Saturday, September 30, 2023


Around the Campfire: Old-timer offers newbie all the wrong advice

The cooler evening temperatures prompt many folks to gather at night around a campfire. I enjoy meeting and visiting with people from all over the country. It’s always interesting to learn their life stories—the ups and downs that many of us have in common as we live our lives. Last evening, however, I was dumbstruck when a self-proclaimed “RV old-timer” (age 35, or so) began informing an RV newbie about all the different kinds of fellow campers they can expect to see as they begin their travels.

Typical RVers?

“Well, you’ve got the Down-and-Outs who are here year-round. No explanation needed. Then, you got your Rednecks with their four dogs—two in heat to keep things interesting. And you’ve got your Hoity-toits who have to have their entire fancy manse plus a prissy garage along with ‘em every time they (air quotes) go camping. Then ….” I stopped listening.

Seeing red!

I’m not sure what made me the most upset—to hear someone categorize, shame, and ridicule other campers, or the fact that I was so shocked by the conversation that I couldn’t find my voice to speak up. Hubby, however, listened attentively in silence as the “old-timer” bloviated. When the guy finally came up for air, Hubby said, “Huh. I’m just happy to have met so many great folks. If you strip away the external, you’ll find we’re all pretty much the same on the inside.” The campfire conversation turned to decidedly more positive talk from that point on.

Walking back to our RV from the campfire, I thanked Hubby for making his observation out loud. And as I was about to berate the “old-timer” for his characterizations, Hubby reminded me, “The guy probably has had life circumstances that we aren’t privy to.”

A surprising realization

Now that I have had some time to rewind the entire episode in my head, I realize that I was just as guilty as “old-timer.” I was judging him for being so judgmental! I, too, needed to be reminded that “We’re all pretty much the same on the inside.”

Childhood lessons

The entire incident reminded me of a childhood memory. When you point at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you. When I notice what I consider a deficiency in someone else, I need to keep in mind my own shortcomings.

Another childhood memory was something my dad said: “Before using your mouth, engage your brain.” (I’m sure the words didn’t originate with him, but it certainly made an impact on me.) The way Dad said it wasn’t a putdown. Not at all. Dad simply cautioned my younger self to think before I speak. Once the words are out in the open, you cannot bring them back. Ever.

A lesson for today’s society?

It seems our society is devolving faster than ever before. Thinking before speaking doesn’t happen as often as it should and as a result, people are hurt. Lots of people. And that hurt often causes the knee-jerk reaction that escalates our verbal battles. Don’t you wish we could somehow dial it back a bit? The rhetoric, I mean. Imagine a world where creative, constructive conversations were the norm. Think of all the problems that might be solved, the suffering relieved, and the relationships restored.

My mom used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’m starting to think that her sentiment could use a bit of editing. Maybe to something like this: “If you can’t say something nice, at least say something thoughtful.” Nothing changes unless we speak up. But our words need to be sprinkled with kindness and thoughtfulness. Oh, and it’s good to remember: We’re all pretty much the same on the inside.

Read last week’s Around the Campfire: Personal rights vs. doing what’s right when camping.


Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


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Neal Davis
4 months ago

Thank you, Gail!

4 months ago

Our society has become very tribal. Sad but true. People can no longer disagree without being labeled and the labels have become hurtful and atrocious. Words seldom used 20 years ago to describe another citizen are thrown around like shrapnel without regard for another human being’s feelings and moreover without knowing another person’s background or life’s experience.

The demonization of each other has to end by both tribes or our shared country and civilization will end. Listening to the opinions of others and then also respecting that others may disagree with your own opinion is how we all learn and grow but denying the validity of an opposing opinion and using hurtful labels is not productive. Pragmatism is dead.

The word treason is a good example. A word that was saved for Soviet spies 30 years ago and is punishable by death, is now used at times to describe a 17 year old golf caddy in a red hat. Words have meanings. Judge not, lest thee …..!
I too am guilty.

Last edited 4 months ago by Cancelproof
Bill Byerly
4 months ago
Reply to  Cancelproof


4 months ago

The ‘lesson for today’s society’ is too many people feel the need to give too many lessons…💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥

4 months ago

I grew up in an environment where kids are to be seen not hear and don’t speak unless spoken too. But my grand mother was the one that gave me guidance. Speak kindly, listen carefully, reply politely and always say please and thank you. And opinions are like butts everyone has one and they’re never the same. I have used her teaching and learned when to keep the lips quiet instead of a heated debate. Seems today negatives come quicker than positives. Yet positives can deflate most bad situations.

