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Why You Should Meet Them at the Campground (Stephanie Puglisi)

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  • June 18, 2020

Stephanie Puglisi and her family want to make traveling a part of their lifestyle, but with twin infants, the idea of tent camping seemed kind of crazy and staying in hotels was just super stressful.


Enter: RVing. Stephanie and her husband Jeremy changed their entire lives by investing in an RV and making traveling, camping and spending time in nature just a part of who they are as individuals and as a family. 

 

If you’ve ever thought about taking up camping but just hate the idea of sleeping on the ground or in a tent, this one is for you. Listen to this episode for great tips on purchasing an RV and shaping your professional life to support your personal goals.

Some of the good stuff:

[2:00] Stephanie’s favorite outdoor space
[3:24] Stephanie’s childhood in the outdoors
[5:16] Stephanie’s life before the RV
[8:31] Life with twins
[11:24] On the road with kids
[13:24] Making camping work for you
[23:45] Pivoting your career to chase your dream
[28:09] The impact of the outdoors on Stephanie as a person
[30:37] Stephanie’s book
[37:22] Stephanie’s top tip for RV newbies
[41:12] Stephanie’s favorite and most essential outdoor gear
[43:27] Stephanie’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Mentioned in the show:

See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors

New Jersey

RV Family Atlas podcast and blog

REI Kingdom 8

Eagle Scout

State Park cabins

Snow cave camping

Olympic National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Denali National Park Road Lottery

Denali National Park

Acadia National Park

 

Favorite gear:
Jayco Eagle Travel Trailer (Jayco Eagle HT 264BHOK)

Most essential gear:
Good snacks and plenty of water. “Nothing is more of a gear fail than not having snacks and water for kids when you’re doing adventures with them.”

Affiliate links above.

 

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Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

 

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

 

Amy Bushatz: You’ve heard me talk about how choosing to embrace spending time outside every day changed my life. By now you probably also know that I think getting outside more often changes everybody’s life, including yours. So imagine my delight when I came across people who agree with me and have had the same transformative experience. For many folks, that life changing moment comes during a camping trip. And that’s certainly true for Stephanie Puglisi, author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, which she wrote with her husband Jeremy. Stephanie’s entire life was changed by the simple act of buying and consistently using an RV. 

 

Stephanie, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast. 

 

Stephanie Puglisi: Hi, Amy. Thanks so much for having me. 

 

AB: So we start all of our episodes by imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space, just sort of hanging out having some coffee or something. Where are we with you today? 

 

SP: You know, Amy, it’s very difficult for me to pick favorites. That’s something that is an ongoing problem in my life. But I have to say that my entire life, I was born, raised and still live less than a couple of minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is very special to me. My experiences have changed and grown over the past decade or so experiencing more types of outdoor places. But I think in my heart of hearts, I have to say that truly, if I want to find the most relaxing inner peace that I can, I will be on a beach somewhere.

 

AB: Perfect! Me too, so we can go there together. I’m actually from a beach in California. I grew up in Santa Cruz, California and so, the sand between your toes and hearing the waves and that smell. You know the one I’m talking about? 

 

SP: Yes, I do! And were you a big wave surfer there? 

 

AB: No, I’ve never surfed. I have never served a day in my life. I’ve never owned a surfboard, but I did body surf, which has the benefit of not having to haul a surfboard everywhere. You can just go for a walk and find yourself going for a swim. Nothing’s gonna stop you. 

 

SP: Absolutely. My little boys learn to bodysurf pretty young. It’s an early skill when you live at the beach. 

 

AB: Absolutely. So I don’t think my intro really did you any kind of justice because you’re not just an author or fan of the outdoor-focused lifestyle. You’re also a podcaster, and a blogger, and a speaker and basically an expert when it comes to traveling by RV. But you weren’t always those things. So my favorite thing to do on this podcast is to just explore how our lives have been really changed by spending time outside. So I’m hoping that first you can give me a window into who you were before you had such an outdoor-centric life.

