Life is what we make of it. That's what they say, anyway. And it's true. No one can make your life different. They can just provide opportunities for you to respond and change the course of your own life. “It's not what happens to you that matters. It's what you do with what happens to you that matters,” my father would tell me time and again as a child.

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My life is pretty pleasant. As pleasant as it can be when you have a job working 13 hour days, three boys at home and a wife with her own full time job. We try our hardest to make time for each other, and we fail from time to time. It's not easy. It makes us better. It strains us. But, if we push through…together, we find ourselves stronger.

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As as writer and photographer, I travel quite a bit. I meet a lot of people, most of whom I know I will likely not meet again. The boys see numerous landscapes but retain little as far as lifestyle for now. Branching out has never been my strong suit. And I know that if I want more for my boys and for my family, I have to change that.

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Fortunately, through my travels and work I've done with my truck, I found a whisper of a group of people who have their own community. Not an online community, even though that is where I found them. An actual, tangible community. It was started by a Navy Corpsman named Dave who has a handshake like a padded vice and an earnest smile that lets you know you belong.

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American Adventurist hosts a trifecta of events: The Southern California Mountain Rendezvous, the Desert Rendezvous and the Appalachian Mountain Rendezvous. For the first time as an adult, I chose to make a little more of the opportunities available to me. This year, after meeting some of the fine American Adventurists as well as other nature and travel lovers at Overland Expo, Chelsea and I decided to branch out and try a community event. The Mountain Rendezvous was set upon our calendar, the time came and we were off to the mountains of southern California.

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We arrived the night before and slept in the truck on the side of the road, even after I drove some two or three miles into the forest. Honestly, I was afraid of bears. Chelsea did not sleep well and was peeved with me as she wanted to setup the tent. At long last, we came black to the gate around 11am and saw a lone vehicle waiting in the dirt lot across the street. I pulled in and was immediately greeted by a fellow adventurer waiting for the rendezvous. I parked in the shade, he exited his truck and I soon found myself in conversation with someone I had never met. He gave me his take on the impending rush that was sure to come, and he was right.

Vehicle camping equipment options and configurations

After having my first child, I immediately knew I wanted them to see places and meet different types of people. They need to diversify their minds to the American culture, which seems to have been monochromatically reduced to a television-filtered hum. I wanted them to be able to see all sides of a situation and know how to come to the best possible decision for them. That's what mattered to me. Their success.

Vehicle camping equipment options and configurations

Chelsea and I deployed the trailer and set up camp like a pair of pros. Our system was much more refined and practiced than it was even at Overland Expo. We already knew we weren't going to put on the annex and also decided we could wait to see if we wanted to set up the spare room for the baby. This time, fortunately, I was smart enough to bring the portable baby crib.

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It was a wonderful place full of wonderful people, all wanting to get to know each other. Many had stories to tell and more had lessons to give – some learned the hard way – but it was all for the sake of others. Most invited others into their camp like they were old friends, despite having just met moments before. We ate our first dinner with three families we didn't know. By the time we said our goodbyes and headed in for the night we had found, here in the middle of nowhere, new friends.

Vehicle camping equipment options and configurations

I even found interesting vehicles geared up for families to explore the great outdoors on their own. Some were made to travel long distances into the unknown with only the comforts of a bottle of wine, a picnic table and a classic book. Others were more interested in bringing their small pack to an area too remote for the faint of heart, setting up a temporary home to make that land their own for the time they had. Even Chelsea found some things to enjoy with other travelers, as a mystical blueberry mango sangria recipe called her name amongst the trees. She fell in love with the living room and kitchen found in the backs of many people's trucks. Goose Gear, a company from Orange County, makes fine cabinetry for the overland adventurist so that they feel at home anywhere they go.

Vehicle camping equipment options and configurations

The weekend was capped off by a friendly potluck competition with a wide variety of entries ranging from shrimp fried rice to baked beans with ‘something' to an apple cobbler (which took the prize). Chelsea and I planned our next trip on the drive home. The boys slept in the back.

Life, for us, was shaping up to be very much what we we made of it. An adventure.