My First Time Camping Changed My Life

My First Time Camping Changed My Life

Sleeping in the middle of the woods for one week was terrifying and absolutely lovely at the same time.

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Last week I was a camp counselor for an amazing group of kids and I have to say, it was one of the best weeks of my life. Not gonna lie, when I first walked into my cabin and saw a chipmunk scurry across the dusty floors, I screamed. Loudly. Then I screamed once more when I realized there were no outlets to charge my phone.

I remember the struggle of climbing to my top bunk and almost falling off every single morning. Oh, and the bathrooms were horrific. It was a cozy home to many spiders and beetles, but it was more like a haunted house for me. I made sure to close my eyes while showering so I didn't have to look at the musty walls surrounding me.

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But every night, the cool breeze of the woods and the sound of rain drizzling on the roof of the cabin would gently put me to sleep. Even though I would have to wake up at 6:00 AM the next morning, I slept like a baby and was fully rested the next day. As much as it was frustrating not to touch my phone for about 14 hours a day, it was liberating, too. I felt more relaxed and no longer had that urge to check on my Snapchat streaks and go through my Instagram feed. I was happier than ever getting to know my kids, playing all kinds of games with them, and singing camp songs all day.

My favorite part was the campfires. When someone handed me a stick with a giant, puffy marshmallow, I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. I cautiously held it over the sparkling fire and watched it become this perfect golden glow. As one of the other counselors squished my marshmallow in between the crackers covered with chocolate, I started tapping my feet like a little kid.

As I took my first bite, I felt like the happiest girl in the world. My campers were looking at me like I was crazy for never trying a s'more before. They were right though, I was quite crazy for trying it so late. Apparently, I was missing a lot of magic and gooey happiness in my life.

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I'd done quite a few things I've never done before at camp. I went rock climbing for the first time, and yes, it was pretty tough. I also went zip lining through the woods, and almost felt my heart jump out of my chest. It was a rush of excitement and fear all at once. I also participated in my first color wars and unfortunately, a lot of the powder went into my mouth rather than on my white shirt.

Oh, and it was also my first time trying a corn dog. Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Did this girl even have a childhood?" I'm just so grateful I went through all these first-time experiences surrounded by people who made my first week of camping so incredible and memorable.

As I go through all the Facebook photos, I can't help but feel the wave of nostalgia hit me like a truck. Despite the spiders and raccoons and hideous bathrooms, camping was such an inspiring and magical experience. I feel so blessed to have met so many great people and create new friendships and memories that I will always remember.

Thank you, Camp Kesem.

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​9 Must-Go Day Trips In Virginia

Virginia is for lovers -- and adventure!
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As the weather starts to warm up, all you want to do is be outside and enjoy the sunny Virginia days. There are so many things to do in this beautiful state, and these towns and attractions are perfect for day trips. From the gorgeous lakes to the big cities and everything in between, there is something for everyone! Pack your car up, grab your friends and get ready for adventure.

1. Smith Mountain Lake

This is Virginia’s most popular lake with over 500 miles of shoreline, a variety of water sports and lakefront real estate. Rent a paddle board or a boat with some of your friends for the day. It’s a guaranteed good time.

2. Arlington National Cemetery

This cemetery overlooks Washington, D.C., and is home to the grave of John F. Kennedy and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial. After visiting the cemetery, you can drive to the 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon or stop by the U.S. Marine Corp War Memorial.

3. Richmond

If you haven’t spent a day in Richmond yet, you’re missing out. While everyone knows Richmond has a lot of history (i.e. the Virginia State Capitol), it’s also known for its craft beer, food tours, shopping and arts. You can also go down the James River to picnic or go rafting.

4. Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens

Williamsburg has a lot to offer, ranging from the colonial aspects to give you an American Revolution experience to the screaming fun aspects of Busch Gardens. Whether you plan to visit spots frequented by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, or get a cliché taste of Germany on roller coasters, you’ll never be bored here!

5. Charlottesville

This city is filled with arts and culture that are grounded in rich tradition. Here you can visit Monticello, try amazing food all around town or listen to a variety of music at the Charlottesville Pavilion.

6. Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive

The Shenandoah Valley is right in the heart of Virginia. You can visit the park in October when the autumnal colors are most vibrant, in addition to taking a run down Skyline drive for amazing views. Along this path, you can stop at the summer home of President Hoover and the Old Cave Cemetery.

7. Virginia Beach

Whether you’re looking for the beach, various amusements or museums, this beach is a great destination for soaking up the sun and having a good time.

8. Assateague and Chincoteague Islands

Assateague and Chincoteague are partly located in Maryland and partly in Virginia. Here you can view the huge protected wildlife sanctuary, which is most notably known for its wild ponies. You can also go hiking, swimming, fishing or kayaking here - to name only a few.

9. Luray Caverns

These caverns are in Luray, Virginia, and were discovered in 1878. Inside you’ll find the “StalacpipeOrgan” – the world’s largest musical instrument.

No matter where you end up in Virginia, there are tons of great things to do. From great art to delicious food to rich history, this state has it all!

Cover Image Credit: The Foxfield Inn - Charlottesvilla, VA

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9 Things To Pack For A Road Trip Before You Put Pedal To The Metal

Nine essentials that I always forget, but finally managed to write down.

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Since I was a baby, my family has always done road trips. My mom isn't a fan of planes, so we always drove places. Even if they were 18 hours away. Despite the experience with road trips, I always managed to forget something.

So, I decided to make a little list to help keep myself organized and keep track of the important items I need to bring!

1. Snacks

You can never have too many snacks. I try to have something that isn't messy but quick and filling.

2. Reusable water bottle

We're staying hydrated and saving the environment. Reusable water bottles are a staple for my family's road trips.

3. Blankets and pillows

I get cold easily and it makes sleeping in a car a little bit better.

4. Socks and easy slip-on shoes

There's nothing worse than stopping to get out of your car quickly to get a snack or for a bathroom break, only to be stopped because you have to lace up your shoes. I personally hate shoes and as soon as I get into the car, I take them off. But, my feet also get cold, so I always make sure to have a pair of socks just in case.

5. Headphones

I make a travel playlist of all the new songs and albums I want to listen to before I start a road trip and download it to my laptop. It makes traveling fun and exciting

6. Glasses

For all you contact users, it's wise to have a set of glasses if you're driving late at night or you've been driving all day. Often times, your eyes will get dry and you'll be begging to get them out ASAP.

7. Toothbrush and toothpaste

I hate having a dirty mouth. Having a toothbrush and toothpaste on hand makes it easier, so I don't have to dig through my suitcase to find them.

8. Chargers

I leave my chargers everywhere. I forget either a phone charger, my laptop charger, my Nook charger, etc. I make sure to check and double check before I leave.

9. Chapstick

No one likes having dry lips. Don't forget chapstick. It seems a little unnecessary, but it's a lifesaver.

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