I have often been asked how I became a girl camper. Truth be told, I never camped in my youth.  I only bought my first bit of gear after I met my husband whose family owned a campground. My first camping experience was in a tent with my mother, a nephew and four nieces whose ages ranged from 5 to 11. It was the weekend from hell, not because I was in a tent, and it was pouring rain; rather that I was in it with my mother and five kids! The first night was spent reassuring my mom that we’d survive the weekend, as  she had everyone in a circle praying the rosary to ensure the nearby tree wouldn’t be struck by lightning, falling and crushing our tent, or an axe murderer wasn’t waiting in the woods to strike in the dark of night!

When my husband and I married, our honeymoon was camping down the coast and back up thru the smokies. The next two years after the campground was closed for the season, we camped across the country still in our “honeymoon suite”- (which was the back of a Toyota pickup!). 

Being in the campground industry for the last forty years, I’ve seen many types of camping groups during the season.  Our camp has hosted canvas campers, PWPs, scouts, church groups, even groups formed by make and model of their RVs.   What strikes me is the change in demographics over the past several years and how many of these are now women’s groups.  Intrigued after having one of these groups at our campground, I immediately went to the computer and consulted the Google guru. I was awestruck by these women, and if I am to be honest, a little envious of these ladies, who could gather together for a carefree jaunt without husbands, boyfriends, children, or pets.  Not that I had never traveled without husband or children myself, but I was impressed that here were so many others who did so on a regular basis and in such an organized fashion.  I felt an immediate kinship with these women of all ages, occupations, and personalities.  Some of them were meeting for the first time, though their exuberance and excitement at seeing each other gave the impression that they had known each other all their lives.    I saw these women’s groups as a community of fun-loving, independent women with arms open, waiting to embrace and empower a new family member.   Many of whom traveled in vintage trailers, tents and motorhomes decorated to reflect their own personalities, while others had not yet taken the plunge and rented cabins for the meetups.  I had my doubts about fitting in.  My husband and I had recently purchased a motorhome in the hope that we’d be able to sneak away a few times per year.   I considered myself a relative newbie to the camping scene and a bit of an introvert. I was quickly reassured that neither my RV or my inexperience would hinder the making of new friends and acceptance in the group.

The girl camper enthusiasm and ability to hook a potential member into their activities reminded me of the old Faberge shampoo commercials.  It starts with one user and they tell two friends who told two friends and so on.  The number of members in these combined women’s groups are overwhelming and have become a genuine influencer in the camping industry.  Although I never had the urge to buy Faberge shampoo, I was compelled to buy into this sisterly companionship.  Rather than living vicariously through their Facebook posts, I decided to become a member of this up and coming movement. 

Always looking for an excuse to get out of my duties at the campground, I signed up with lightning speed after meeting Girl Camper Guru, Janine Pettitt.  I relate to lightning more and more as I get older –as my mind produces an occasional brilliant flash before returning to a dark void of nothingness. And during a lymphomic hot flash, I not only rumble like thunder, I’m capable of vaporizing anyone or anything in my path just like lightning!  I almost glow, flushed with excitement at the idea of spending time with these fun-loving women from all walks of life.  

Now, after being a member of several camping groups of women, for many years, I have hosted and co-hosted many of my own meetups and enjoy the kinship this “sorority of campers” offers, encouraging any woman I meet to do the same.  The fictive kinship these women possess have supported me and many others through some pretty dark times. I became and remain a girl camper for these reasons and enjoy the opportunity to “pay it forward” to other women.

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