 

SP: Yeah, gosh, that’s like such a big question. And I think in a way my entire life was preparing me to have a more official outdoor centric life. Because, you know, I hate the whole “back in my day,” right, like “back when I was young,” but my childhood was, in a way, radically different than a lot of childhood situations. My family was very low tech, even for the 80s, like there were many years when there was no TV in my house. We were in New Jersey in this coastal town, but we kind of lived in this really unique location that had a lot of wilderness in a rivery-oceany kind of sense. So there were just acres of reeds and kind of these open fields and marshes and swamps and kind of brackish water areas that were all acres surrounding our home. So, you know, I lived a life where we were not allowed to be inside during the day and we were just kicked outside to find enjoyment and entertainment until the streetlights went on, and then we went inside. So I wouldn’t have thought of my family as outdoorsy. We didn’t go camping that often. We didn’t go hiking. We didn’t go biking together. We didn’t really do activities together as a family. But I feel like somewhere deep inside, I had those seeds that were there, dormant and like ready to grow when decades later, Jeremy and I really just tried to find a different kind of lifestyle that would fulfill us in a way that some of the typical suburban family activities weren’t doing for us at the time.

 

AB: Some people really like going outside and some people not that much. But some people, like you and me, like, it’s so much that we build our whole lives around it now, you know, taking those sort of dormant seeds and making it into a thing. What did you do for work before RV became your lifestyle?

 

SP: So I was a teacher, and I was a teacher for just under 15 years before I, you know, quote, unquote, retired about five years ago. But so, the thing about teaching is that it gives you time and not necessarily a lot of income. So you have the time and you kind of figure out how you’re going to do that in a budget savvy way. Before we had kids, my husband and I did spend a lot of time outdoors in that free time, but it was mostly beach oriented. Like I said, we grew up at the beach. We would spend entire days, you’d you’d be surfing, you’d be kayaking, you know, like paddleboarding, very water centric activities hanging out on the beach, playing beach volleyball with your friends – very social outdoor activities. In our book we really talked about our twins being like a catalyst for change in our life when they came along. Because just a lot of the things that we enjoy doing, like relaxing outside or kayaking outside, when you suddenly have twin infants – they were born in May, so we had this summer ahead of us. And we honestly had such a difficult time figuring out what to do with ourselves. And then also there was the fact that our kids, they just from day one – I know that a lot of people probably won’t believe this – but from day one, my twin boys were just like, uncontainable indoors. I mean, in some of my earliest blog posts, when I started blogging just about trying to kind of have family adventures when they were little at the age of one year old is when I started kind of telling the story online a little bit. In the earliest days, I realized that when we were inside, when we were in, you know, in those four walls, the four of us now it’s five another little boy came along years later, but in my head would feel like it was just about to explode with their noise with their energy. It didn’t feel like a good fit. And then as a family, as soon as we stepped out doors, all of that like unbearable, quote unquote bad behavior suddenly became completely fun, and like endurable outside. Even their noise had a place to go, kind of expand, they could run. Even like when they were little babies, I just remember being outside, they would just watch you know, everything that was going on and be so much more content with all the sights and the sounds. So really within weeks of their birth, we became this family that just had to get outside in order to kind of function best – all of us together.

 

AB: I think anyone who has ever had twins or knows someone with twins can completely relate to the uncontainable, because I don’t think that twins are known as being super containable.

 

SP: It is a uniquely special situation. 

 

AB: You’re literally being double teamed by babies! That’s a challenge. So okay, so the second thing is that one of the things I loved in the beginning of your book is where you talk about, like just that. You don’t specifically address it as tenacity, but that’s exactly what it is. You just were dead set on making this work and not giving up. You know, you talk about trying to take your infants to the beach, which I think anyone who has tried to take an infant to a beach understands how highly unpleasant it is in experience, though good in theory, right?

 

SP: Yeah, it seems like it would be fun.

 

AB: Yeah, and same thing with taking babies to a hotel. Same thing with taking babies on a road trip. I mean, they sleep at home, why wouldn’t they sleep in the car? Fake news! I think that’s so relatable, but to be faced with each of those things and try again, anyway, is not something that everybody does, right? It’s easy, especially when you’re so sleep deprived with babies, to say — let’s put a pin in this and come back to it in say, three years.

