When I was a young child I was in the Boy Scouts. I’m not really sure why I was in the Boy Scouts exactly; I didn’t enjoy the experience – not really. But my parents thought it was something a young boy should do and so I did it. I learned a lot about myself during that time, mostly revolving around my likes and dislikes. Before too long it became painfully obvious to me that not only did I not like camping, I kind of hated it. And that’s why it took twenty-five years to get me back out into the woods, but this time it was different. This time I had a taste of what glamping in Saskatchewan is all about.
In case you’re not familiar with this newish travel term, don’t worry, I was confused too at first. In its simplest form, glamping is simply luxury camping. This style is not for the die-hard granola eating, REI shopping, tent pitching group of outdoors-people. No, glamping is for those of us who may appreciate nature, but not the dirty inconveniences it usually entails. While my experience in Saskatchewan may not align with the strict definition of glamping, I think it’s a great example of how it’s transforming as a travel style.
I was in the province as part of the Explore Canada Like a Local program; an effort to highlight some of the fun activities across the country that make it such a great tourist destination. I chose Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, mostly because the names sound funny. I learned quickly though that one of the best experiences in the province, and something most locals do, is to enjoy the great outdoors.
Prince Albert National Park lies about two-hours north of Saskatoon. It’s a massive area, about 1,496 square miles encompassing everything from prairie lands to an arboreal forest. There are also a number of lakes, which is what makes it such a popular summertime tourist destination. Since it’s one of the favorite activities for locals, my hosts wanted to make sure that I too had the opportunity to live like a local and enjoy camping near gorgeous Waskesiu Lake. But I was nervous.
I’m a luxury hotel, L’Occitane amenities kind of guy and I wasn’t sure how I would take to camping after such a long absence. For the sake of my hosts I wanted to like it, but I was afraid I would actually hate it. I didn’t know though what Darci from Retro RVs had in store for me.
A few years ago she and her husband started this quirky small business in and around the Prince Albert National Park to offer a creative and fun alternative to the normal camping options. You see, Retro RV Rentals doesn’t just rent your run of the mill campers, their portable homes are made to look just like the great campers of the 50s and 60s. The look is something right out of Mad Men and brings something to camping I didn’t think possible – style.
The interiors of the retro-chic campers are just as impressive as the outside with spacious sleeping areas, a kitchen and (in mine) even a bathroom. More than just the luxurious setting, the hospitality of the owners was amazing.
When you rent with Retro RV Rentals you can choose to trailer the camper yourself or they can set it up for you. By the time I arrived at the campsite near the town of Waskesiu, everything for my retro-fabulous camping experience was complete. The air conditioning had been cranked up and stepping into a chilly camper was pure heaven on a steamy summer day. Water and electricity were hooked up and I was able to take a quick shower before going out for the evening. They even chopped wood for the campfire, stocked the fridge with beer and water and left me some popcorn to make later that evening over a roaring campfire. I don’t get that kind of service in the best hotels, much less at a campground.
It was the perfect, self-contained camping experience. I was able to enjoy being in the great outdoors without the annoyances of camping like bugs and, well, more bugs. At night we stoked the campfire, sat back and relaxed with a drink in our hands and a plateful of s’mores sitting on the table nearby. It was pure heaven and I was honestly shocked. I was shocked that I didn’t check into a hotel on the first night, shocked that I enjoyed being outside and shocked that I kind of want to do it again.
Living like a local is how I usually travel, hanging out with the people who actually live in a destination is the best way to learn about new places. But what it means to live like a local varies widely around the world and can be as extreme as living with a family or just eating local delicacies. In Saskatchewan it meant enjoying the warm summer nights, swimming in the lake and camping outside under the stars. Things may be a little slower when you’re camping, but I think the folks in Saskatchewan are onto something.
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