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From Childhood Camping to Adulthood Glamping

By Cornelia Colonius

When I grew up, my summer holidays were defined by going camping in the Scandinavian wilderness. Off we went in an old lime-green Volkswagen mini-van packed with a tent, air mattresses, sleeping bags and a mini gas-cooker. We would pitch up at a random camp site, preferably next to a lake and go exploring every day. Toilets were wooden “Plumpsklos” (basically holes in the ground) and I don’t think I had a warm shower during the whole holiday.

I survived!

I got my first “Taschenmesser” (pocket knife) when I was about six years old. It was small and sharp and I used it for carving with sticks. My parents gave me an introduction on how to use it respectfully and since then I wasn't supervised, as they knew what I would use it for. To point out, my parents are not the “Bear Grylls” type of people. We are just a regular family from Germany, where children are encouraged to roam around and play in the forest building things with tools like hammers and an axe. (OK, the axe was supervised)

I survived!

Now that I am a mother myself, I have to admit that going camping with my kids hasn’t been top of my holiday list. That said, my son is very much into exploring, building things in the forest, swimming in lakes and searching for wild animals. Holland Park has a forest school (, but that’s not exactly “wilderness” and going swimming in the Serpentine Lake ( is also not “the real deal”. So he has been pestering me for a camping trip for ages. And I love the idea! Yet, here comes the next challenge…. the other members of my family: his 5, 4 and 2-yr old sisters and my husband, who, quite frankly, can just about change a light-bulb, never mind helping me set up a whole tent.

So, after some research, I came up with the best in-between solution. Glamping at the Aspinall Safari Zoo in Kent. It has wild animals, an exploration safari tour, a forest to roam around, and several house tents; all ready to move into. The location doesn’t have a lake, but the sea is very near-by and is as cold as those Scandinavian lakes. So off we went in our silver 7-seater packed only with some clothes and snacks. We pitched up at the Bear Lodge, checked in, dumped our bags and went to the safari/zoo.

Not exactly camping, you will argue. True, but it had some similar feel to it. The night was freezing cold and so was the tent, so we had to light up our own oven with logs and later on curl up in bed under 3 layers of thick blankets.

We ate at the camp's restaurant but made our own fire to grill marshmallows.

The wild animals were behind a fence (thank goodness for that!) but we could hear the wolves howling and the bears growling all night long.

And the next day we went swimming in the sea at a local beach 10-min drive away.

It was amazing and the kids absolutely loved it. And most importantly: I survived!

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