 

SP: Oh my goodness, yes. I don’t even know what it was that drove us to keep trying. But it is the single most gratifying decision that I ever made because my older two are turning 11 in a couple weeks, so we’re over a decade past this, you know, initial experience of this transformative family life. And I have to say, we would never have gotten where we are today if we hadn’t trained them so young. So some people say to us — we’re gonna wait to do these things. We’re gonna wait to bring our kids hiking, we’re gonna wait to bring our kids, you know, kayaking, or rafting. Like it always seems like it’ll be easier when they get to a more manageable age. But we were just not giving up on this. And our kids are like road warriors, because just from day one, we were taking them all over the place. So yeah, they were crying their heads off in the car on that first road trip. But 10 years later, our kids can go for 10 hours in a car and it’s not a big deal. Like, everybody stays alive.

 

AB: You and I did not grow up with DVD players in the van, right? We grew up maybe even riding backwards in the back of that station wagon, you know? We take our kids out, and there’s sort of a cultural expectation of needing to entertain your kid in the car, but I remember doing these long road trips with my parents and they’re like — read a book, kid; do the ad lib. Like that’s the entertainment. The end. Maybe it’s a book on literal tape, right? Um, no DVD in the car, right? And yet, we sort of have this expectation that we can’t last without that. But I do think it’s a muscle, right? Like you learn to deal with what you have.

 

SP: There’s a chapter in the book on this and I want to be super clear that I’m not trying to be judgy, because if what it takes to make your family work is to put a DVD in, by all means, like I’m the last person that’s going to give you shade for that. Let’s all make it work for ourselves. But at the same time, I do think that me having sort of a belligerent like, need not to do that early on did create that like muscle, you know, strength for my kids. They can go a long time in the car without entertainment. And it’s not because they’re special kids. They’re not, it’s just because we’d never had a car with the DVD player in it. I didn’t think to buy the DVD player for them. I don’t know, I really had a lot of hang ups about screen time when they were little, and I was just like, determined and stubborn about it. And then you do see that years later, it wasn’t easy, but I kind of think it was worth it. And they’re just able to entertain themselves in an entirely different way when they’re 10 at the campground without entertainment because we ‘ve just been doing it all their lives.

 

AB: Yeah, absolutely. To your point about, you know, doing whatever works for your family, you could say the same thing about people who want to tent camp versus RV, right? You know, I’m sure you’ve heard it that somehow if you choose to, you know, I have the Taj Mahal of tents, which is what we call our tent because we have the REI Kingdom 8. It is the Taj Mahal of tents. It’s just so humongous that there’s really no other way to describe it. And it’s like a one bedroom apartment, but you know, with the tent. We could easily say like — Oh, look at those people being all fancy and too comfortable in their RV. Like somehow we get a reward for being uncomfortable, which , by the way I’ve yet to see received this award.

 

SP: Oh, that’s really common. This sort of purist mentality about being outdoors. That didn’t work for me, but probably largely because of my experience as a child. My father was an Eagle Scout and when we went camping, he would, and I’m not exaggerating this, there were times when he would throw out a rope and a tarp and we had to make our own tent. Like we had those really heavy canvas eight man army tents that we used at times, where if you touch the side, the water would just come pouring in. We camped in really extremely bad conditions because — you don’t cancel a camping trip, you just make sure you put that tent up high on a hill and dig a moat. I roughed it as a child to an extent I felt like, why was that fun? And when I was an adult, I was like yeah, I’m not gonna torture myself for some sort of badge that you don’t ever get, like you said. So yeah, for me it was like — where’s the balance of getting what I need out of being outdoors and traveling and having adventures with my family, but also remaining relatively comfortable so that I love them at the end of the trip.

 

AB: Exactly. Exactly. And if somebody, by the way, who’s listening to this has my reward for being uncomfortable, I would like you to send it to me and I would be willing to give you my address if you just want to send me an email, okay?

 

SP: And there’s other types of discomfort that I think I do push on myself like, you know, I’m always pushing our family every year to be like — okay, now the kids are all this age. What is the kind of most stretch of an adventure we can have that will kind of bring us all to the edge, but make us feel super accomplished? I can’t sustain certain discomfort over too long of a period of time because like I said, my life with three boys within three years of each other is uncomfortable enough.

