The Reason Why Wild Camping is the New Form of Travel

Anne Bonfert

Because it is the purest form to connect with nature

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If you have been wild camping before you’ll know what it is about. The landscape in which you’ve set up your tent. The animals that surrounded you. The sounds. The smells. The whole picture. It’s an experience you will not forget. Wild camping is probably one of the purest forms of connecting with nature. I think.

My childhood memory

I grew up outside the house. Mostly at least. Cycling. Hiking. Skiing. Climbing trees. Playing soccer on the fields. Swimming in the ocean. Playing hide and seek. And more hiking. My parents loved hiking. So did we. As children. There is nothing more inspiring than being in nature. Especially for children.

I have so many memories of the mountains. One of these memories includes a wild camping trip. It was just my dad and me. Three days through the alps. Somewhere in the south of Germany. I was eight years old. I had my own hiking backpack to carry. My dad had to carry the tent and everything we needed for two nights up in the mountains. And sometimes my backpack too. But he is strong. Especially as I child, I believed he could do anything. At least carry everything. Definitely carry two backpacks up a steep slope. So that I could run in front of him. Because once he lifted that bag off my shoulders I felt light like a feather. I lost my tiredness. Felt like a mountain goat jumping around.

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Late in the afternoon, we looked for a spot. A spot to set up our tent. We were high up in the mountains. He found an area protected from the wind. With access to water. Fresh mountain water. I climbed up the mountain and collected some alpine roses while he set up the tent. I still smell those flowers. See the tent standing there. My chair was a huge rock shaped like a couch. He made food. I was sitting up there. Drinking tea. When a herd of alpine ibex („Steinbock“) walked across a rocky slope. Not far from us.

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His backpack was lying below my feet inside the tent. Since I was so small and had space on my mattress. It was a tiny tent. But somehow we both fit it there. I think there was a rock below my thin mattress. I still feel that rock poking in my back. The next morning was cold. We ate breakfast, packed up the camp, and continued the hike.

As we stopped on the first small waterfall a man arrived. He was surprised seeing someone else up here so early in the morning. He was training for a hike in the Himalayan mountains. Climbed up early in the morning. And now there was this young human being up here before him. But my dad explained to him that we only walked 50 meters so far and pointed in the direction of our camp.

These are all the memories I still have. From this very first wild camping experience I made. About 20 years ago. We have been camping before. And we have been camping after this event too. But none of the other events I do remember like this one. It was so pure. The experience of being one with nature. High up in the alps. With the animals.

My dad and I were back there last year in September. We did a two-day hike. But we slept in a mountain cottage for the night. It was snowing up there. And honestly, I have no idea how I did that trip as a child. It was a brutal hike. Beautiful though. But draining. My dad still remembered on which part of the path he had to carry my backpack. Where I slipped and where he grabbed my arm to prevent me from sliding down the mountain. His memory of this trip is even more in detail than mine.

“Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.” — Charles Lindbergh
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Wild camping in Namibia

My next memory of wild camping goes fast forward to the year 2015. The first month of living in Namibia. A country with lots of space for wild camping. My friends took me out there one night. Spitzkoppe is the place. A climbers' paradise. My favorite spot in the country. Yes, we stayed on a campsite. But what did we have at the campsite? Nothing but a long drop toilet. We didn’t take a tent with. They said you don’t need one. We just put our mattress on the floor and slept right there. Under a million stars. Later at night, they showed me scorpions, spiders and other small animals they found with their torch with ultraviolet light. Thanks for that one. Apparently, there are also leopards in this area. But all of that doesn’t matter. Because my memory was made. A very unique one. One, I won’t forget.

And after that first night out in the desert many more followed. Even deeper in the desert. Far away from any official campsites. Far away from any sign of civilization. Far away from cell phone reception.

Surrounded by nature. Surrounded by the sounds of jackals and hyenas. Leopard prints and elephant tracks. Springboks and zebras grazing peacefully. I’ve made so many memories wild camping in Namibia. Almost all of them included a mattress on the ground. A campfire. Some beers. That’s it. And the night sky of a million stars. A moon that lights up your entire camp and the environment around you.

We’ve camped once in an area where some of the last desert-adapted elephants live. We put the mattress on the back of the „bakkie“ (South African for pick up truck). Our friends were lying between the cars on the floor. All of us under the stars. Without a roof. We woke up during the night from a screaming hyena. I’m telling you that sound is penetrating. The hyena wasn’t far from us. We could hear her. Very well. The sound kept us all awake for a while. But we didn’t find any tracks of her the next morning. Nothing.

But instead, we found tracks of an old elephant bull. Who walked right through our camp. We couldn’t believe it. But it happened. The tracks were showing it all. And nobody woke up from it. While a majestic desert elephant walked past the sleeping humans. This shows once again how peaceful these animals are. This one must have been a real gentle giant. I get goosebumps thinking about him walking past us. While we were asleep.

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Wild camping is a form of socializing

Most of my wild camping experiences in Namibia include at least four people. Sometimes six, sometimes even 20 or more. But usually, it included our group of friends. Six to eight of us would spend the night together. Under the sky filled with an infinite number of stars. Sitting around the campfire. Talking about life. Loved these times. They were so valuable for my time being in Namibia. I ended up being the one initiating a lot of these trips. Because I enjoyed them so much. I enjoyed being together with my friends. Out there. In the wild.

It made me happy.

I will miss this form of socializing here in Germany. I guess sure we can camp here as well. And I am sure I will. But it won’t be the same. Because it won’t be the same group of people. It won’t be the same vibe. The same vastness. The same pristine nature.

It will be a different experience. Which is good too. It is good to make new experiences. Create new memories.

But those memories I made in Namibia will last forever. And they connect me with the country. Deep in my heart is a secret place for them. And that is why I will always go back there. Even if I shouldn’t end up living there. I will go back to make more memories like these.

“Time camping isn’t time spent, it’s invested.” — unknown
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Have you ever been wild camping? Do you have camping memories from childhood days?

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I am a traveler. Photographer. Writer. Teacher. Skydiving instructor. Adventure enthusiast. Nature lover. And fell in love with the African continent. My stories go around travel, nature and all kinds of adventurous activities.

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