Until two years ago, I had had exactly one camping experience in my life. It was in high school, when I was 15. We were given the opportunity to sign up for certain destinations, one of which was a surprise destination titled ‘Your Choice’. I can’t recall why exactly why it was called that – as far as I know the students did not really have a say in it. But a big part of the reason why I chose that one was that in previous years they went to pretty cool places. The alternatives were alright, but not too exciting. I believe Friesland was one of them. Which could be fun, but not so much if you know that Your Choice could bring you to, for example, Spain. (And not when you’re 15.)
Anyway, I’m sure you can imagine our joy and happiness when we got the news that Your Choice was going to the South of France and would do a stop in Barcelona somewhere in the middle of the one-week trip. My enthusiasm was slightly set back when I realized that we would be going camping. Sleeping in a tent. And everything. I guess I didn’t worry about it all too much, though. Only when we got there did I really realize that sleeping with three people in a small tent would be a bit uncomfortable.
I had a wonderful time there. No, really, it was a lot of fun and I’ll never ever forget about that trip. Partly because my friends still remind me regularly of how I couldn’t find any of my stuff in the tent. And we still talk about the scary stories we told at night, and the endless walking in Barcelona, trying to find the beach but never actually reaching it. And the climbing in trees. And shooting bows. I never went camping again after that. I don’t know – I just find it uncomfortable. I know that many Dutch families go camping with the kids every summer. France is a pretty standard destination for Dutchies. For me, it was just never part of my upbringing. When I was a kid we never really went on vacation. We did do the occasional trip to a theme park or the beach. But mostly, I guess me and my siblings just played outside around our neighbourhood all summer.
My boyfriend, however, did grow up camping in France almost every summer. With buckets of nostalgia he looks back on many wonderful trips. He even remembers what he ordered for dinner at a restaurant over 12 years ago in a French town that he can even still pronounce the name of.
Obviously, going camping together was something we were going to have to do sooner or later. After a number of wonderful vacations in hotels and Airbnb apartments, it was time to experience camping. Actual camping. Voluntary camping.
And it was voluntary. I still was not sure if I was going to like it, but I really was actually looking forward to it. We decided not to go hard core straight away – we hired a bungalow tent that included actual beds and a small kitchen. Glamping they call it. Don’t judge!
And so two years year, we loaded up the car with our bags and suitcases, and… my little brother! He was just 7 at the time and super excited. We had a very small car and it was hilarious to look over my shoulder and find him looking out the window with a huge pile of stuff all around him.
We went to Larochette in Luxembourg, about 30 minutes from Luxembourg City. The trip there took us about 3,5 to 4 hours. The way there was quite typical – music, seeing the landscape get hillier and prettier the more south we went, stopping for a stretch and a snack at gas stations, and the occasional “Are we there yet?” from the back seat. The most exciting was when a while into Luxemburg all of a sudden a deer crossed the road – right in front of our car. Wow, that was so close.
Then we got there.
Oh my God.
No, I’m kidding. What can I say? I guess mostly the experience was what I expected it to be. A bit uncomfortable when it comes to sleeping and showering. Loads of time to read a book or two. Swimming. Many kids playing around. Yelps and screams from the main playground (which our tent was super close to) until after midnight. Trips to sights and cities in the area. There was something for all of us.
In the beginning, my little brother was very shy and wanted to play on his own or with us. I guess he was a little scared to mingle. But once he connected with someone in the pool and got introduced to more kids… Man, we barely saw him. A group of kids came by the tent to pick him up in the morning, then we would search for him for lunch and dinner, and we wouldn’t see much of him until very late at night. It was funny to see how he would get dressed and have breakfast super fast so he could go meet his friends. We’d look for him throughout the day of course, to see if he was doing okay, give him something to drink, tempt him to go get ice cream with us, but mostly he really didn’t have time to talk to us. We weren’t as cool as his friends I guess 😉
My final judgment? It’s alright. But I don’t think I’ll do it again this way until I have kids. I mean, in the end, that’s what made it nice – that the little guy made friends and had a blast, and we could enjoy relaxing and going on an occasional trip somewhere in the region.
If I would do it I again in my child-less life, I would go more towards Spain or Portugal, glam it up a lot more and sleep in a luxurious Yurt (hah!). Or if we really do have to sleep in a tent, make sure the surroundings are somewhat like the image at the top of this post. That probably would have been a better strategy for my boyfriend to convince me that camping is exciting.
No really, I enjoyed myself. But let’s do another Airbnb soon 🙂