 

AB: Yeah, no kidding. I think the other thing is, is that you can learn how to enjoy all of the different varieties of this, so there’s no moral imperative of using a tent wrong, versus using an RV, or a pop up trailer or whatever.

 

SP: Or a cabin! That’s something that we really encourage people about, like some people feel like they have to put their life on hold if they don’t have the right equipment. But just you know, the state and national parks all across this country have amazing cabins for rent and you can have just as great of an outdoor getaway experience over a weekend with your kids at a cabin at a state park as you can in an RV.

 

AB: Absolutely. And in fact here in Alaska, we have public use cabins in our state parks, as you mentioned, and I had never been to one, and I had a guest on the podcast who suggested that that was something that was underused. And I thought to myself — yeah, Amy, you’ve never done that. And so we did. We went and rented a cabin. And guess what, we were able to go camping at a time of year that I’m unwilling to camp in a tent. Even though my husband keeps trying to convince me that winter camping in a snow cave is where it’s at.

 

SP: We have friends that did that one winter. I was like — Wow, you’re really amazing. We’ve camped in single digit temperatures, which I know is no big deal for someone like you, but for us, we camped in single digit temperatures in our RV which is amazing to just be so nice and toasty and comfy in super cold weather. So I kind of love that.

 

AB: No, absolutely. And you know, as soon as we got home from that public use cabin adventure, we booked another one. I actually have on my calendar now to the six month mark that I can book out a cabin for next winter, maybe a more popular weekend, because I want to keep experiencing this. And I was able to spend more time outside, or being unplugged, or you know, all those things I love about going outside thanks to that public use cabin that I hadn’t experienced before, at a time of year I normally wouldn’t be able to get that. And also – PS, was still warm. So I feel like I was winning on like multiple fronts that I hadn’t discovered before. So I totally hear what you’re saying. 

 

But I think that by utilizing these different things and admitting that nobody wins a prize for being the most uncomfortable, you can also learn to like all of them in their own way. So just because you like to camp in an RV on the regular does not mean that you can’t go backpacking one weekend each summer to haul in your stuff three miles of a trail on your back and then doing a tent that night. It’s not like you have to sign an agreement that says — I’m only ever going to do this one thing.

 

SP: Yeah. It’s funny because people do that; you definitely have your finger on the pulse there because people get very, like territorial about their thing. And it took us a while to break free from that. We bought our pop up camper, and we loved it so much that it felt like that was our thing, right? Like, that was how we camped. We camped in our pop up camper. And years later after that, I would really want it to go to the Pacific Northwest. But there was no way I wanted to drag our RV all the way across the country from New Jersey to the Pacific Northwest to experience Olympic National Park with the kids and everything. And I said to Jerry, I want to fly out there and I want to stay in cabins all over Washington and Oregon and down into the redwoods of California. And at first it was horrifying to him, like you know how are we not going to have our RV? We went out there for three weeks. We stayed in cabins all over Crater Lake National Park, Redwoods, Olympic, the dunes in Oregon. And that vacation is like his all time favorite family vacation and we didn’t have the RV. We were in cabins the whole time and also a couple of glamping tents and everything. It was amazing. It was phenomenal. Our kids talk about it still all the time years later.

 

AB: I love hearing that because I enjoyed the part of the book where you talk about you know, choosing to use the cabins and how to do that, but it did not have that level of detail with sort of the internal turmoil about that. That’s a great insight though because it again adds this thought that you know, you don’t have to like pick one. You can enjoy multiple things. 

 

So the only time we’ve done an RV, we rented a little pod trailer from our local military base. We had won Denali Road lottery tickets. So for those who don’t know, the National Park does a lottery system for very highly desirable entrances. And one of those is for driving the Denali Road. The Denali Road goes through Denali National Park and through the rest of the season it is actually closed to personal traffic. So you can drive up a few miles up the road and then there’s a bus system that runs the length of the road. But once a year they open the road to lottery tickets and you can drive the length of the road and it is just a breathtaking, incredible experience. It’s like a road trip in a day where you pass through just all sorts of topography. I had like Copeland’s folk songs playing in my mind the whole time with the mountains. It was just so mind boggling, but it’s not at the nicest time of year for that area in terms of warmth. The temperature can go into the teens. And so we knew we wanted to camp but we did not, well, my husband did, but I did not want to camp or even risk camping in 16 degrees. And so we rented this little tow trailer and we towed it up there. And we had our first ever, you know, trailer camping experience, and it was great. And guess what, it totally got to 12 degrees. 

