We love escapism — obviously. The joy of taking off into the horizon, even if just for a few days, and discovering the magic and mystery of pure, unadulterated relaxation in the midst of adventure? It’s the stuff of dreams, isn’t it? It’s the key to the satisfying “sigh” at the end of the day that makes you feel alive and at peace at the same time.
And that, friends and neighbors, is the beauty of Glamping.
Glamour + Camping =...
In 2005 the word “glamping” was coined. In 2016 the Oxford English dictionary added it to its ever-expanding tome of words, and it has since become a must-do camping option for many. However, the practice of taking the outdoor vacay to the next level is nothing new. Luxury vacations in tents have been around since the upper class fell in love with the whole idea of Africa back in the 1800s and expanded from there. If you’ve ever seen the film OUT OF AFRICA, you’ve seen the folks who were really into this lush indulgence in nature back in the day. If you haven’t, but you have some general idea about safaris, then you know about glamping, too.
In its most basic, glamping is roughing it without ever having to rough it. It’s that way of indulging in the great outdoors with all of the stylish indulgences that not even home can offer. Lush and extravagant, glorious and comfortable, glamping takes the tent and campfire to a whole other level.
One of the things that makes this form of engaging with your natural surroundings so appealing and growing in visibility is that it prompts those who may not warm to the “roughing it” aspect of old school camping to become one with the wonders of what nature has to offer in a way that allows you to experience it so you’ll come back for more. To those who love camping for all of its hardcore, down and dirty-ness, the art of glamping may seem a bit of a cheat. But if you’ve ever wanted to get closer to nature and don’t like or want to set up your own tent, cook provisions, and sleep on the ground, the various “camps” that have taken sleeping under the stars to a whole new level have a certain draw to them.
Perhaps the most famous and notable form of “glamping” is the vintage, white glove African safari, and it’s the precursor to the glamourous campgrounds of today.
A golden age that’s never left
The word “safari” is Swahili for “journey,” and what has become the trademark of these sojourns through the African landscape are the visions of fine dining and magnificent sleeping accommodations while lions groan in the distance that they conjure. No expense ever seems to be spared for these adventures and they are the pinnacle of glamping. Not all of these are pop-up/teardown affairs from stop to stop, bore on the backs of several folks who go ahead of the weary travelers to set things up to perfection, but many of them are. Some are permanent outdoorsy camps — such as Borana Lodge in Laikipia County, Kenya; Paperbark Camp in Woollamia, NSW, Australia; and Sinya in Texas Hill Country. And once you see any of these 5-star wonders, the word “camp” seems oddly out of place, because of the luxury they offer.
These are the experiences that have been immortalized in film and stories, and they are extraordinary. They present a dangerous, riveting engagement with nature that is languid and lush. But going on safari is only one way of glamping. Throughout the world, more and more luxury campgrounds are opening up, and it’s gotten more people involved with the natural beauty of the lands in which we all live.
And the options for how you glamp are as much a part of this style of outdoor indulgence as the stylish form it takes. Refurbished train cars, over-the-top treehouses, yurts, Airstream trailers, spacious teepees (or tipis), and more take becoming one with nature above and beyond. The point with all of this is to create and fall into an experience like no other that you won’t find anywhere else or in any other way.
While there are locations devoted exclusively to the art of glamping, don’t count out the old reliables. The iconic Kampgrounds of America aka KOA knows a good thing when it sees it and the almost 60 year old, 500+ campgrounds offer what they call Unique Camping Lodging solutions at many of their sites. On the KOA website, they explain away the concerns about losing the “roughing it” and “being self-sufficient” aspect of traditional camping by proclaiming, “We think the whole point of camping is to have fun as part of a nature-loving community. The best glamping allows you to do exactly that.” If you only think of them as that place you take your RV or tent, hook-up or set-up then call it a day, think again. KOA is joining the ranks of such U.S. glampgrounds as Ventana in Big Sur, California; Under Canvas Mount Rushmore, South Dakota; and Capitol Reef Resort in Torrey, Utah, which features Conestoga Wagons — you know, those covered wagons from pioneer days? — outfitted with king beds, twin bunk beds, air conditioning and private bathrooms.
The DIY of glamping
For all of its glam and beauty, glamping can be done DIY-style. There are several extraordinary ways to create your own luxury camping experience ranging from investing in your own autonomous tent that works like a fully sustainable, portable five-star hotel to a sleek, retro Airstream trailer — coveted as a glamping destination less for the luxury it has on the inside than for its heartstopping, iconic visage on the outside. The goal is to of course be able to set up camp wherever you like not only without giving up the comforts of home but using the landscape around you to intensify that feeling of pampered privilege. The vast array of luxurious do-it-yourself options open up a whole new world of possibility and delight for any of us who feel like we should want to go camping more, but don’t because we don’t like all that comes with traditional camping — bugs, dirt, no running water, cramped/uncomfortable sleeping conditions, and on and on.
More and more stores geared toward outdoor adventure are presenting higher-end, “glamping focused” options and even assistance. There are also tons of beautiful — albeit slightly budget-fracturing — accessories that make turning your personal experience into something beyond your wildest campfire circle dreams with gorgeous yurts, lush hammocks, and outdoor cooking equipment that would make Martha Stewart envious.
Indulging the outdoors by any means necessary
Just as an FYI, we like the whole traditional camping thing. Really. The rustic nature adds a lot to the experience of the environment and landscape around you. However, we also adore the glamping options. It takes engaging in the world around you to such a unique height, it allows you to truly lose yourself in the adventure of the sights, sounds and “circle of life” in which you find yourself rather than being distracted by where, when, and how you set up your camp, find water, cook food, light a fire, so on.
While we certainly aren’t experts in either of these worlds, we’ve had our fair share of experiences in both and find them each as relaxing and inspiring for different reasons. Try out the different possibilities with glamping and discover what works best for you. There’s a whole big world of adventure out there and if you can be in the middle of it all, you may just discover something that doesn’t just live in your memory, but dances in your dreams for years to come.