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Bringing A Sustainable Vision to Glamping

This is a longer version of an article which was featured in the June edition of the International Glamping Magazine.

As a result of the number of different campsites we work with we have gained a unique insight into the Glamping industry as a whole. People often talk to us about their business ideas, about what structures work for them, how they set up, and also about their issues, even on an emotional level. Its quite eye opening, a lot of it is because we treat them like family, some have been our clients for over ten twelve years, so the trust goes both ways. We see the industry like being part of a large family and at times we feel like we bring them all together, because whilst they compete with each other (so to speak), we are their tent makers. 

So as we are trying to view this whole industry as a family we can look at it this way, the structure or tent makers keep selling their dream homes to others, and the site owners are selling their dream lives as a product, so Glamping is a product that we all provide, an experience of a dream life we create for others. 

As early as 2008 I was talking to a campsite owner woman in what was one of the most renowned sites in France, and the picture she painted was, that the success of there site, having been in the papers, turned it into a constant stream of people visiting, she said they were like vampires, all wanting to find out about her, and telling her how she is living the dream, but in reality she felt broken, like they sucked the joy out of that dream life, as if she was actually selling her life, and they came to her campsite for it, rather than to enjoy it, so what started as a really nice small campsite that enjoyed families with young kids and open attitude, lost its charm and she felt it also lost its appeal as far as she was concerned, and eventually the site was sold. 

 I am over dramatising a point, because this industry works with people in their best moments, when they holiday when they get married, or at a festival, so usually there is a general positive vibe, and people are happy, although of course people complain about tents and being in nature etc, but the case im trying to highlight is of where we all were and where we saw it going, as a vision that is somewhat lost in interpretation. 

Cornish Tipi Holidays: one of the original Glamping Sites in the UK (even before the word ‘Glamping’ was invented.

The Heartland programme starts with us all as a family, whilst trying to bring back the focus of sustainability to the thing that matters most, our own lives, and our dreams, as tent makers and as site owners, it seeks to bring back the values and meaning and the feeling of being one tribe, to create a reality that sustains the owners and tent makers, and one that has environmental sustainability as a core.  

For many years all of this was just something that took place while we made tents for our clients, we tried to make some changes and influence the industry as a whole as early as 2009 when we made the world gathering of yurt makers, it was meant to be followed by a similar event for site owners. But like other things running a small business and our own way of living took precedence and so although we felt strongly about all of this we did not take it further, everyone seems to be occupied in running their sites, and trying to hack a living from this new life style business. 

The Industry has grown exponentially since then, and we try to do our best by holding some kind of centre for it as a family, helping our regular clients with support and advice, because we are all in it together. We focus a lot on collaboration because it allows us to do more, and we like taking part in more projects. 

It has provided a good livelihood for us, one that is hard work, but allows us to see the results immediately, sometimes we reflect on a tent we are making, realising that some 800 people are going to have amazing experiences in it, so its rewarding, although at the same time we feel we have been doing it for so long, especially in the run for Easter, when we have to wake up at 4am for months to catch up with all the new covers for another spring rush, all our campsites clients are opening up needing those new covers. We hold our breath for some 50 different covers to match the frames we tailored them to. Every client needs his covers yesterday, and its demanding meeting all of their different needs at the same time, but we enjoy it, and having got to know so many of the site owners on a personal level, its like a game we all play once or twice a year, and it works.

 What we want to talk about in this article is are own unique vision for this industry, and so our story takes us to an exciting country, Italy.  We have branched out into Italy to start our own campsite because we felt like the UK is a little saturated and the land based link and vision with rural development was broken, as a whole, we felt like something was missing in all of it, a meaning. 

 Here was a perfect chance to influence a developing market in a more integrated way. Upon seeing where the country is at and especially in those marginal mountain villages that are spread along the dragon backbone of the Apennines, we decided to try and do something much braver than we set out in the first place. We decided to try to tackle the Italian depopulation and rural abandonment through the tools of sustainable tourism, and the truth is that it was not all easy.

