This post may contain affiliate links. See our affiliate disclaimer here.
For the last five years when I’ve written down and dreamt up our major life goals, one item always found its way to the top (or near the top): buying a campground.
In 2021, after years of searching, we finally found the location. A property that checked all the boxes. Mountain views. Gigabit fiber internet. It even boasted a unique building, a schoolhouse constructed in the 40s and completely renovated for hosting events. It was the property we’d been searching for.
We bought it in July.
Now, we’re selling it.
Yes, this is a complete 180 from everything we’ve been sharing lately on our blog and social media. (It’s also a complete 180 from our actual plans). You may have noticed we’ve been a bit quiet on property updates this past month, and I wanted to share the reason we’ve decided to go in this direction.
Why we’re selling our campground property
First of all, we are fine and healthy (so is our relationship).
There’s a handful of reasons why we’ve made this decision, but one reason rises to the top:
the risk of personal burnout.
When we first set out down this path of building a hospitality business, Alyssa and I were in a very different stage of our lives. It was 2018. We had no kids. Our business at the time was our blog, a conference, and a fledgling software startup. We had a tremendous amount of freedom to dream with very few factors standing in our way.
Then our software business grew and it required more attention. So did our family (Ellie was born in 2019 and Elias was born in October of 2021).
As our family and business grew, we held onto our dream of starting the campground. If I’m being honest, I held onto this dream more than Alyssa. She has a tendency to see things for what they are, which was a lot of work on top of several other businesses and a young family. I permanently walk around with rose-colored glasses and just feel like the universe will always point me in the right direction.
When it came time to pull the trigger on our campground purchase last year, I led the charge. Our goal was within reach. We had the cash and the property in our sights. All we had to do was make an offer. Alyssa had more than just doubts, she was really hesitant to move forward.
In the end, I convinced her that we shouldn’t give up on our dream (which is a more polite way of saying I steamrolled her into saying yes).
Mind you, this was while Alyssa was five months pregnant with baby number two. It was also one month after selling Campground Booking, of which I’d been heads-down focused on for the last five years. I consulted a number of my close friends before pulling the trigger.
Without fail, almost all of them cautioned me about the idea of buying and building the park. The sentiment was, “Hey, you’re having another kid and just got done building and selling your last company. Take a breather.”
I didn’t listen.
Why We Wanted to Build a Campground in the First Place
Originally, our dream to build a campground was inspired by hosting our RV Entrepreneur Summit. We loved the idea of building a park designed for RV entrepreneurs.
But for me personally, this was also something fun that Alyssa and I could build together.
While we’ve worked together on this blog, the podcast, our conference, and our documentary over the last 8 years, I took a big detour in building Campground Booking. One of the things I loved about our lives was that we were building things as a team. I had a dream to build a tech company, which I did. But I really missed the partnership of working alongside Alyssa every day.
I felt the campground would be something that would combine our mutual strengths. I had this vision of us being on the property together and seeing Ellie run around making friends. Hosting cool events. Probably eating s’mores.
Yet, the closer we got to opening the park, the more this dream began to fade away.
For starters, in our vision of starting a park, we were buying an existing campground. This would mean that we could come in and immediately layer in our expertise in marketing, reservation technology, putting on events, etc.
The property we found had to be a new build, which meant that for the past 18 months (we first toured the property in September of 2020) our time has been spent mostly on zoning, site plans, architecture designs, and overall planning. The majority of this work has been in the hands of our general contractor and civil engineer team that we hired to help us develop the site plans.
Secondly, we had our first taste of what it would actually be like running our park. Last fall we put on our fifth annual RV Entrepreneur Summit for 120 people. Overall, it went really well (despite the heat wave!) and it was great seeing people enjoy the raw space.
However, it gave us a taste of the life we were aiming towards in starting a 100+ site park. Alyssa and I spent our week checking in guests, coordinating with our volunteers on site, answering questions, and doing other host-related activities. In my vision of running a park, I saw myself having much more time to spend around my family. During Summit Week, I barely saw Ellie.
While I know every day wouldn’t be the same as putting on a conference, it was a taste of what was to come. Even though we planned to automate the campground (as much as we could), we still needed to be on-site for at least a year to learn and develop the business. That would obviously take a lot of time. I started to recognize the risk of another new venture that was very real. The risk of missing out on what I know are going to be precious years of Ellie and Eli’s lives.
