My mother-in-law has just returned to the UK after a five-week visit with us. ?Whilst she was here, she had her 70th birthday.

At home, friends live nearby, she sees her other grandson once a week when he comes to visit with his father, and when she needs help with something around the house, her other son fits it in.

Carrie lives a fairly quiet life, mostly on her own, with her cat.

At our house, she is immersed in a chaotic, noisy, busy, people-filled environment that never stops!

We are seven all together – my parents, the five of us and our dog. ?My kids are busy with school, social and sporting activities going on all the time.

For the first two weeks of her visit, Carrie had time to settle in gently. ?The kids were at school, her son was at work and I came and went as my work dictated. ?I took her out during the day when time and our inclination allowed, then to after school activities and sporting events. ?Otherwise, Carrie had time to herself to do whatever she wanted.

Then it was time for the Easter school holidays. ?Two weeks of us all together!

And… we took Grandma camping!

Carrie had never been camping before but, not a family to do things by halves, we planned an eight night trip with four nights each at two different locations.

The original plan had been to have the boys in the tent and the girls in the camper trailer but Grandma had trouble navigating the stairs into the camper trailer with her gammy hip (awaiting replacement). So, we bought a camp bed and, over the course of the eight nights away we gradually added, subtracted and modified the bedding until finally, on the sixth night, she had her bedding perfect!

Buying extra bedding was just the beginning…

We bought extra lights so that people could find their way around during the night. ?We bought a dome shelter to save the time it would take putting up, modifying and taking down a tarpaulin. ?We bought extra everything so that we had enough for everybody! ?We stayed on en suite campsites so that we had our own bathroom close by.

It was a camping trip to remember!

Certainly not the cheapest trip ever, in fact, it probably would have been cheaper to have stayed in motels by the end, but we saw different places, did new things and my kids got to know Grandma better than they ever would have if we’d stayed at home (and she got to know them too). ?After all these years, Grandma is a real person who they each have a relationship with.

Over the course of the nine days away we all had to compromise in various ways, sharing the small confines of the car and living arrangements. ?Everybody had to help with the grocery shopping, food preparation, cooking, cleaning, washing up and laundry duties.

We had to come to agreements about what we would do each day, where we would go, what we would see and who did what. ?We had to build in time apart, as well as time all together. ?We had a wide age range with associated “can do” and “want to do” requirements to manage.

At times it was hard work and quite trying.

Other times it was a bit boring.

A lot of the time though, it was fun. ?Either because what we were doing was fun or because we had to make the best of the situation we were in!

Camping with Grandma was an excellent short course in how families, communities and businesses work!

We had to have leaders, discussions, compromises, crowd control, people management, elections, teamwork and so on. ?It really was a microcosmic view of ?how our world works.

It was also a great example of getting totally out of your comfort zone, trying completely new things and making the most of it.

Hats off to Grandma!

Have you ever learnt valuable life lessons by going outside your comfort zone??