 We have found first, that Italians do not understand the back to nature approach, and why should they, everyone has some nona in the countryside, this is where you go to get bored, not to holiday. There is so much to choose from, the whole country is up for grabs and especially in the mountains. In the UK you can’t buy 5 acres of land to develop, in Italy people were offering us castles for maintenance fee only. Yet they themselves will prefer to go and holiday by the sea and eat lazily into the piazzas, so it took some convincing to get them ignited, to get them to understand why people want to go and live in a tent where there is nothing. 

To further explain this issue, we need to look at why camping is so sort after in the UK, and the reasons to me are two, one is that as a trend the country side is seen as somewhere to enjoy, and although this is admirable it stems from the countryside not being available to live in, the UK planning law makes it really hard for people to go and build in the open countryside, and so prices in the countryside have become extremely high, and it is as if nature is a commodity we can only see but not live in. The other point is that the trend or attitude we have to the countryside in the UK is taken from the upper classes. People do not see the country as somewhere you go to work yourself to the bone, it is seen as somewhere you go to enjoy, to holiday, to take the air. 

Victorian view of Camping

Italy is almost the opposite, anyone can build in the open countryside if only he owns enough agricultural land, but one hectare is enough, the countryside is mainly lived in by lower classes, who view it as some sort of old life they must shed. I know I am again over dramatising a point, because I have not met any people who love their land as much as Italian farmers, but the general trend or view is of disregard to the amazing natural beauty, as if they need someone form the outside to come and help them appreciate it, this point is also why Glamping has not caught as much in Italy, and of course there are many other factors, like the amount of amazing properties available to renovate in the countryside, or simply to buy and move into.

After 4 years of work thorough the Heartland Association, and endless meetings we now run a successful programme in this amazing country, born out of a simple idea to have our own site in which we offer a special sustainable tourism experience, but turning into a whole system for rural development through sustainable tourism. 

The programme aims to treat the owners as the first circle, so we try to help people to build smaller sites, with about three units. We prefer to encourage people to open up as an agriturismo, because this amazing Italian scheme is more flexible than setting a campsite, and less restricting, but its the meeting point of organic farming, and using the site as some sort of local engine selling and showcasing the local surrounds, through food an activity, it creates a steady stream of visitors that can have a high quality, slow tourism experience, and it allows the site owners to live comfortably in the countryside, and enjoy it because a small family can run three units easily by themselves, where if those were ten, the focus will be on running the business and not on the lifestyle. 

yurts italy
Yurt at the new Cerchio Del Desiderio Glamping, Abruzzo

We focus on elements like transformational events, special forms of farm to plate of organic produce, and integration with local community and tradition. One example is the ancient grains of Abruzzo, something we tried to promote as a link to health and the tradition of local farming, We have fallen in love with some of the local wheats, and have some exciting ideas about bringing those into the UK, but that is a matter for another time, every place in Italy has its own produce, its own olive oil, and its own cooking, so its easy to see how this system can work.

Another thing we focus a lot on is volunteers, so getting young people from all over the world to come and take part in our project, to learn new skills and have a cultural exchange, and in a way this part was also the most successful one as far as I am concerned because I have found that getting to people at a certain stage in their lives, before they even get to University and showing them another way can change them forever. Seeing some of those young people change from one end to the other, showcases to me that being exposed to an alternative lifestyle can make so much difference, so those are the elements of this program, its a call for slower tourism, more linked to experiencing the real location, helping the site owners enjoy a country lifestyle.