 

SP: And you were warm. 

 

AB: I was warm. It was incredible. You know, it made us look into buying one of those and it was just such a good experience. So you know, you just really have to, like we’ve been saying this whole time, you really just have to pivot to the right thing. 

 

I do want to talk to you a little bit about this jump to your new career from education because now you do sort of RV and RV lifestyle and the book and speaking and all this stuff as a full time job. And it’s like, as far as I’m concerned, if you’re focusing on the outdoors full time you’re literally living the dream. What do you say to people who say to you that they wish they could do that, but they don’t know how to pivot their career to focusing on maybe being outside or on something they love like that.

 

SP: A lot of people jump full force into a new career, but we spent years really building up our, what is commonly called a side hustle right now, but it was more common at the time to just be a freelancer, right? So I was an English teacher, a high school English teacher starting out, I moved around to lower grade levels. But ultimately I was a writer. And even though I was teaching, I still maintained more of a freelancing kind of side hustle, right? Like you build relationships with different publications. And as we started to RV and camp with our kids, this was so many years ago when Blogspot was a thing. I was just doing a little Blogspot kind of just like a journal, you know, when you’re going to share with friends and family because it was so odd what we were doing. It wasn’t like we had all these friends that camped or had an RV. And so as we were doing that, we actually started to get a lot of requests for freelance writing from some larger industry partners. Like Progressive Insurance called us one day, you know, they were like — we really need RVing content on our blog. Would you guys be our bloggers for that? So one of the tips that I would give people is to really do your absolute best work even when you think that nobody is watching. We operated like we were putting out professional, paid content, even when we weren’t making any money off of our blog. And in fact, that’s how we got our first book  – it was The Idiot’s Guide to RV Vacations published by Penguin Random House. That was a cold call to us. We actually got an email from the editor of Penguin Random House asking us if we would be interested in writing The Idiot’s Guide to RV Vacations. It was such an absurd email that I Googled and LinkedIn searched her name because I thought it was a scam. I was like — who writes this? But sure enough, she was an editor at Penguin Random House. 

 

But I think that, honestly, when I look back, I don’t think that those things were a mistake, right? I could keep listing people that just reached out to us that asked us for content. Now, we also went out and we, you know, made partnerships too. But for the most part, we did build our business with people. Cabela’s just reached out to us, because we were consistently acting like our dream client was engaging with our content, even when we weren’t being paid for it and it was being put up for free. 

 

So, you know, I don’t have the answer for everybody. But I do know that for us, it really worked as an investment strategy that way.

 

AB: Well, what I hear you saying is like to take the leap, you know, like, just do the thing anyway. Even if it’s a little bit scary and it’s not necessarily the thing you’re going to do full time for now.

 

SP: Right, because we were doing what we needed to do to have that expertise, right? So we treated our travel like we were outdoors with our kids, we were having these new adventures with them, we were hiking with them, and we’re doing all these things. And we were writing about it. So we were living the same lifestyle and a lot of ways then. In fact, we were living more of the dream then because the secret that nobody wants to talk about is once you get so busy, you actually do less of the fun stuff. 

 

AB: So true. 

 

SP: So we really did live that lifestyle, we embraced it. One of the words that has guided us through our entire journey through this is ‘authentic,’ you know, we 100% always put out an authentic product, we talk authentically about our own experiences. We don’t pretend to be experts about anything we’re not – we bring on experts if we want to learn more. You know, we want to be the most authentic version of a content creator that’s possible to be out there.

 

AB: How do you think spending all of this time outside and doing this has changed you as a person?

