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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cool camping vs cool caravanning: a case study in 'cool' travel writing

Travel by caravan, RV or kombi may be just as cool as camping if vehicle registrations and club member- ships are anything to go by, but to the travel media it’s cooler to write about camping – unless the caravan is expensive, luxuriously fitted out, comes with quirky extras or retro-cool packaging, or is simply not a caravan. For the travel media it’s more palatable for travellers to camp than to caravan. Even though travel writers are perfectly willing to jump on the cool camping/cool caravanning bandwagon, employ the same buzz words, regurgitate the same press releases, and borrow ideas from each other. If they have to write about caravanning it must be qualified and if the traveller must caravan, then they must do it in a luxe vintage model or retro van with kitsch value. (Despite campers being allowed to pitch £50 tents.) Take The Observer’s much-critiqued (by me) Cool Camping article where we’re told “...the lowly mobile home has had a Changing Rooms moment.” (My italics.) And: “Also on the continent, Belrepayre Airstream & Retro Camping is more trailer flash than trailer trash.” Ouch! (My italics again.) The story continues: “Closer to home, Vintage Vacations rents out three shiny Airstream trailers on a farm on the Isle of Wight. With interiors more suited to the pages of Wallpaper* magazine than Butlins, this is the UK's swankiest camping experience.” But “if you really want to be mobile, Scooby Campers has just set up shop... Rental of its re-conditioned VW campervans (which come with cream leather upholstery, SatNav and a CD of Sixties 'Scoobymusic' to set you on your way) starts from £250 for a three-night weekend and similar companies are springing up around Britain. Be warned though, that 'mobile' is a relative concept; budding Jenson Buttons need not apply." I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of snobby writing and derogatory language doesn't have a place in travel writing. Call me a snob but I prefer an Airstream to a daisy-patterned tent any day, however, I'd happily camp in either and gladly write about both on equal terms. Isn't the important thing that they allow us to travel? Isn't that cool enough in itself?

Okay, if I have to choose an Airstream then I'm opting for The International Line and the Ocean Breeze please. Check out the photos. Call me a hypocrite,
it's retro-cool, I know.

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