Because we can not actually meet the needs of all the projects we work with, as we run all of this alongside our tent making, we have gathered an impressive array of structure manufacturers, names like Outstanding tents, Featherdown farms, hot tub, sauna suppliers and log cabin builders. We contacted estate agents in areas that we deem are of special natural interest and of need of rural rebirth, mainly in the Abruzzo region that we love. So we now also have lists of amazing properties to develop that we can offer clients and people interested in moving abroad, and it’s a way for us to help people find properties that they will not have access to otherwise, because we have found that while a lot of people dream of that house in the sun, upon coming to the country they face one estate agent and potentially miss out on their dream home, and its a shame because moving abroad is already a big step, and it should be done correctly, But all of this is also an important part of this program, its collaboration, because we run all aspects with a larger body of others, it helps create cohesion, at times sites even help each other, and people use the same architect, and structures from the same suppliers, and it creates more cohesion and a level of respect for each other’s space of operations.

I guess at some point like any successful venture this whole system has taken wings of its own. We developed this system around a simple model, a small campsite that becomes a shop window for the local community, it sells organic end product on the site, and so the ssite’s own product is actually an experience of a sustainable life.

It creates a system of small sites that have their owners well being and country living at heart, their sustainability and economic well fare first, than they also become something of an ambassador for the local village or town, working with farmers in bringing back old fruit and veg varieties that were grown in the past, weaving it with the traditional food and tradition that Italy is so rich with, and of course bringing a steady stream of visitors to place of amazing natural beauty with historical interest, and in Italy that is the main tool to fight depopulation and abandonment by creating a steady flow of visitors, yet here too the flow has to be sustainable, because otherwise it overwhelms those small local communities and they become overrun so to speak, losing their unique rural footprint.

A beautiful site for a Glamping in Abruzzo

With the success of it all some new questions came up, and being part of the industry for so long in the UK we asked ourselves, why don’t we apply some of this in the UK too? We always wanted to do things differently, to focus on a more sustainable approach, to bring this family more together. Glamping used to a be family of people we knew, something that has now grown into a massive Industry, yet lost for direction, a common vision, a purpose in the larger scheme of things.

The question is how can we bring it into a role in rural development, and how can we reconnect all of its elements into a larger family that moves in a similar direction? This programme is now running in the UK too, because we see a call to create a system for sustainable rural development and regeneration through tourism.  

As a first step glamping sites can simply create a list of add-ons that are sourced locally and sold to the client, from food to craft, exploring the tradition, history and nature locally, and a lot of this is already happening. But what could happen much more, is using glamping as a window to living in nature full time, not just as a holiday, because if you like doing it for a week, why not find a way to do so all year round, it could be like a revolving door taking more and more people into sustainable lifestyles, homes in nature.

We feel that this way two things can happen, people who run sites can find a common ground with their visitors and actually focus more back on the dream that took them into such a lifestyle business to begin with. The point is that talking to a lot of our clients we feel that through working with so many visitors they have had to distance themselves from the site, some owners (usually the ones who run the bigger sites) do not even go on site anymore. And I feel that the initial dream they set out with is lost. What if they could play a role in taking people back to nature on another level too, they could support rural economy by creating a shop window for all the local growers, and more than all they could bring themselves to be sustained in their own dream, because when we speak about sustainability that is the aspect that is ignored most of all, the human element, the person behind the program, the person who runs the business. 

Like I said being in the centre of this big family has given us a unique view into the industry as a whole. Often it is very driven by profit and we all forget to ask ourselves where are we going with it, some part of this big family have become very successful, yet talking to them on the phone some days I feel like we are missing something, that tribal feeling we used to all share in beginning sitting around those fires together. 

I feel that on some level we failed to create an opening in to an alternative way of life that is more sustainable as a whole, and this is what a lot of us miss, that commonality. It like the shoemaker’s kids walking barefoot, I guess we miss walking barefoot  (I’m just joking) Im just saying there is a sell-off and dispersal of the values and life we used to cherish because we all turned them into a product, and so the idea is simple to use the product to take us back to the same place we started at. 

