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Lessons Learned from a Camping Disaster

“I’m going to die. I’m going to die,” I kept repeating dramatically.

Don’t worry; no, I was actually in no danger whatsoever. I was 14 and at the height of my adolescent melodramatics. I repeated the statement to my mother to underline my current suffering of trying to sleep in a stuffy car in the Florida Keys during a thunderstorm.

The tent my mother, brother and I had borrowed for vacation that year had a large hole at the top, which we discovered as a thunderstorm rolled in one night. As the rain came straight through the tent, my mom and brother jumped out and into the car.

I took more persuading. Despite being poured on, I did not want to abandon the tent for the stuffy car, since July temperatures in the Keys stayed hot and humid enough without being restricted to the inside of a car. But my mom insisted I leave the now soaked tent, so I begrudgingly laid down in the car as best as I could.

Almost immediately, my teenage angst reared its head and I began letting my mom know I didn’t think I would make it through the night. She only laughed.

The trip could have continued a miserable experience, but for one thing: humor. Though I definitely did not find the experience remotely funny as I sweated overnight, I already found it hilarious by the morning once my mother reassured me that we would book an air-conditioned hotel for the rest of the trip.

I was then able to laughingly share the story with the other travelers in our group, and it has since been shared numerous times when talking of our past family vacations.

Perhaps our ordeal could have been avoided, but sometimes in group travel, mishaps occur despite the most careful plans. That is why humor can sometimes play an important role in changing the narrative of the story from one of hardship to hilarity.

Laughter is contagious, so if a group leader decides to treat the pop up rainstorm during the hike with levity, it can often set the mood for the other travelers. Of course, just as my mother fixed the camping situation with a hotel room, so should group leaders handle the mishap as quickly as possible.

But instead of projecting their inner worries of doom and gloom, planners should mirror the attitude they want their members to feel about a certain situation. That way when the members talk about their trip, they will speak as I do about my Keys trip: with a grin instead of a grimace.