5/52: It pays to ask
I've just discovered YouCamp - it's basically AirBnB for campers - and what a great experience! My family got a fantastic new tent for Christmas and we were desperate to get away and go camping, but there were a few provisos:
Availability: we hadn't booked anything yet and it was only a couple of days before the Australia Day long weekend!
Comfort: My wife was keen on a soft landing into camping. i.e. toilets and running water
Distance: It had to be less than two hours drive from Melbourne
It's not a huge list, but we knew what we needed which made the online search pretty straightforward. Within a few minutes we'd found a great listing, not far out of Ballarat and it still had availability! Everything looked great except for one quite stern line in the description that honestly bothered me a bit.
"We have very specific behaviours which we expect of children and will make those quite clear in an email we send to you when you book."
At this point, I decided to read the reviews and they were glowing. The site averaged 4.5 out of 5 and everyone was saying how lovely the hosts were, how welcoming they were to their kids and what a great time they'd had. More than one review commented on how they were put off by the 'rules and behaviours' email but went on to say that it had not been a concern once they arrived. So, we bit the bullet and booked our first YouCamp trip.
Sure enough, the email arrived. The first page was fantastic, full of the great things you could do in the area from cheese making to yabbying, and fine dining to swimming holes. Perfect! And then we hit page two...
"PLEASE DO NOT ASK IF THE ANIMALS ARE DANGEROUS. Please also do not bring children or people from another culture here if they are frightened of animals. ALL our animals are tame, but they will respond VERY BADLY to people who scream near them or squeal or hide from them. The most dangerous animal on our farm is the turkey. He does not like small children. It is important that children are supervised near animals at all times."
It went for another two pages with rules about a lot of things, many reminders that neither the animals, nor the owners, like screaming and that everyone should be sure not to disturb the peace of other holidaymakers.
So what happened? We had an amazing time. We read the rules carefully, explained them to our kids and upon arrival were extremely respectful of everyone and everything! As the weekend progressed, everyone was relaxed yet respectful, the kids (and adults) all got on famously and we had 72 hours of bucolic joy. Amazing!
Reflecting on this, I think it's because the wise old farmers knew exactly what they wanted. Maybe they'd had a bad experience with some of their early campers but mostly, I think they just liked people who were respectful of their land and animals and guests. So they put out an email that asked people to come to their farm and enjoy everything on offer, so long as they were respectful. Hmmm.
Sometimes it really pays to be clear about what you want. Be respectful and be honest of course, but if you want something a certain way then ask for it. It worked for the farmer and come to think of it, it worked for my family too.