Updated: Dec 7, 2020
When Holly first approached me about writing content relating to “unexpected surprises in destinations booked” for their vlog, Fern the Camper, I admittedly was a bit concerned about the quality of content we would be able to provide. You see, we almost weren’t campers.
The handy half to The Camping Costas duo, Tony, grew up camping. His parents and grandparents camped, beginning in a tent and upgrading to a popup, then travel trailer, and eventually a Class A. Tony has fond memories of camping every weekend with his parents and grandparents, playing and doing homework at a picnic table by the light of a lantern while his mother finished her Master’s degree in teaching. I (Ashley), on the other hand, grew up never setting foot inside an RV until Tony’s parents’, unless you count that one time when I was 12 or 13 when a great aunt and uncle came to visit for a few days in theirs’. In fact, in my vows, I even mentioned not knowing what a Fifth Wheel even was prior to meeting Tony.
Fast forward to a year after we were married. To make an incredibly long story short, due to Tony’s job situation, we decided to purchase a travel trailer for him to live in Monday - Friday while being home on the weekends. It was cheaper than renting an apartment, and the plan was then we’d also have it for camping trips. That arrangement lasted about a year, until our oldest was born. Tony then changed companies in order to be home full time. We used the trailer sparingly here and there for the next 3.5 years, mainly taking trips to Disney’s Ft. Wilderness. But mostly, it sat. In fact, earlier this year, I was pushing HARD for it to be sold to get it out of our driveway.
Then COVID happened, and our (along with everyone else’s) entire world got turned upside down. I remember being annoyed that our daughters’ preschool would be closed for 2 weeks between COVID and Spring Break. How laughable. As the reality of the pandemic really set in, we began, like a lot of other people, to evaluate how we were living our lives and how we wanted to live going forward. Quarantine allowed us, in a lot of ways, to catch our breath and assess. And we (ok, I) realized what a blessing having the RV could be for our family. So I made Tony a deal - we keep the trailer IF we can remodel it.
He took the deal, and we began the remodel on June 1, 2020. It took almost 3 months of work to get it done. The girls were able to return to summer camp, so I had about 15 hours per week to do all the painting, tile, wallpapering, and decorating, while Tony worked on the major projects - including remedying 3 separate areas of water damage from failed seals - almost exclusively on the weekends. This included building an entirely new bunk area, hand making all of the countertops, plumbing, trim, removing and replacing appliances, laying a new floor, and so many other projects that needed to be done after so many years of deferred maintenance.
Prior to the remodel, I really didn’t like being inside our RV. It was dark, depressing, not functional, and everything just seemed so much harder. Remodeling the trailer really helped me to get “acquainted” with her and develop a sense of pride. Now, I love being inside. It’s so light, bright, organized, comfortable, and serene. The girls love their new bunks; everyone has a little place of their own. I love the functionality we gained, especially in the kitchen. Removing the original drop in stove and replacing it with a 2 burner cooktop and convection air fryer toaster oven that can also be removed for use outside was one of the best decisions we made. We now have a usable countertop for prep. Even Tony, who usually doesn’t give a lick about aesthetics, has commented on how much better it looks and feels.
After 3.5 years, we took our first “real” camping trip to the Florida Keys over Labor Day, and it could not have gone better. The girls especially had a phenomenal time; they loved kayaking and camping in general. Our eldest even cried the morning we packed up because she didn’t want to leave.
Now I, the girl that was pushing for the RV to be sold and often lamented about how much she detested camping, runs our Social Media pages, films and edits all of our YouTube videos, and is currently hounding her friends with RVs to let her remodel them (when she’s not hounding her husband for a vintage trailer for the next project). She may even be trying to convince her husband to go full time, because she finally realizes and understands all of the wonderful benefits of this lifestyle and community.
So the most unexpected surprise for this family (or, at least one member of this family), is how much we would come to love and appreciate all of what camping is about and has to offer. I’m constantly reading stories of how camping is changing people’s lives, whether by allowing them to gain financial independence, become closer as a family, or spark curiosity and love of nature. We are now striving to emulate that, and provide our children with an amazing experience and memories that they will treasure, similar to the memories Tony has of his childhood camping trips. So thank you camping; you are one of my life’s most unexpected and best loved surprises.
Words and Photo Copyrighted to The Camping Costas