Like a Good Neighbor….

Well, it’s the fifth night of our ten-day camping journey through the great state of Michigan. It has been an awesome adventure thus far. I have blogged about this before but I feel compelled to discuss it again. Camping brings out the best in people. Total strangers striking up a conversation with you, willing to help you with whatever problem you’re having and offering advice. We’ve even had some fellow campers offer us a cold beverage! For the most part, campers are super friendly people. We have met some great people along the way during this trip. People we would have otherwise never met. I am not knocking hotels and resorts, but there is something about camping that brings out the “neighborly” personality in all of us. Had we been staying in a hotel, I highly doubt these conversations would have ever taken place.
At the Jellystone campground in Frankenmuth, we met a father and daughter who are both workcampers. Workcampers are those who work at a campground and in return get a campsite rent free and an hourly wage. Since this is usually seasonal work, workcampers generally are retirees or those with careers that allow them to have the summers off (i.e. teachers). Chuck is a retired pool man who decided to sell his house and travel with his camper. He and his wife travelled all over America. When he began working at Jellystone, he decided to stay full-time. He has been there for the last nine years. He stopped by our campsite to see how things were going and share his story. He saw our “Crazy4Camping” sign and asked “What do you consider crazy for camping?” His story started all the way back in the 1950’s when he and his wife first began camping. He recounted his many years of camping beginning with tent camping and proceeding from there. Being interested in trying workcamping in the future, I had a lot questions for Chuck. After a good 30 minute conversation, I met a new friend and fellow camper enthusiast. Would a friendly conversation like this with a stranger happen in a hotel environment?

The next day, Amy and I met his daughter, Gina, who also was a workcamper. She drives a school bus for a local Michigan school district and during the summer she works at Jellystone alongside her father. Gina was great to talk to. She was interested in our crazy4camping web site and wanted to share her story of workcamping. When her father first became a workcamper, she would often visit the campground and help out with kid’s activities. Finally, the staff suggested that if she was there so often and helping she might as well get paid for it! She enjoys being able to spend time working alongside her dad and meeting new people every day. She was personable and was a great host there at Jellystone.
Amy and I spent two nights at South Higgins Lake State Park campground. If you ever have the opportunity to stay at this campground, do it! It’s beautiful! A family pulled in on day two of our visit in the site adjacent to ours in class C motor home. After introductions, we found out quickly we had something in common. Usually the first question campers ask one another is “So, where are you from?” This family was from Jackson, Michigan. I spent my late elementary and junior high years living there so it was cool to talk with people from that town. They too shared their camping experiences and it was nice to hear their stories.

When I was a kid I was very introverted. I was too shy to talk to people I did not know and wasn’t willing to take the risk of trying new things. As I have gotten older, I have become less introverted. Camping has really helped. I find myself walking up to anyone and having conversations at a campground. Sometimes I surprise myself in how much I initiate these conversations. Here is yet another positive attribute of camping. And maybe that’s what America needs; more camping. Opportunities to enjoy spending time with family and friends in the great outdoors while meeting others and sharing experiences. It’s too easy for us to get wrapped up in our own little worlds. Every American family who has never camped should take one opportunity to camp this summer. They will be amazed on how refreshing and relaxing the experience will be. Sure, all-inclusive hotels/resorts and cruises are nice, however, there is a lot to be said for the simple life of camping…

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