 

SP: I think that I appreciate myself in relation to the universe more. My role as being this little itty bitty, and this might sound uninspiring, but for me, it’s really inspiring. Like, every time I’m outside, I get outside of myself, like, the world is so much larger than me. There’s so much more beauty out there. And it feels like the modern world – in a way, this inside world, this screen world – can shrink us, right? We’re small and we’re only about our little pictures and our little tiles on our little Instagram account. And like all that matters is this feed, that’s reloading media, on our social media. We get hyper focused on all of those little things, the schedule, the activities, the meal planning, what’s for dinner, we are very busy people. And every single time we spend more time outside is a reminder that all of that stuff is extremely unimportant in the grand scheme of things, right? It’s just like a little blip, and it’s gonna be gone. So stop, pause and really soak in the bigger picture, right? That’s so much bigger than us and our schedule for the day. So the outdoors just helps center me in a way where I feel like our modern world is constantly trying to uncenter me, like knock me around and tell me what to think about it, and tell me what to be outraged about. And it just kind of helps me focus – usually like one foot in front of the other, maybe on a hike I’ll focus on my kids in front of me and what I want for them and my real dreams for their future and what our values are as a family. Those kinds of things. For some reason, I can’t really explain it, but that all crystallizes when I’m in the outdoors.

AB: I can’t say I disagree. Thanks.

 

So I do want to talk about your new book, which is really packed, as you mentioned, with tips and tricks on becoming a camping centric family or person, including all the needs to know about RVing and camping and how to choose an RV or even know if an RV is what you want, packing it, all sorts of useful and practical stuff. So reading it, by the way, felt like I was hanging out chatting with somebody about my most favorite subject ever. Is that how it felt writing it?

 

SP: We are incredibly proud of this book just because yes, it feels, like I said before, like the word authentic has always been really important to us. And this book does sort of feel like if we could boil down everything that we ever wanted to talk about with our friends who are like — Oh, so you do this RV thing. Tell us about it. Like it felt like a campfire book to write, you know, like what we would talk about sitting around the campfire with people. In retrospect, we’re just so happy with how it came out. It felt like it was everything that we wanted it to be. It feels fun, it feels real. It feels like it could be helpful to people, which is all we ever wanted to do with our books – to just inspire people to maybe do a little bit of a switch flip and shake things up a little bit and get outside with their family.

 

AB: Yeah, absolutely. Camping up here in Alaska is very different from some of the parks you described, because relatively few campgrounds have full hookups for RVs or tent camping next to an RV. Even where there is sort of that mixture, it’s there because there are no full hookups. Camping next to an RV for a tent camper like myself, means listening to generators quite a lot of the time. We do try not to do that but, I gotta say after reading it, the RV is a very tempting thing, because man, do those people look warm and comfortable when I see them.

 

SP: It is! When our agent was pitching the book to publishers, this was actually titled something different. And it was much more RV centric. And when we ended up going with the publishing house that we did, with source books, and we were working with our editor, you know, she really clarified for us that so much of our experience is actually about the campground, right, not the RV. And that’s been true for us, especially over the last five years, as we’ve moved away from just traveling in our personal RV. And so we really embrace that with this book. And so yes, we love our RV and it’s true that you’re probably going to walk away from this book knowing that, but we also did want to say, you know, circling back to our point early on, like, we actually think the magic is in the campground, however you choose to enjoy that with your family.

 

AB: Boy, did I resonate with your descriptions of the varying levels of cleanliness with campground bathrooms, it does take a little bit of experience. So just like a little bit of background on my story, I had camped maybe three days in my life, okay, prior to getting married, and then my dearly beloved decided he wanted to take me camping and it was the day that I found out that I was pregnant with our son. So if you’ve ever found out that you’re pregnant with somebody, you’re probably full of emotions that are varied and sundry. Many of them are happy. Some of them are scared. They’re all hormonal. So to say I was not in the best place ever is something of an understatement. I was really happy to be pregnant. I just didn’t know how I felt in general. And so he takes me camping in his one man tent that he has decided is a two man tent in this instance, categorically not a two man tent, by the way. 

 

SP: So romantic. 

 

AB: So romantic. That was his thought. And it was hot. We were in Washington State and it was just a very warm Washington State day. He took us camping to what I’m going to go ahead and call Mosquito Central. And it just wasn’t a pleasant experience at all, and I was so angry at him, just in general, but also about that. And I said — I’m never doing this again. 

