I was working the booth at Pactola Lake Campground this past Labor Day weekend. It was a warm Saturday afternoon.  It was slow and I was bored. I cracked a pine needle and sniffed its wonderful smell.  My first thoughts were “west” and “campfire”. For some reason I also thought of Summer Breeze Campground and how for the last six years I’ve wanted out of there and to have my life back (because we were stuck there every day of the summer). What I realized after I was free of it was that I still didn’t have my life back totally. I still had to work. I still had commitments. Now I seem to have less time off (I don’t get 6 months off in the winter anymore). I have to look for a new job and a new place to live every 3-4 months.  My international travels are going to be less and less.  There’s all sorts of new challenges and logistics to figure out ie: tiny “moving house” living.
So I sat there reminiscing. I’m wondering, ‘How did the new people do at Summer Breeze? Did they have a good first season? How’s our old seasonal campers doing? Did Bob and Terri go on their European cruise? How’s Dave and Maria and Jon and Deb? Did Louis come camping? How’s he doing? Did Jason and Angela do Mexican night? How’s Kathy without her summer job? Does she miss it? Does Donna still walk Buddy through the campground?’ I think about all the fun times we had there, how routine it became, that it didn’t seem so much like work, how nice it was to have mom there to come visit and talk to and see her play with her favorite kitties! To celebrate birthdays and holidays and to eat meals and have campfires with family and friends, all the visiting we did with campers. Good times! It makes me a little sad. Of course there are probably just as many other things that I don’t miss. In the end, we just felt that we needed a change, as we seem to need every 7+ years (or so we think).
That brings me to the present day.  We’re now at the T minus countdown to the end of our first workamping job since selling our own campground.
I’m getting excited that we’re leaving soon to go to our next job and that we have a few weeks off to travel and get there. I’ve planned out a route and sightseeing stops along the way (of course!) I love going somewhere new! It’s the thrill and excitement of the newness (remember your first love, first home, first trip etc.)
One of the campers here recently mentioned to me how “beautiful THIS place is (Pactola Lake) and that there’s nowhere else like it in the country.”  
Well, I’m pretty sure there are lots of places just as nice and probably nicer but it got me thinking…. I’ve been here 4 months. I’m accustomed to it so when I look at the lake or drive through the Hills, I’m not as enamored by it as I was when we first arrived here. I’m used to it – that newness has worn off. It’s like dating and then being married for 20 years (no offense honey).
I keep reminding myself to stop and smell the smells, feel the breezes, look for the beauty in everything everyday, be positive, etc. It won’t be until after we’ve left this place that I’ll think back and realize how wonderful and beautiful it was! You watch! That’s just how I roll. I seem to appreciate things more after the moment. I know that in my head and I try to change my perspective to appreciate it and enjoy it in the here and now. It is something I need to work on personally.
I was cleaning out my booth at work recently (something I haven’t done all summer) and it just made me happy that my time here is coming to an end. Not that i didn’t enjoy it here…I did. I had a great summer…I really did! I’m just excited for change. So why not look back on those good times to put it in perspective! What are my happy memories of my summer in South Dakota….
First off, unlike the past 12 summers where I worked 165 days in a row, this summer I had two days off every week! Even though we always put at least 30 minutes a day in on those days off doing paperwork or selling firewood etc, we still had time to go do one of my favorites things – explore! That was one day off. The other day off was usually groceries, laundry, running errands – you know, “life stuff.” This isn’t “vacation” so we still need to cook and clean and shop etc.
We got to visit some great places and got in free to many of them thanks to our VIP workers card. I am very appreciative of that perk of working here!
We had a great view of the lake from our campsite. We had mornings gazing at the geese on the lake as the sun came up and some evenings watching magnificent lightning shows over the lake from our recliners, safe inside.
We got to eat out at least once a week and found it kind of fun to find places to suit our new plant based life. We also started on a meal plan that has us making and eating all kinds of new foods at home – couscous, bulgur, homemade bean burgers, gazpacho etc, which has been fun although a bit time-consuming.
I’m in Bronco land – meaning ALL my favorite football team’s games have been televised! And they’re 4-0 preseason! Yay!!
I’ve so enjoyed the warm NON HUMID days).
I have the best tan I’ve ever had in my adult life!
We made some new friends (fellow workampers) that we’ve enjoyed spending the summer with and getting to know. You can never have too many friends!
Every evening we can choose to sit by the campfire, watch TV, play cornhole, or go somewhere if we need to (tonight’s laundry night.) In other words, I have every evening off, another thing that hasn’t happened for the last 12 summers – I got zero evenings off then.
I’ve also gotten used to not having cable or satellite TV. We’ve been catching up on Hogan’s Heroes and MASH on MeTV – blast from the more simpler past.
On Saturdays nights I looked forward to hearing Sammy Hagar’s “Top 10” followed by Dee Snyder’s “House of Hair” on the local radio stations. More blasts from the past!
We’ve gotten to see so much wildlife here – all different kinds! I’ve even enjoyed all of it, even the little bugs, insects and rodents (bats, squirrels, chippies etc) that have made their way into my work booth 7 hours a day! It’s something else to just watch how they move, look at their colors and shapes and view their daily habits. I’ve never had a job working outside before so I’m just trying to embrace it all!
Along with that, there’s the beautiful mountains, hills, rivers, streams, rock formations, prairies… The old-time towns full of history, the military base that reminds me of my son’s service and of the sacrifices of all those who served and are still serving. Life out west!
There have also been some bad moments here. A few weeks ago, on the same day, someone drowned in the lake (first drowning this summer) and another man ran himself over with his boat and had to have surgery on his leg. Then there was a boat fire on the lake (everyone got off the boat safely!)  We’ve also endured a few smoke and haze filled days from the wildfires in Montana, a reminder of mother nature’s “other side”.  
You take the good and deal with the bad. Life isn’t perfect. This first workamping job definitely wasn’t perfect, but I don’t think any job is perfect. My RV isn’t perfect, but no house is perfect either.   Nothing can be perfect all the time.  No one has it all.  The richest people aren’t necessarily the happiest.  Neither are the poorest.  It’s all a mindset.  Sometimes you really have to work at it.  Some days are better than others.  You learn along the way what you can deal with and what you need to change.  The one thing to take away is that you aren’t stuck.  You can make changes to bring yourself to that place that brings you contentment.  The challenges are there for you to learn from.  The surprises in life are the little things that make you smile.  Either way, life always contains both.  It’s a balancing act.  
As I reflect on our summer here I realize how much I really DID enjoy it. I learned some things about myself.  I’m learning how to overcome the new challenges this lifestyle presents and (hopefully) acquiring skills to make it easier… more routine, like Summer Breeze had become years into it. I’m learning to appreciate each day and all the beauty it holds. I don’t HAVE to do this lifestyle, I GET to do this! Yes I miss some parts of the old life, but I’m on a new adventure now and all changes bring sadness for things you miss and happiness for new things that come into your life as well as anxiety of the unknown. It’s all part of the journey! I’m moving forward and welcoming in this new thing while still embracing and remembering with fondness all that is in my past now.  
I love having things to look forward to. I think that’s what propels me forward. So even though I may complain and bitch periodically, I’m ok. I’ve made enough “changes” in life to know that change is good. It may be hard. It may be stressful. It may bring tears or frustration. It may bring screams of anger.  But it also brings growth and learning. It brings new experiences. It keeps life interesting and fresh. It gives me hope and happiness. It keeps me going.  I think everyone needs something to look forward to, some goal to work towards. It gives life purpose.  So go out and dream, make plans, set goals and see just where the path leads!