Wren Grace
4 months ago

Needs repeating…thanks

Will B.
4 months ago

My garage and “camping”, well… this guy probably doesn’t realize that we are full-timers. Just like a house might have a garage, why can’t my fifth wheel? Everything we own is right here with us. So we’re definitely not “camping”. In fact, I don’t even consider myself an “outdoors” person so much anymore. (When the kids were home we did tent camping, but… this big rig is my HOME.)

Last edited 4 months ago by Will B.
4 months ago

Wonderful thought provoking article. Thank you

1 year ago

As my father, who loved cars and anything associated with them used to say, “Caution, be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear”.

1 year ago

While his manners certainly can be questioned, his observations may be a little too accurate for comfort. I am still waiting for someone to develop the RVers Style/Personality Inventory. I’ll bet each of those “types” would show up somewhere. LOL

Bob Shon
1 year ago

Gail, I didn’t know we had the same parents ! When did you change your name ? I don’t remember a Gail !!
Those words of wisdom that I rolled my young eyes at have spewed from my own mouth on more than one occasion. Now my grandkids roll their eyes while I chuckle to myself !

1 year ago
Reply to  Bob Shon

Me, too, Bob!

4 months ago
Reply to  Gail

Me, three!!

Karen Grace
1 year ago

Thanks for the reminder of these great platitudes…I work on curbing my judgmental nature.

1 year ago

I came home from first grade crying and my mom asked what had happened. I don’t remember what it was but someone had evidently said something to me to make me cry. My mom said, “Just don’t put your feelings out there to where someone can step on them.” Ever since then when someone says something that I don’t like, or is offensive, I just feel sorry for them. It is just that easy. I’ve never been in a fight or argument in my life. (Isn’t it nuts how just one sentence can help form your personality?)

1 year ago

Gail, in all my years I have only ever remembered one poem. My dear mother gave it to me long ago as I tend to be quite impatient and yes, judgemental.

It goes along well with your thoughts above:


I dreamed death came the other night and heaven’s gates swung wide;

And with kindly grace an angel ushered me inside;

There, to my astonishment, stood folks I’d known on earth!

Some I’d judged unfit, of small worth;

Indignant words rose to my lips, but never were set free;

For every face showed some surprise! Not ONE expected me.

1 year ago
Reply to  Spike

I love it! Thanks for sharing!

Sandi Pearson
4 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Love it..going to save. Thank you and your mum!

1 year ago

The old adage about learning more by listening than talking. I try this a lot. You learn much about people by listening, good and bad.
I use the broken nose example a lot. Before there was a lawyer behind every tree, and you could hide behind a keyboard, you could get your nose broken by saying things you shouldn’t.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Another old one is your freedom of speech ends when my fist connects with your nose.

John S
4 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

I think your quote/thought is a bit out of kilter…“Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins”.

Bob P
4 months ago
Reply to  John S

Ok memory is fading every once in awhile, thanks.

1 year ago

One lesson I learned while younger and “trying to prove myself” was to watch what happened when I was talking and someone interrupted me. I learned to not say another word, at first. I learned to wait and observe if anyone was interested in hearing me continue what I was saying before being interrupted. It was very humbling to find out how often no one cared. It made me learn the value of thinking about what I was talking, was I adding something that the listener was interested in hearing.

1 year ago
Reply to  travelingjw

That most often happens with my wife.

Neal Davis
1 year ago

Great observation; thank you!

1 year ago

Gail, my mom said the same thing…always followed by the words ‘be kind’. My mom was the teacher of manners in our family and she taught tolerance, respect of others, and most of all, kindness. ‘What the world needs now’… is all of these things.

1 year ago

in our travels, being FT for couple of years, we have camped all over the West and have met all different folks.
only had 1 issue but most everyone has been cordial, nice and very friendly and we have no complaints.
as for the KMS, lol, being Irish I have not figured that out yet.
But at 70 its getting easier lol.
Happy camping

Uncle Swags
1 year ago

The old timer was correct in his observations. People need to learn to not take everything personal because it is rarely if ever “about them”. Learn to laugh and especially at your self. Don’t take yourself too seriously, I don’t.

Pete Morris
1 year ago

Nice reminder, Thanks

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