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    Lots of Family Camp guests come up to me in the summer and say something like: “It seems like you are here all the time! Where do you go on vacation??” Well, believe it or not, I go camping!

    That's right – after Family Camp wrapped up, my family headed off for four days in a state park in Delaware. But it gets better when you realize that my wife is also a camp director, coming off of 10 weeks of 15 hour days chasing 100 campers and 24 staff at The Marsh Day Camp at Sandy Cove. Plus, she'd already been camping all summer, staying at Sandy Cove in “Sweet Pea,” our 1967 Aristocrat LoLiner camper (pictured above), instead of driving home at night. And the kids had worked here at Sandy Cove all summer long as well. Yet there we were packing coolers, loading up tents, and racking up bikes not even 24 hours after the dust had settled at The Marsh.

    Why would we do this to ourselves?  Maybe we are just weird, but I think I can make a case for why it makes sense to choose camping as a vacation to help rest, regroup, and reconnect after a busy stretch of life. Here are a few of the benefits I see:

    Being “Away”
    We have a great house that we love living in – in fact, if I saw our house on Air B&B I'd probably want to vacation in it. But when I am home, I have a To-Do list that I am either working on or avoiding. Being away gives me a break from thinking about painting, mowing, weeding, or cleaning. Camping chores somehow scale down to be minor and manageable.

    Back in proximity
    My family likes each other most of the time. But we are usually going in a number of different directions, and even when home together we tend to lump off to our own areas of the house to do our own thing. Camping pulls us back together, whether we are doing activities together or just “existing” near one another, we are closer to each other.

    Our family has developed some common language, recalling previous camping adventures with Forced Family Fun, and “Death Marches” (a.k.a. hikes) or some of the massive lightning storms we have tented through. And then we add to that catalogue of memories, like this year when T.J. threw his shoe up into a pine tree and got it stuck (Why? We don't know!), threw sticks to dislodge his shoe, threw firewood to dislodge the sticks, then bigger sticks to dislodge the firewood, to the sticks and the shoe. Fine, you had to be there – but we were there, and now that memory is ours for the future.

    Minimal devices
    Like most good American families, we spend a lot of time staring at screens. When we go camping, the PS4, TV, and laptops stay home. I won't lie, I checked my phone periodically for Orioles scores, weather reports and whatnot, but on the whole our family phone usage went down 79%. Ok, I just made that number up, but it is true that technology takes a backseat when we are camping.

    Option to just veg
    Activities are great, but camping is good for us when it also involves just sitting and staring at a fire. Or staring at water. Or trees. Apparently staring is important to us. And doing so in a camp chair, beach chair, or a hammock is just fine.

    This goes along with the staring, but being closer to nature is somehow beneficial to our human selves. That looks different for everyone I guess. We like being more immersed, where all five senses are engaged by God's creation.

    Throwback / Community
    All of these combine to create an experience of life in the “good old days” – at least our idealized version of it, when times were simpler, and people were friendlier. Kind of like Mayberry…with tents. But there is kind of a sense of community, likely stemming from the fact that we are all choosing to camp in that campground for shared values, similar to the ones above. There is a democratic expression of these values – some experience it in $80,000 Airstreams, while we are in tents and my air mattress leaks. (Fear not, “Sweet Pea” is my off season project and will be road worthy by next summer. I think.)  But there is a recognition that we all share in creating and maintaining the experience for each other. So even though I don't know the names of those around me, I know that if I am loud at midnight, leave trash in the bathroom, build smoky fires, or steal items from someone's unattended site, it will ruin it for my neighbors.  The Golden Rule still prevails, at least at our campground, and it is nice to be a part of it.

    If you are keeping score at home, you know I am going to remind you that all the reasons my family enjoys camping are the reasons I love offering Family Camp here at Sandy Cove, and I think you should join us! Even if your idea of “camping” is sharing a hotel room, looking at nature out the window, and wandering to the buffet three times a day, it still all applies! If you want to learn more, you can go to the Family Camp page and see some of the basics, but also sign up for more info, where I explain how Family Camp works here. And if you have already been to Family Camp, I am preaching to the choir, so just sign up already, would you??

    Nate's campsite...


    Nate Ransil
    Nate Ransil
    Nate joined the Program department at Sandy Cove in 2003, and transitioned to director of that team in 2014. Nate graduated from Houghton College with a double major in Communication and Outdoor Recreation (yes, it is a thing) and got to know his wife Evelyn while co-leading backpacking trips for at-risk youth. Hopefully not as at-risk are their two sons, Caleb and TJ, who have spent all their summers at Sandy Cove, Camp Sandy Cove, and The MARSH! Nate enjoys being outside, being inside, being handy, the beach, snowboarding, roller coasters, training aardvarks, bodybuilding, contributing to quantum theory, and making up fanciful, if not entirely accurate, biographical details.
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