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Learning new things and the importance of failure

About a month ago, I bought a camper, and just got back from a 3-week road trip from Massachusetts down to the Florida and back.

After two years of pretty extreme social distancing, we needed to get away for a bit, and this was the only way we really feel safe traveling at the moment.

(If you were wondering why I hadn’t published any new articles for a while, that’s why. Between driving, exploring, and running a Vanilla JS Academy session, I had no time.)

I’ve never owned a camper before. I’ve never towed anything behind a vehicle before. And the longest trip by car I’d ever taken before was a six-hour drive to Canada.

To say I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I bought the camper is an understatement.

Before our trip, I read a bunch of articles and watched countless YouTube videos on how to safely tow camper, how to properly hook up water and electric, how to manage the sewer/waste system, and more. I learned about what’s not included that should be (toilet paper roll holders and unique locks), and what modifications you should make before using it.

Before we left, I had a really, really good theoretical understanding of how to do all the things.

But knowing how and actually being able to are two very different things. Our first night, I immediately felt like I did a decade ago when I was an HR guy trying to learn JavaScript.

I’m doing exactly what the video said. Why won’t the hitch coupler lock?

Thankfully, all of the prep I’d done before leaving helped me stay calm and research how to fix the various things that went wrong.

Some issues were more frustrating and painful than others (if I never have to deal with RV sewer again it will be too soon). But actually using the camper and implementing what I learned is how I discovered all of the little the gotchas and nuance that theoretical learning won’t teach you.

One of the best things you can do whenever you learning something new is to actually get out there implement it right away.

If I had been more strategic, I would have taken a few two-or-three-day camping trips near our house. That was if something goes wrong, we can just go back home until we figure out. That’s the “start small” advice I give to every student I work with.

Instead, I did the equivalent of trying to build a big, interactive app as my first project.

That said, it was honestly the trip of a lifetime, and I’m eager to get back out on the road, a bit wiser and more skilled than before.