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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cool caravanning: it’s okay, it's safe to mention the c-word

So then, is caravanning really cool? The UK media told us it was back in 2004 when The Guardian assured us it was safe to mention the c-word. For ‘Go on admit it, my van’s the man’, writer Tom Templeton spent a weekend driving a sleek silver 'teardrop of a caravan' and was converted. It wasn’t only the cute design of the 520 kilo T@B van that persuaded him, but that he'd stayed in scenic Caravan Club sites such as Kentsford Farm,“a vast and beautiful orchard, trees groaning with cider apples, begging to be scrumped, peacocks, guinea fowls and strange turkey-like ducks grimble around the place, a brook babbles past...” He concluded: “I can see the appeal of caravanning. Basically you pitch up, hand over a fiver, untether your caravan, wind out the legs in a process that lasts about five minutes and, with the night's billet secure and snug, are then free to head off on an adventure - or alternatively make a cup of tea.” But when Tom asked friends how cool caravanning was, two theories emerged: “One, that it's like having an ugly best friend - surrounding yourself with uncool stuff makes you look all the cooler. Two, that caravanning is cool in a retro, hippyish kind of way, with overtones of the traveller movement and circuses.” Two years later The Observer's Gemma Bowes explained ‘How Caravans Became Cool’. “It's official: caravanning is now cool,” she wrote, “Style magazines have long been celebrating the retro charms of the caravan, but figures from the Caravan Club confirm that holidays on wheels are enjoying something of a revival.” According to the Club, which had almost 1,000,000 million members, caravanning was the most popular paid-for UK holiday, accounting for 17% of vacations in Britain. The 2006 summer heatwave and security crisis at UK airports contributed to the popularity surge, along with high-profile members and a new generation of enthusiasts such as Kate Moss, Sean Penn, Nicole Richie, Jamie Oliver, and Lenny Kravitz, who'd given it a makeover. “Caravanning has become very fashionable,” said the Club spokesperson, “Young couples who want to go surfing or travelling are trying it, as are families and retirees, and it's been made stylish by the revival of the VW Campervan and designer Airstream caravan.” Or, as the manager of the International Caravan and Motorhome Show said: “It is no longer Carry on Camping, bad cabarets and tin boxes on wheels.” A year later the Mirror was insisting “Caravanning's cool (honest): Cheap flights to Europe are so 2006… just ask the growing list of celebrities who are choosing caravans instead of crowded airports. The star factor was clearly what made caravanning cool for The Mirror: “Next time you're trapped behind a caravan on a country road, mocking its boring occupants, just think... it's as likely to be Billie Piper or Helen Mirren holding you up as a geeky guy from the Caravan Club.” With an estimated four million Brits a year caravanning, it was more popular than ever. “That's right,” The Mirror told us, “there's now nothing cooler than a caravan.”


Wendy said...

I would love to travel cross country in one of these one day. I'm off to Dubai next week. Enjoyed reading the LP City Guide in preparation :^).

Lara Dunston said...

Oddly enough, so would I. After 5 years in one as a youth travelling around Australia with my parents, anybody would think I'm nuts, but I'm kind of itching to do a trip in one - it would have to be an Airstream or nothing, though.

Enjoy Dubai! Don't hesitate to email me with any questions. Can't wait to hear what you think.

Prêt à Voyager said...

Too bad when my family moved across the country (twice!) we just had our mini van. . . I have an ex boyfriend whose family rented an RV once for a "white trash" (to not be very PC) family vacation. They made sure they had "National Enquirers" and other trashy magazines for their entertainment. Despite all the jokes, it sounded like they had a great time.


Lara Dunston said...

Oh but a mini-van trip would be cool too. Why is it that in the US RVs and mobile homes have the whole 'trailer trash' connotations? I'm wondering if it's like that in the UK too? I'll have to investigate... I know it's not in continental Europe, where it's quite normal for retirees of any class or income to take to the road in a caravan or campervan. And in Australia, well, we're much too egalitarian down there. Caravan Parks are generally lovely places too - green lawns, leafy, picturesquely-located. I think I feel a post coming on... thanks for the inspiration once again!