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By Latasha Dunston, Jitterbug Art Studio

My friends and I had never done a week-long camping trip before, but when I suggested it, I was pleasantly surprised that they were up for the challenge. I am learning as I get older that it is important to face fears and try new things in order to grow. My friends and I grew up in the inner city with not a lot of access to the outdoors and are what you’d consider camping beginners. We chose an Escape campervan because they really ease the experience and offer great camping for beginners. There’s a great bed, a kitchen in the back, and running water. Perfect for beginning campers.

We took a camper van from Denver around the four corner states in order to see as many beautiful sights and waterfalls as we could. We drove over 2,300 miles in 8 days! A huge task but you have to go big or go home.

Picking up the keys to our Big Sur campervan rental at Escape's Denver depot.

A Road Trip with Purpose

This campervan road trip changed us in ways we didn’t see coming. We became more patient, open-minded and aware of the world around us. As we drove through multiple Native American reservations to reach national forests to hike, I became overwhelmed with gratitude to the original stewards of the land. The Navajo nation is what inspired me to plan this trip. Did you know that almost 40% of the Navajo reservation doesn’t have access to clean running water? I don’t think that it is okay. I painted beautiful scenes to be sold and the sales donated to the nonprofit Dig Deep. Dig Deep is installing plumbing and water to the people in need and I thought I could use my art to help.

Waterfall Watercolor Painting

A painting of a waterfall I did to help benefit the nonprofit Dig Deep.

The Daily Camping Beginners Routine

Each morning, we would start our day with a quick breakfast and then hit the road. We would drive 4 to 5 hours chatting about different topics, swapping through playlists, and sometimes just sitting in silence. Most days we would hike. Distances would vary but the challenge was always the same: make it to the end.

Every single hike we did was completely different in landscape and weather. We learned that some of us are faster than others but that is okay because we all experience nature at our own pace. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t “good at it.” There were times where one person wanted to quit on the trail because they didn’t think their bodies could carry them any further. I personally believe that is when the universe is asking you if you want the reward. In this case, the reward is that beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail, with the cool refreshing watering hole waiting to soothe you after this strenuous hike. I’m so happy my friend decided to get up and keep going until the end after taking a short break because we were happy to see her dip her feet in the water and collect that reward.

Chasing Waterfalls

My friend enjoying a waterfall after a long hike.

When Plans Change

Day 6 posed an interesting challenge for me because it didn’t go anywhere close to plan. As a camping beginner, that can create a lot of stress. After almost a week of perfect weather conditions and scenic views, New Mexico greeted us with clouds and rainstorms. We drove for hours to try and make it to our hike before the rain started but didn’t make it. We were faced with a dirt road and had to turn around for fear the road would become muddy and we would get stuck. I felt pretty defeated because I had a clear vision for the day and it didn’t happen. I was also behind on paintings for my charity cause and was relying on that experience.

For the sake of everyone else’s vibes in the van, I needed to stay optimistic and think on my feet. I realized that a life on the road is one that ebbs and flows with the situation. I can’t control the weather, therefore I have no reason to be upset. Luckily we found another waterfall nearby right off the side of the road. That made me even more grateful that I didn’t let the derailed plans get to me.

Campervan rental makes it easy for camping beginners.

Sometimes when camping you need to be flexible and stay optimistic.

Camping for Beginners Tips

Overall, I’m so happy we all approached this trip with open minds. Eating around a campfire and listening to coyotes howl while you try to sleep is not something that my friends do often and they fully submitted to nature and enjoyed the experience! In planning, I was sure to make it so that we slept at a real campground with bathrooms and electric hookups at least every other night. I find that when you are a beginner camper, camping is easier to enjoy when you have access to some amenities. It also helps to be fresh smelling when there are four adults sharing a van and hiking daily.

The Escape Campervan made preparing meals really easy. We used the storage drawers in the van as a pantry and only carried a small cooler for beverages and put our food in the provided fridge. The van was spacious enough for all of our belongings and gear which was surprising! We took turns sleeping in the rooftop tent which kept us warm and dry even through surprise middle of the night.

Campervan at RV Park

Campervans with kitchens makes it easy for beginner campers to prepare meals and store food.

Overall, being in the Escape Campervan made the entire trip more manageable as a camping beginner! I’d highly recommend it to anyone that wants a more comfortable alternative to camping in a tent. It’s such an awesome way to have a home on the road, and they make it easy to book online!

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