My husband and I have always romanticized the idea of taking our family of six camping. In youth, my mother always took my sister and me camping in the Ozark Mountains, an eight hour drive from our home. All three helped pitch the tent; mom cooked on a two burner gas range. Our fancy meals consisted of potato soup with spam and scrambled eggs with bread. Entertainment was fishing, learning the art of skipping rocks, choosing sticks for roasting marshmallows, and walking to the showers. There were no cell phones or TV’s, just three girls and a tent (and, if we were lucky cousins).
As much as I love these memories, modern day standards had crept into mindset: aching backs from sleeping on tree roots, no electricity, no toilets, cramped space with no wall for privacy. So after searching for campgrounds in Europe, I found one that offered a glamorous option, cabins. It was less than three hours from where we live and affordable.
Duinrell Park sits in an affluent neighborhood in Holland, Wassenaar. As we drove down the sleepy tree lined boulevard leading up to the park I noticed how pedestrian friendly the area was, as paths could be seen from every direction. The entrance seamlessly nestled into the suburban landscape (I wondered how the locals felt about this?). After a quick check in, we were given keys to our home for the week, cabin 446.
Two of our four kids resisted camping. Even the upgraded cabin accommodations didn’t seem to smooth things over. So it was a nice surprise when they walked in without rolling their little eyes. They weren’t bubbling over with excitement, but I could tell they were curious and interested in this new mode of lodging. Looking around, I felt guilty. Not only did we have beds, we also had a coffee pot, dishwasher, and more guilt…a Senseo machine! The cabin was roughly 450 square feet with three bedrooms, a bathroom with shower, and a living/dining room space. The only hint of my yesteryear camping was the daily walk, not to the public bathrooms, but to the theme park that was attached.
Living within a theme park was both beautiful and beastly, beautiful because the kids were in cotton candy heaven. Sensory utopia usually equates to a more relaxed vacation for mom and dad. The beast lurking was the sense of selling out. What did my mom possess that wasn’t carried on into my DNA? Why does it take a cabin and theme park to entertain my kids when it only took skipping rocks for me and my sister? My thoughts were interrupted by a four year old eager to dash and discover the park just beyond our cabin door.
The park’s mascot is a cute green frog. He looked jolly and happy, always giving me a smile and thumbs up, as if saying, “Really it’s okay you sold out, the kids are having a blast”. And he was right; the kids really were having a good time. They enjoyed the roller coasters, the bumper cars, and the indoor water park. My four year old was the first to sniff the chlorine in the air. In her words, “Mommy I smell swimming!”
Luckily the park closes daily at 5pm. This means the evenings are left to read and play board games, well not quite. Our small cabin also had a 17 inch TV, allowing us to watch episodes of Seinfeld.
Our family’s best vacations entertain the girls while offering a few quiet moments for my husband and me. In fact it had accomplished the above prerequisites, but I hadn’t expected the nostalgic memories of days gone by. The simplicity of pitching a tent with my mom and sister and the beauty that came with those long walks to shower and wash dishes in the communal sinks…but then, I didn’t recognize those at the time. If I asked my mother I’m sure she would remind me of all the complaining she had to bear on those camping trips. How my sister and I would plead for her to take us to Silver Dollar City Theme Park. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I was a fan of canned spam either.
It’s funny how the mind and time changes a point of view. Like most things in life, it seems the treasure of the present isn’t discovered until long into the future. The guilt I initially had with “selling out” was replaced when I noticed how happy the kids were. Turns out living in the moment and appreciating the past are two wonderful gifts I discovered while camping in Duinrell Park.