Alternative travel plans for an unusual summer: camping in someone’s garden

The summer of 2021 could normally be described as one as we haven’t seen before, were it not for the fact that it is shaping up to be more or less a rerun of last year. In some parts of the world already quite a lot is allowed as the pace of delivering jabs has skyrocketed. In Belgium however it looks like we are heading for a summer where limited outside activity will be allowed, but bigger gatherings will be frowned upon for some time to come. A lot of uncertainty looms, just as it did last year.

Then there is the question of travelling. As the holiday season draws near, Europeans have noticed their world of travelling (which normally is so easy within their own continent) has suddenly shrunk. Experiences of last year, where quarantine rules and ‘red zones’ became all too familiar and could hit you at any unpredictable moment, is making people look for holidays within the borders of their own country. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing (although countries depending heavily on tourists will disagree).

Like a lot of other people, I have been stacking up holidays this year, anxiously waiting for a period where travelling will become less of a headache and more fun. In all likelihood however, I will not go far. That has something to do with something I witnessed more than a year ago now, in the garden of my neighbors.

Then, we didn’t have our house yet. We rented a small place but had a nice cozy city garden nonetheless. There was barely anything separating our garden from that of our neighbors on both sides. When we were eating outside, we could see in their plates what they had for dinner (and vice versa). Their garden however stretched out a lot longer than ours.

Garden as campsite

Then, during the summer, at one day we went for breakfast only to saw a quite luxurious tent had emerged to our left, at the garden of our neighbors. A mother with her teenage son emerged and we waved politely, hiding our curiosity and trying to focus on our breakfast. We thought they were probably family or friends and didn’t think about it anymore. Two weeks later however, the same phenomenon occurred, only with a less luxurious tent and other inhabitants in it.  

Later on, the topic accidentally came up during a chat (over the fence) with our neighbors. They told us there had signed up to a website called ‘Welcome To My Garden’. It is a network of citizens that is opening up their gardens and has a not-for-profit based view on running things. Hosts cannot ask for money. They are specifically targeting what they call ‘slow travelers’: people who arrive by bike, foot or by public transport. The sites that people open up shouldn’t be seen as full-fledged campsites: it are just safe spots for the end of the day where you can rest after a nice bike ride or hike. Although I was intrigued by the idea, it slipped my mind.

It did however reoccur recently, when discussing travel plans for the summer which look to be Belgium-bound. I did a bit more research in the ‘Welcome To My Garden’ concept and have to say I was fairly impressed: the amount of gardens available in Belgium is very impressive. It has also spilled over in the neighboring countries. I even found out someone is opening up their garden in the street where I live now as well! On top of that, their website shows nice bike trials and well as nice walking routes as well. Ideal for planning a nice holiday this summer within the boundaries of your own country, wouldn’t you think? In all likelihood, I’ll be trying it out this summer and I’m considering opening up our own garden as well. Let the summer begin!

Did you already have similar experiences? Feel free to share them in the comment section below!

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