All for a business we don’t need to start (financially speaking) but want to start.
Maybe this wouldn’t have been true.
Yet, I couldn’t help but see it as a risk.
And after spending so much time on my last startup, I felt it would be foolish not to take it seriously. I know what kind of energy it takes to bring ideas from zero to one. It can be all-consuming.
This should have been more obvious from the beginning, but again, I blame my rose-colored glasses. I saw the future I wanted to see. One where we could spin up a campground, hire amazing staff, spend some time on-site, have plenty of family time and still be able to travel when we saw fit.
The reality as we stared down a $4M construction loan for buildout that we would personally guarantee painted a different picture.
As we got closer to breaking ground in February, we had a last-minute gut call to make sure this was still the path we wanted to go down. While we’ve spent close to $100K in soft costs (engineering, design, etc), there was still the possibility of an exit ramp before raising more capital & sourcing a bank loan. We had the ability to soft exit before bringing in partners or putting anyone in a bad position.
We decided to take the exit ramp.
How it feels to pass up on a long-term dream that was so close
I had a handful of fears about walking away from the campground.
One of them was that I’d tied so much of my identity the last few years to this dream. We’ve talked about it at our conference, on the podcast, on social media, and here on the blog. I felt like in some ways I’d be a failure if we didn’t see it through.
However, once we decided this was the path, I felt immediately lighter.
Not only lighter, it felt like the right decision.
A lesson for me in all of this is that it’s possible to hold onto a dream so tightly that you don’t recognize when your season of life changes. The driven entrepreneur in my brain felt that no matter what life threw at us, we would make this goal work. Yet, if I was more in tune with my actual life I probably would have realized it sooner.
Another realization was that Alyssa and I are still relatively young (31). There will be another season of life where we can circle back to this goal and make it work then, if we want to. I don’t believe we will have a lack of opportunities to pursue.
We aren’t passing up on the campground because we don’t believe we can execute on the vision or because we don’t believe in it. We love this part of southwestern Colorado. We love our local and RV community. I believe a campground at our property will crush and do extremely well because America needs a modern campground for RV entrepreneurs and digital nomads like us.
It’s just going to be an opportunity for someone else to run with.
It’s hard to pass the baton, but it’s what’s right for the season we’re in right now.
And to make us feel even better about passing on this opportunity, we’ve accepted an offer from someone in the RVE community who we met at our Summit in the fall.
What’s Next for Us?
Big picture-wise, that’s still TBD, and right now that’s exciting to me.
We’re still open to the idea of investing in real estate projects, but perhaps as a limited partner or smaller operation in this season of life. And as I wrote about recently on the blog, I still have my role with the Campground Booking team (now Good Sam).
The campground property had us tied to Colorado for the last year. Now that we won’t be tied to a geographic location, we’re starting to talk more about continuing international travels. I’m riding in my first big bike race in May called the Tuscany Trail. It is the world’s largest bikepacking race held in Tuscany, Italy. This fall we’re talking about an extended RV trip in France, Spain and Portugal with our friends John and Peter (who we visited Italy with in 2019).
While it feels a little bittersweet to let go of our campground dream, I probably feel more excited than ever about our future.
I think if there’s anything this experience taught me, it’s the value of recognizing what season of life you’re in as it relates to the work and projects you’re taking on. Some seasons of life will look like building a startup with 60 hour plus work weeks. Others will look like poopy diapers and lazy weekends. I’m grateful to have the ability to choose the work we’re taking on for this season of life and be intentional about that.
A major thank you to everyone who has encouraged this crazy dream
In 2018 when I first posted about this dream in our RV Entrepreneur Facebook group, it received hundreds of supportive comments. We’ve had so many of you reaching out asking when we would be open and when you could come and stay. This was by far the hardest part of this decision for us. I was excited to bring this dream to reality and host a lot of awesome people.
All this to say, I just want to say how grateful I am for those of you who have reached out and supported this dream of ours. Even though we didn’t get to host you at our campground, maybe we will get to meet up on the road one day.
All the best,
Heath (Alyssa, Ellie, and Elias)