Six years ago, I loaded my carry-on bag for a month-long stay on a deserted beach south of the border. I was living in a tent with a solar energy-powered reading light on top of a nightstand table, and slept on a twin bed equipped with linens, a pillow, and a blanket. It provided me with more than enough comfort. While not in any means “glamorous,” this type of getaway is now called glamping. Short for glamorous camping.
I love being close to nature. Extreme heat doesn’t really bother me, and when mosquitos bite me, I barely notice. I’m low maintenance. All I need at night time is quiet and lights off. Beds, air mattresses, or sleeping bags are not essential for me..but they are welcomed.
Jim Gaffigan is a comedian with a shtick on camping.
“I’m surprised we can still get people to camp. ‘Hey, want to burn a couple of vacation days sleeping on the ground outside?’ Uh, no! My wife always brings up ‘camping’s a tradition in my family.’ Hey, it was a tradition in everyone’s family until we came up with the house. If it’s so great outside, why are all the bugs getting in my house?”
Gaffigan is an Indiana native. In Texas, it seems like camping is as normal as chips and salsa. People that primp their hair, squeal when they sight a snake, and even those with a Texas-sized bank account, all camp. Marketers have spotted a new niche. Those who want to get away from the city and into nature, but may not want to use an outhouse or eat military MREs (meals ready to eat) while wearing a headlamp.
Why rough it when you can have the best of both worlds? No wonder glamping is the latest travel craze. With glamping, you can smell the grass without feeling the rocks imprinting your tush. You can enjoy the sound of the birds, but plug in your iPad to tweet the world about your experiences. You can gaze at the stars, without letting it rain on your parade of dreams.
Los Angeles-based cartoonist and TV writer, Lalo Alcaraz, gets the popularity of glamping. He jokes, “Glamping may be for me. I don’t really like roughing it, but only because it reminds me that my ancestors were campesinos who lived in barn-like conditions for hundreds of years.”
Evelynn is a San Antonio native whose father was raised on a farm. His idea of a vacation was not sleeping outside or “getting back to nature,” since he was living with nature. For Evelynn, a vacation shouldn’t be a burden, but she appreciates the natural scene.
“You need a lot of gear and know-how,” she says about camping. “Now if someone was to take care of everything for me, that’s more of a vacation. I would love to take my daughter somewhere we could experience nature together and still enjoy relaxing with the precious free time we have together. Basically, I’d like to share an experience with her, something special. My dream would be an African safari, where we could photograph animals in their natural habitat and still have tea in the afternoon. That would be fun!”
Set amid the high desert about 30 minutes from Palm Springs, the Joshua Tree Retreat Center is the oldest and largest retreat center in the Western United States. A unique architectural landmark where Yogananda walked in earlier times, it rests upon an aquifer, producing a magnetic effect on those who enter this ancient and sacred space. The retreat center has dorm-style accommodations and campsites.
For seven years, Joshua Tree has been the venue of Bhakti Fest, the “Woodstock for yogis.” Ten thousand people attend one of three bhakti (devotion) festivals each year. A large percentage of them stay on the premises in their own tents or RVs.
This September, Bhakti Fest is introducing glamping to extend the reach of those wanting to enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.
Bhakti Fest Producer, Mark Abadi, says, “People like to camp outside, but with comfort – it reminds people of the days when nomadic tribes lived and thrived on the sacred land of Joshua Tree.”
Bhakti attendees can glamp out in affordable and comfortable geodesic domes, bell tents, tipis, and yurts. Glampsites at this family-friendly, alcohol- and drug-free environment, are equipped with beds, linens, lights, and a fan. Glamping options are especially appealing to those on a fly/camp getaway. Now that the airlines are charging for checked bags, it’s pretty hard to streamline your bare necessities in a carry-on and pitch a tent. Figure that a family of four would need to check-in four sleeping bags, a tent, stakes, fly, and all the accessories to keep the campsite going.
Bhakti’s glamping sites can fit up to eight people comfortably and are hassle-free. For couples, families, or friends, hassle-free glamping may also help keep everyone’s spirits high.
Donna is from East Texas. Not all her family camping vacations were happy days, resulting in her never choosing a getaway without electricity. Her advice for camping is, “Don’t try to pitch a tent on the beach in the dark with high winds. My dad had to sleep on the hood of the car, my sister and I got the seats in the car, and the sand crabs got the beach.”
Nelda is a San Antonio mountain biker who finds the benefits of camping are deep. She enjoys taking her bike to Flat Rock Ranch in Comfort, and also camps in and around Austin, Houston, and the Guadalupe River. “Camping in a natural setting is relaxing and gratifying,” says Nelda. “I enjoy it immensely. I don’t worry about what I look like at all. It helps me stay grounded. I learn much about myself.”
Nelda’s response is very much in sync with Bhakti Fest’s mission to create heart-centered connections…where everyone can let go of ego, and meet love, self, and the divine. Bhakti Fest, a 501c, donates a percentage of its funds to charities and other nonprofit groups that provide food, education, and environmental beautification programs around the world.
For glamping ideas, visit glamping.com or glampinghub.com. Read about other places to camp in Texas at http://blog.chron.com/traveler/2014/12/the-great-texas-outdoors/