 

So fast forward a bunch of years. We have a son who sounds like he could be one of your twins in terms of the non-containability and I can’t even imagine having two of him, by the way, because the Lord knows that would be too much to handle. But he is exactly who you described, like he cannot be contained in four walls, he must be led outside and then things make more sense. And we went to REI and we bought all the camping things because I was like — okay, like it’s time, we’ve got to do this thing. I actually have a picture of us sitting in the back of a car, and you describe this moment in your book, full of hopes and dreams, buying your pop up trailer and I read that I just had like — Yes, I have had that moment. It was in REI and it involved spending a lot of money and we became camping people, but that was a learning curve for me like I had never really had before. I didn’t know what I was doing or where we were going or what it would look like or what to expect. You know, I thought — if there’s no flushing toilet, I want nothing to do with it. PS guys, just because the toilet flushes doesn’t mean it’s good. Okay, right?

 

SP: Yeah, yeah.

 

We went through all that with our first pop up. I mean, I thought it had all the bells and whistles, but once you got to the campground, really — oh no, you still have to go into that bath house and that bath house is creepy.

 

AB: Creepy, and your description of the spiders – and people who listen to this podcast know that I am not with the spiders. Like, I think it’s just like one line in your book and I had like this flashback and I was panicking.

 

SP: Okay, I probably don’t even know what I said in the book, but I’m sure the memory of me like keeping an eye on this spider in the corner while I showered in ingrained in my muscle memory. My whole body just shivers.

 

AB: Yeah, so totally. I hear that. I guess my point is that your book is full of all sorts of tips and tricks, and I don’t want you to give away the farm here, and I definitely think if anyone’s listening to this and are considering becoming camping people – which I think you’ve gotten the message over the course of this podcast, guys, that is what I think you should do. Strong endorsement. Okay. So I want the basics from you because I am not an RV person, right? I can give people the basics on learning to be tent people all day and all night. But if someone is trying to buy an RV or determining if that’s right for them, what’s your top advice? Big? Little? Trailer? ?amper van? Full RV? What do you got?

 

SP: Yeah, so my top advice is don’t buy anything, go out there and rent, right? So this is something that’s really changed a lot over the last 10 years. The rental landscape was not like it is today when we first bought, and so people are super lucky. Right now there’s all of these peer to peer RV rental companies out there. It’s like Airbnb, but for RVs. So there’s places like RVShare.com, Outdoorsy, and you can go on there and you can just search near you for any kind of RV that you might want to test out. And now we caution in the book and we give you some tips in the book for like a first time RV rental and things to be careful about, because one of the things that you should know is that you’re not going to have the same experience renting an RV as you would if it was your own RV, because the RV learning curve is steep, right? Like it’s a house on wheels. You have to figure it out. But it’s similar to camping that way. When you think about your first camping trip, it was probably miserable because you didn’t know what you needed. You were under packed or underprepared and everything.

 

AB: It was more like grossly over packed but still underprepared.

 

SP: Right, underprepared because you brought all the wrong things!

 

AB: Right, like it’s like some sort of weird situation where we had everything in the world, but also nothing.

 

SP: It’s like that with tent camping and I think that that’s true of RVing, too. The longer you do it, the more fun it is for sure because you get so used to the whole work, right? Like the whole prepping and driving that all of that isn’t a big deal anymore, you can just enjoy the fun. So I do make that, you know, one clarification with renting is that you can’t expect like your first time out renting an RV, for there not to be maybe some hiccups or some learning curves for you. But at the same time, I think that you could rent a lot. Sometimes people go like — oh, the price tag. But let me tell you something, it is cheaper than buying an RV that you don’t like or that you don’t end up using. So just say like — are you going to use it? Spend a year, you know, just saying — if we were going to give ourselves this budget, how often could we rent an RV and how many trips could be taken? What kind of RV would we want to try out and really dive in and go for it and see if you like the experience at the campground, right? See if you like the process of finding those places that you know to go to and spending that time there having adventures and kind of like, try it in for size. A lot of people buy the wrong RV for their first RV because it’s so hard when you haven’t done it before to figure out what’s gonna work for you. So this is a really nice way to avoid that mistake. I mean, we certainly did it, we bought the wrong RV. We had that pop up, and we loved what we were doing with it. But because we were taking such long trips and stopping and setting up and breaking down the next day to go on, a pop up was like a terrible, terrible fit for us. And we quickly, a year later, upgraded to a travel trailer and of course lost a lot of money in the process.

