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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fort Wilderness Etiquette

I am currently visiting Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.  There is something so special about this destination that makes it one of my top places to stay on Disney property.  As soon as you get off the boat from Magic Kingdom and stroll over to the Settlement, you feel like the pace has slowed considerably.  I have to admit, that's pretty darn nice!

If you become a regular of the campground, eventually you get to know others who are regulars too!  This particular trip, a friend of mine had been camping but needed to go back home for a bit.  Since he's coming back, he left his golf cart with me!  For most of my trip, I have had a golf cart to use!  It is just this kind of camping etiquette that is reminiscent of an article I wrote a while back for The Disney Driven Life.  In honor of my friend Donnie (who rents campers -aside from offering friends his golf cart- here at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, by the way.  Let me know if you are interested) I will re-post that article here:

How do ya do?
Have you ever heard the term : “Camping People?”

Photo credit: Ami Brundick-Eller
What comes to mind?  Roughing it in the buggy wild?  No air conditioning?  Sleeping on the ground?  The great Outdoors?  What about manners?  Kindness?  Kids being kids?
I suppose it all depends on your perspective.
I grew up a “resort person.”  My dad’s idea of camping was a Best Western where the doors opened to the outside instead of an indoor corridor.  I was lucky enough to visit the Walt Disney World Resort pretty much every year, but we always stayed at the Polynesian or the Contemporary.  I am unbelievably thankful for these experiences, and the Polynesian still lives in a VERY sacred part of my heart.  I’m not sure I was even aware that there was a campground.  Sure, I visited the Hoop-Dee-Doo Hoop De Doo Review and River Country but I had no idea what was beyond.  Little did I realize that “yonder” would eventually hold so many blessed encounters.

When my husband and I first got married, we were…well…dirt poor, fresh out of college, and trying to start a life together.  My significant other grew up loving camping, so it wasn’t a stretch for him.  For me, it became a matter of camp or stay home.  I decided to camp.  Strangely, I loved it (ok, the time I was 8.3 months pregnant in July, with elephant ankles, and a mat as thick as a tissue to “sleep” on was not really fun).  We were tent campers, and there was something so peaceful about being able to look up into the sky, feel the breeze, and slowly drift off to sleep.  We have since upgraded to a pop-up, which has the benefit of opening all up to the breeze just like a tent, but gets my “womanly hips” up off the hard ground. Yeah, size matters…and an ample booty + solid, rocky terrain = much moaning and limping.
Still, I hesitated camping in Disney World.  To me, Disney World had as much to do with the resorts as the parks.  One of my favorite things to do (still is) was to walk around slowly, taking in every detail.  I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t think I would get the same experience at the campground.  Yeah, yeah, I know….oh ‘me’ of little faith.  I should have recognized; it’s Disney World for goodness sake!  I don’t recollect exactly what prompted me to plan the trip in the first place; perhaps it was marrying my love for Disney with my husband’s passion for camping (they have fishing, too!).  I started researching, and much to my disbelief, got really excited.  Wow!  The sites look awesome!  Wow!  The comfort stations look immaculate!  Wow! They have a campfire sing-along with Chip and Dale and then a movie under the stars afterward!  You can rent a golf cart, bring bikes, play on playgrounds, and borrow boats.  As far as campgrounds go…this looked like the nicest we had ever seen!

What my research didn’t tell me, though, was how much I would enjoy the camping people.  Now, campers are famous for their hospitable nature.  This fact was just amplified in a Disney setting.  Nobody is a stranger; you are greeted with a smile wherever you go.  If you are setting up and find that you need a tool, a neighbor will most likely be along shortly to let you borrow one.  Next thing you know, you are sharing a drink and becoming fast friends!  When you enter Fort Wilderness, the pace feels slower, and all the stresses of the fast moving world you just left fade away.  Maybe that’s why people are so pleasant.  Life seems simpler.  Kids trade the video games for scooters and sidewalk chalk, meals are shared outside and passersby are waved at.  Now go ahead and try this stuff at a Best Western!  Wouldn’t it be great if the “real world” was this way?

These are the trips in which you take home more than pictures, souvenirs and memories….you also take home friends.

XO, Ami
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