shorter-term travel for both the kids and me, and me by myself. For now, while I figure out how to pop her up and fold her back down, it’s the local KOA.
And that’s OK – my camping dreams today don’t have to look like the dreams I had five or ten years ago. But buying Beatrice – choosing her myself, making that final decision, paying for her with my own hard-earned money – has been a nice reminder that I have the ability to dream up new adventures for myself and my family: dreams adventures that are inspired by the past, but not stuck in it; that embrace our new reality while making room for better and brighter things that we can’t even see yet, waiting just around the corner.
I know I’m ready for some adventure, some dreaming, and some new possibilities this summer. Are you? Comment below and let me know!
I’m so proud of you for buying a camper!!! I too an divorced and a single mother. I find myself being less adventurous as a single woman. I’m inspired! I am going to do something that I’m scared and a little nervous to do.
Thank you for your really insightful article. My wife and I are divorcing during the Covid pandemic. Having sold the house, I’ve decided to buy a 6 berth eldis autoquest 180 to live in full time. I have rented a locked compound with electricity and water on site, for a very reasonable rate. I was not confident locking myself into another huge mortgage, considering the uncertainty we are all feeling in this current economic climate. I have 2 teenage sons whom I share custody, who are both really excited about weekend Road trips, and travelling around the British Isles. I cannot wait to start the adventure.