How our family discovered the joy of camping, a COVID silver lining

When life came to a screeching halt in March of 2020, it was like everything around me was suddenly moving in slow motion. Life before quarantine was like running on a treadmill at 8.0, every week a revolving door of hectic work days, chaotic dinner, bath time and bed time routines, punctuated with over booked weekend commitments and endless pending house projects and to do lists. Honestly when they told me we all had to stay home, I was so relieved. 

When quarantine happened I decided to really lean in - I set up a TikTok account, wore sweats on repeat, and binge-watched Tiger King. I had not seen my husband for this many consecutive days since 2006 or spent this much one-on-one time with our children in their entire lifetime.

Prior to March the House of Noa had been experiencing increasing success and there had been a lot of swirling conversations at home about how my husband and I would continue to manage our demanding work schedules, two small children and living life at what felt like an ever increasing pace. There were talks of needing more. More childcare so we could spend more time at the office. More space so we could possibly hire a live-in nanny. 

While in quarantine, life was so incredibly different and though bittersweet because of the circumstances of what was going on in the world, daily life was unlike anything we had ever known - a bubble of pure unadulterated family time.

When things started slowly reopening I resumed regularly scheduled mom tasks like taking our Subaru to the dealer for service. I was waiting for someone to pull our car around when the service guy asked if we were using our Ascent Touring to tow anything. Tow anything? What in the world was he talking about? I chose the Ascent for the third row, luxury leather interior and serious mom features like cooling seats. We struck up a conversation about how he and his partner love to use their “5th wheel” to go camping. What the heck is a fifth wheel? I took out my iPhone and started googling. Within minutes I had called my husband to inform him that a COVID friendly vacation could be achieved… if only we had a camper. Silence… “we can talk about it when you get home” …yes, I was literally still standing in the dealership when I made the call.

I grew up going to summer camp in Maine but I don’t think anyone would peg me as a “camping” kind of girl. Our most recent vacation (pre-COVID) had been to Rome and Positano so let’s just say we’ve been fortunate to enjoy some of the finer things in life. Sure camping wasn’t an obvious fit but I learned during my rapid fire googling that those adorable Airstream campers were actually still being manufactured and you could buy a brand new one, being marketed as a ‘hotel room on wheels’ - I was sold. Quarantine had taught me that being cooped up in the house with our nuclear family was actually something we enjoyed very much and now we could take our show on the road.

Actually getting a camper was no easy feat. Apparently a lot of people have had this same “ah-ha moment” during COVID and finding an available Airstream was close to impossible but that’s another story for another day. It was finally time for our inaugural trip - one glorious week in Maine. We arrived at Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport and were ready to begin enjoying the wilderness. When I first spotted the camp site we had booked, I was confused. There was another family about 30 feet away… and another family about another 30 feet away from them. “This is too crowded” I thought. We began unpacking our gear and the kids started climbing on a small boulder near our site “get down from there! It’s dangerous!” Maybe I had made a mistake. How was I going to keep the kids tame, enjoy the outdoors and have a relaxing vacation? The buyers remorse started to set in. Suddenly, I hear thunder in the distance. Oh G-d. What have I done? This was all a mistake. Then the final straw, a mosquito took a large portion of my thigh for its dinner - that’s it, I’m already so over this.

I reached for the bug spray and started to mist the kids from head to toe. And then it hit me, the smell of bug spray. I had not smelled bug spray in close to 25 years but the aroma went straight to my head and I was instantly transported back in time to my 13 year old self, Liz Alpert (my maiden name). Liz Alpert loved every thing about summer camp in fact it was her favorite thing in life.  She had the most insane unibrow, twiggy legs with knobby knees, and an unprecedented amount of orthodontic appliances - but 13 year old Liz Alpert was the most self-assured, enthusiastic, creative weirdo and the best part is that she gave zero sh*ts. Liz Alpert was a very very happy camper. 

When Liz Alpert showed up and found ultra type-A, wound up too tight Elizabeth Granados, she was horrified. How in the world could I have been so blind as to how unbelievably fantastic this camping adventure truly was? In that moment I started to see all of the wonder of camping thru my children’s eyes and the eyes of my own inner child. Day turned to night, our friends arrived with their children. We grilled veggie kabobs, played Jenga, and gathered sticks for the campfire and it was pure magic. With all of the distractions of home so far behind us, we could be even closer than we had been in quarantine and I knew in my heart that this would be the first of many many camping adventures to come.

With the cold weather now approaching in the Northeast and camping season finally over, I have had the time to reflect on the joys our family has discovered thru camping. This experience has helped me realized how few material things our family really needs to be happy. All these years my husband and I have been working our asses off to provide more and more and more but what we really needed is less. Camping has helped us to find more joy in life's simplest pleasures - from playing Jenga or card games to going for a family hike or walk. And it has served as a glaring reminder that no matter how weird the world can feel some days, that when we have each other, we truly have it all. 

Sending love to you and your family.