AB: Yeah, but you figured it out. And now you know, and now you get to share your experiences with us and we are so grateful. I could actually talk to you for you know, the rest of the day, but people may not want to listen to that.

 

SP: I don’t know how long the kids can stay quiet. 

 

AB: That’s true! They’re doing great. 

 

So, let’s go ahead and move on to what I’m sorry to report is the end of our podcast. But these are just some little things that I like to know. So I call it our little leftovers. I want to know what your favorite gear is.

 

SP: Alright. So, gosh, when I saw this question ahead of time, I thought — well, that’s easy. I’m going to say my RV. Does that count? 

 

AB: It can totally count. 

 

SP: Okay, because like honestly, that is my favorite piece of gear. It just means that we are just always ready to go somewhere fun with the kids and it makes it so easy for us. I just feel like it’s in our driveway, packed and ready to go and we can just head out at any time. So it’s my favorite piece of gear.

 

AB: You’re gonna have to tell us what kind it is.

 

SP: Oh, okay, so we have a Jayco Eagle HT64BHOK.

 

AB: Okay.

 

SP: It is a Jayco Eagle Travel Trailer.

 

AB: Yeah. Cool. Alright. So what’s your most essential gear?

 

SP: Food and water? So here’s the thing: snacks, right? Like, if you want to be outdoors with kids, I’m telling you like, I’ve been in a lot of pinches. Maybe I didn’t have the right waterproof hiking shoes on a trail that had a lot of water or like the backpack or whatever. Like I’ve had gear fails before and I’m telling you, nothing is more of a gear fail than not having food and snacks and water for kids when you’re doing adventures with them. It ruins everything. 

 

AB: If that’s not the realest. Behold the number of things rescued by pb&j. I’m just saying, guys.

 

SP: Right? It’s everything. Like, I’m telling you, a bad situation always involves somebody that’s hungry, right? 

 

AB: So true. Usually it’s me!

 

SP: I agree, Amy. I’m a hangry kind of person too. So I identify with my kids if they’re like, melting down. So we’re super big fans of making sure that we’re always prepared with snacks whenever we’re requiring any adventure from them.

 

AB: So, so wise. Alright. Last question. If you had to close your eyes, and picture your most favorite outdoor moment ever, where are you and what are you doing?

 

SP: I am definitely on the Great Head Trail in Acadia National Park with a little two year old on my back. It was one of the biggest moments of my life when we took that first, I guess he wasn’t two yet. He wasn’t that old, but we packed up that pop up camper and we took a 15 day camping trip up in Acadia National Park and that was the first time, you know, we put those kids in hiking carriers and we had these amazing days. A switch went off in me when I was standing at the top of, you know, Great Head Mountain and I’m looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. You know, Acadia National Park is in Maine where the mountains meet the sea. It’s just one of the most beautiful places in the world to be. I just can be there in that moment thinking — I am a mom and I can still have fun and have amazing adventures. That’s not like a made up memory, like those thoughts went through my head when I was standing there. So it’s a really important moment in my life.

 

AB: It’s incredible. Where can people follow you?

 

SP: Our website is theRVAtlas.com and that’s where we publish all of our podcasts. You can find our podcasts anywhere that you listen to your podcasts. You can tell Alexa to play it for you or you, can find it on iTunes, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And then on Facebook we’re The RV Atlas. I’ll say that we have what we call a friendly Facebook group. We’re really crazy about keeping it kind and helpful. So you get booted if you’re like, not kind in our Facebook group. So if you have questions about RVing, right, like if you’re a newbie, if you’re thinking about it, it’s a really like, nice place to just ask questions and to get actually helpful replies from nice people. So that’s the RV Atlas Facebook group, and you’re welcome to join us over there. And then on Instagram, we’re @JeremyandStephanie.

 

AB: Awesome, thank you so much for being on the Humans Outside Podcast today.

SP: Amy, I really appreciate you having me. Thank you.

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