“Please take this in the best way,” I politely venture, “but I feel like we’ve come pretty far from what I’ve historically called ‘camping.'”

I’m surveying an RV that is bigger than my first apartment and (a lot) nicer than any place I lived before age 38. It has cable. And a convection microwave.

“Well,” the saleslady agrees with professional amiability, “You’ll find that everyone has different ideas of roughing it.”

An RV obsession is an unlikely catalyst for personal discovery.  But it seems that every time I reflect on a loose end, I find a ball of yarn attached.  The quest to define a new life chapter has me re-defining lots of things.

Including “family camping.”

My husband, beloved, does everything at the executive level. If you’re cooking, you’re rolling out pasta with semolina flour sourced from Italy. If you’re cruising, you’re piloting your own sailboat to a remote Caribbean island. And if you’re camping, it’s a pack-it-in, pack-it-out survivalist venture out where the rescue helicopters get a little queasy.

He’s a good fit with Colorado, Land of the Warrior People. Around here, it raises no brows to tent-camp with with infants. In fact, you’re considered kind of a wuss if you don’t.

But, although I genuinely love doing those survivalist ventures as a couple, I’ve come to believe that small children are the natural enemy of executive-level lifestyles.

Part of my midlife project includes a) accepting who I am, and b) accepting what works for our family.

To clarify: what actually works, versus what we “should” be doing.

It’s way past time to get these children sleeping outdoors. I’ve been hung up on the impossibility of doing that at the executive level. I’m super-wussy about things like toddlers swallowing rocks, plummeting over cliffs, and stumbling into campfires.

As a result, we’ve done nothing, and I’m so sad about that.

It may also be past time to admit that my skill-to-enthusiasm ratio needs some work. I’ve been pitifully grateful to share a sleeping bag with my dog after packing too lightly for high country.  I nearly torched Kite Lake Campground with a backpacking stove in the blustery pre-dawn. And I still get to hear about the time I made an indoor garden by pitching our tent smack on top of a well-grown sagebrush. But I’m going to get better, and I will get better by doing.

“Should” we have started camping with the children years ago? “Should” we force them to tent-camp despite the hysterics-laden disasters that comprised last year’s attempts?  “Should” we be bushwhacking in the back country instead of cuddled in a climate-controlled RV?

I don’t know, and it just doesn’t matter any more.

I’m letting go of those “shoulds.”

And I am going to stop hallucinating “shoulds” where none exist.  Even among the Warrior People, if I closely listen, for every two or three “oh, it was so much easier than I thought!” tales, there’s at least one whispered confession that ends, ” . . . so we just packed up everything in the middle of the night and drove home.”

This is our week: the official 2017 Camping Season / Life Chapter Opener. It’s time to see stars. Time to scorch s’mores. Time to make memories. Rabbit Valley, here we come.

RV or no, I plan to include plenty of dirt and spiders.


Image featured at top: Interior of 2017 KZ Connect 281BH – brochure here (PDF opens in new window).