Location: Hattiesburg, MS

This past weekend, I went camping without Jay for the first time since we bought the camper. I’ve driven it plenty, but this was the first time for me to really take her out without solid backup.

The kids and I loaded up and headed down to Paul B Johnson State Park, just outside of Hattiesburg, MS. My mom joined us the first night, and then it was just me and the kids from Saturday until Sunday afternoon.

I must have looked a little lost when we first arrived, because a staff member called out, “Would you like to follow me to the campsite?” The sun was quickly setting, and I had no idea where to go, so I eagerly accepted her offer.

paul b johnson state park sunset traveling camping with kids women who travel

After following her around some winding roads for what felt like an eternity, I was extra thankful that she’d stopped by. Finally, we got to the site. A pull-through, because I don’t hate myself enough to try and back a 30′ trailer into anything. Not yet.

My brain was fried, and I couldn’t remember any part of how to set up the camper. Nada. At that point, my plan was to hook up the electricity and call it a night. Instead, my campsite was right next to a retiree and his wife. He was outside hanging out with their dogs, and he offered to help. I didn’t fully unhook the truck, but he did help with setting up a few preliminary steps. We got the water and electricity set up, the blocks put down, and the stabilizers lowered. That was enough for me for the night.

The next day, my mom and I unhooked the truck completely and wrote down the steps.

We actually missed a few steps and had to go back, redo some things, etc. We were probably quite a sight, but she called her husband and he gave us the missing piece to the puzzle – one of the pieces wouldn’t click down on the ball. I don’t know the names of these pieces yet, so I’m not even going to attempt that. Latch? I don’t know.

paul b johnson state park sunset traveling camping with kids women who travelWe had a great time over the weekend, though. I went on a social media break the day before we left, so I enjoyed being fully present. We played chess, Chinese checkers, and the Game of Life. The kids ran around playing on the playground, the splash pad, the lake, and anywhere else they could go that would keep them within eyesight.

Interestingly (to me), I got a few comments about how rare it was to see a woman to pull a camper.

Of course not all women, there are lots of women who pull RVs and women truckers and all sorts of women who do this. But there is enough of a discrepancy to cause comments from more than one person over the weekend, so my brain is trying to find the puzzle piece.

I will say this – it was nerve-wracking, and I am not going to sit here and act like a badass. I pulled into the wrong parking lot trying to find the beach area, and if a sweet lady hadn’t seen me struggling to turn my massive trailer around, I’d probably still be there. She moved her car, and helped direct me into a different path so I could turn around. Whew!

I’d promised the kids a trip to the lake on the way out of the campground, so they got a trip to the lake.

Hitching that truck back up to the camper all by myself felt great.

I knew I was going to have to do it, and I was determined to do it without any help. Not because I refuse help, but I really wanted to be able to do this on my own in case I ever have to do it on my own in another situation.

When it was time to leave, I mentally talked to myself the whole time. Cheesy as it sounds, it took a boatload of positive self-talk to get that camper hooked up.

“You can do this. There is no reason that you can’t. Ok, slow down. Back up a step. UGH, why won’t this thing come loose? Oh, you missed that step. Back it up. Slow down. Click that into place. Crap, now that thing fell down. Sigh. Wipe your sweat, get a drink of water, get back to work. You’re capable. You can do this.”

“Mom, why don’t you go ask somebody for help?” Reagan (my 11 year old) asked when it was taking longer than she expected.

“Because sweetie, I’m stubborn. I won’t learn if I don’t make myself do this, and I really need to learn. But I will ask for help if I hit a real dead-end, don’t worry.”

Well, I didn’t hit any real dead-ends. I did hit some frustration, a lot of sweat, and minor mistakes that veteran travelers would probably laugh at, but it’s ok. I made it. And the lesson I learned was – I am capable. No more learned helplessness for this girl.

If you are nervous about hitching up your camper alone, here are a few tips from a fellow newbie:

Watch somebody else do it first, and record the whole process.

I didn’t have a video recording, but we did have a written step-by-step. In hindsight, a video recording would have been fantastic. Whether it’s your significant other, a friend, relative, or a stranger, somebody can help with the initial setup and takedown. Record every step.

Of course, I’m sure there are tons of videos and resources on the internet for this, and I’m all about using Google to get stuff done. In this case though, I wanted to know how to specifically hitch my camper up, and it might be different. Maybe it’s not, but it felt more accurate for me to just stick with watching mine.

This past weekend, I went camping without my husband for the first time since we bought the camper.

Stay positive.

Maybe I’m the minority in this, but my brain can quickly flip to “!@#$ this!” as soon as things don’t go my way. In this case, I didn’t really have any option. If I gave up, we just weren’t going to get home.

Throwing up my hands and sulking wasn’t going to do any good, so I forced myself to keep thinking of it as a learning experience. It really helped at a crucial point when I would have otherwise given up. I took a deep breath, went back through the checklist, and found what I’d missed. I didn’t throw a fit.

Now, I realize I’m not 5, and as such I shouldn’t throw fits anyway. But don’t judge me, ok?

Get to know some of your neighbors.

And I guess that brings in a bonus tip: don’t camp in the middle of nowhere without any neighbors on your first go-round, if you can help it.

When we got to the campground, I quickly met a very capable person who could help if I needed it. Over the weekend, I met a few other families and let them know that I would be attempting to hook up the truck all by myself. They were willing to help if needed, which I appreciated and kept in mind for sure. I am not too stubborn to ask for help when I do need it!

Go slowly and double-check everything.

It took probably half an hour for me to hook the truck up. I know that’s probably a crazy long time, or maybe not, I don’t have any real frame of reference. Jay is a lot faster at it, that’s all I do know. I left myself a lot of time to work on this, though. I love Serenity too much to risk driving off without her being fully secured!

Just do it!

That’s all it boils down to, isn’t it? You don’t learn and get better unless you do it, and I intend to get to a point that I can hitch and unhitch the trailer in the dark if I need to. You can, too!

This nature trail was our last stop on the way out of the park. We wandered for a bit, and then hit the road. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend, and we will definitely camp there again. Maybe with Jay next time. Fingers crossed.

What would you add to this list?

I stayed away from specific mechanics (click this, latch that), but I will get into those steps on another post. I’d love to hear any and all tips in the comments, though!

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