This article is part of a series known as #30DaysOfThanks.


I was asked recently what I’m thankful for. I did some reflection, and thought of many different events, occasions, and fond memories. The first think that came to mind was family getting together almost every weekend when I was little. But then I thought of something even better.

Since I was about four years old, my family has gone on a camping trip every year. Sometimes two or three times, and it was always a blast. It wasn’t just my parents and brother, it was my uncles and aunts, all my cousins and sometimes even my grandparents. In the Mexican culture, family gatherings are a huge deal, and as such, camping, for us, was the event of the year. We usually went for about four or five days and brought our own food, music, and camping equipment.

Camping for my family meant several things. Of course, bonding was a given, stories being told over the campfire, the cousins excited to hangout and do the fun activities together around the campsite, and the adults waiting for all of us kids to go to sleep so they could start drinking and doing what adults do best…have fun while the kids are sleeping.

We usually went to a popular campsite just a couple hours pass the Tijuana/San Diego border. Or we went to Lake Jennings, which is located in Lakeside, California. At the campsite south of the border, near Ensenada, Mexico, there was so much to do. During the day you could go hiking, swimming, paddle boating, ride horses, rent one of their quads to go riding on or go on their hugely popular water slide over and over. At night, it was making dinner, going dancing by the pool (this place had an awesome DJ on the weekends), and then ending the night sitting by the campfire roasting marshmallows. It was always a blast.

When we went to Lake Jennings it was pretty much the same minus the DJ and dance floor. There was one major change in scenery—Lake Jennings had much more wilderness—tall trees, a huge lake, and much darker at night.  Whichever campsite it was, it was always a blast.

Now getting to the good part… why I loved camping with my family so much. To me it was being able to look around and seeing everyone genuinely happy. Everyone wanted to be there, there were no arguments and there was no drama. It’s fair to say this was the one time we all got along with each other, no matter what the most current argument was about. I always remember seeing my aunt and uncles happy, my parents happy, and all my cousins hanging out as a group.

I have memories of my dad teaching me to swim when I was five years old in the pool at the campsite in Mexico. I have memories of my older cousin, Junior, teaching me how to dance at 14 then being protective of me when a guy asked me to dance. I have memories of the family telling both fun and scary stories around the campfire.

My dad, uncles, and male cousins always came up with the best scary stories. By best, I mean the kind that won’t let you sleep. I have memories of my female cousins all sleeping in one tent and having girl talk, and of all of us helping my mom and aunts make breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I have memories of one aunt, who has always been like a second mother to me, braiding my hair. I always loved the way she braided my hair.

These camping trips with my family are what made me who I am today. I’m beyond thankful for these times with my family. I never missed a camping trip and I never will. Wherever the location may be, annual family trips are a must. Not just your immediate family, all of your family. There’s so much bonding to do and so many memories to be made.

These are stories I have told many times throughout the years and still continue to, and I usually tell them with a smile from ear to ear. Having a family trip should be something to plan every year, not just to get away for a vacation, but to spend quality time with those you love.

What are your best family memories?

READ MORE  #30DaysOfThanks: Current Events