Just got back from a camping trip with my family at a very dark spot in Nevada with my new scope (Apertura AD8). The entire drive back home we were savoring and talking about how awe-inspiring it was to see the night sky. I had never seen the Milky Way like that, in its true grandeur— like looking at Stellarium in real life. There were so many stars out that sometimes it was difficult making out the constellations the way you learn them in books. Turn the scope and there's M13 in Hercules, turn it over there and it's the Lagoon Nebula, there's Andromeda, there's the Ring Nebula, Jupiter and the moons, Saturn and the rings, Antares, and the list goes on. Just delight after delight. Just as fun was simply perusing the sky with simple 7x35 binoculars while laying down on a blanket, imagining what's out there. As a beginner, some things really stood out to me:
1. I am so glad I bought "Nightwatch" and studied the stars before venturing out, so I was oriented. It's a gem of a book and I can't recommend it enough. I also have "Turn Left At Orion" but I feel Nightwatch was much better for someone starting out and the star charts made things relatively easy to find.
2. Star-hopping and manually finding these objects was half the fun. I definitely think all beginners should experience it instead of jumping immediately to a computer that does it all for you. If you are a beginner and you get a GoTo scope, you are missing half of the fun (and learning).
3. Binoculars are just as fun and telescopes, and for some situations, better.
4. Light pollution really is terrible. To think that most living in cities never get to feel the awe from looking the sky like that is a sad thing.
5. Camping with an 8" Dobsonian was surprisingly workable. A wonderful addition would be a collapsible Dobsonian base.