Samara Hawthorn at her land, Bryn yr Blodau, Pembrokeshire

I have a friend who is on the on the very interesting one planet development program in Pembrokshire, she is called Samara Hawthorn, this amazing program in Wales has got some 30-40 families through the application process, allowing them to build their homes in the open countryside, they need to showcase they get 60% of their income from the land and the site directly, and it has a set of parameters for low carbon foot print etc. 

 I think it ended up that a few of those pioneers so to speak, end up working endlessly to showcase another way of life simply by living it, they break their backs to do something which should be more supported, I feel that although planners have done amazing work by allowing people to build in the open countryside that way, and that the scheme as a whole is exactly the type of development we would love to see more of, it could be more sustainable for those families if they taught the life style by creating an experience. Their product can be teaching others to go into similar lifestyle, instead the focus on having to make a living mostly from growing makes the program very hard, because although the land base connection is very important, it creates a reality which is a little like open air museum rather than sustainble, and again the Human aspect is not as sustained as it could be in it, or atleast this is my reading of the situation, and this is a shame because so much good work has been done through this program, and Wales is so proud of it, so I wish we can help planners see it and develop it further, into a more extensive policy of back to nature, and creating small households with an opening to others to enter that lifestyle through those projects, I feel this is a true symbiotic relationship.

Yurt on land in Powys, Wales

In this way Glamping is no longer just a holiday, you come in as a tourist and you end up with a possibility of living it full time on your own sustainable household.

To summarise, the Heartland Programme that has run so successfully in Italy, is now running in the UK market too, and although it’s an older market we feel it’s a chance for us to try and do our part in influencing a more sustainable approach. And through the tools of collaboration and innovation we aim to try and focus on rural development vision in the UK too now, we feel we owe it to this industry and to many in our extended family. I feel that the time has come for this industry to see its role in shaping the countryside in another direction, if we can get planners to understand the scope of it too, so much more can be done, because at times its like fighting an endless battle, with the house market as it is, and farming where its at, I think it is a mistake that a whole flow of people trying to get back into the countryside in this way, isn’t helped more, and that the scope of this industry as a vehicle is missed, the fact that a decision has been made to conserve the countryside and not allow anyone to build in the open, has created a steady flow, a need that people have to touch it, to feel it to be in nature, and that should tell us all, that actually there is an endless need for people to go back to it as a lifestyle.  

So you have read it here first!, and if one day you walk into an amazing housing estate that looks like a Glamping site, or you find a small restaurants in a yurt serving organic food that uses ancient local foods with some forgotten Scottish names, or if we all wake up one day and see a whole network of small campsites that teach a different way of life while they bring people into nature, teach people how to do the same. You will then know this program has taken root. its just an alternative future for us in the UK and it is a more sustainable one. And if we manage to solve the housing issue at the same time then it’s an added bonus, because the technology and the solutions are there already, and as a whole there is an amazing movement going this way and we just all need to help it a little, to find a way to work together like the family that we have become, and remember where we all want to go next. 

That is how we work at least and this what our dream and vision is for the industry as a whole. 

The Heartland ​Program

We promised some exciting new plans for this year, and we have been working hard. We spent a lovely sun-bathed day putting a new yurt up in Pianella,  Abruzzo for a beautiful new campsite. This campsite is owned by one of our clients in the UK, so it was funny seeing two yurts going up at the same time in two different countries and symbolic in a way for where we are taking the Heartland rural development program, as a land bridge between the UK and the continent, sprouting new projects and sustainable rural development.

Trucks and yurts two of our greatest loves

We are attempting to steer Glamping into a new direction in earnest, and this is how the Heartland program was born. Being one of the main structure providers in the UK, has put us in a central position to influence our campsite clients and learn from them. This innovative  program is running parallel now both in Italy and in the UK. We started working with landowners, Estates, and small holdings on creating a new type of campsite, with sustainable development at heart. Kerry Roy who has become a good friend is a really good example, and we believe in her! She is the rising star of Glamping, everything this woman touches turns into gold, so keep your eyes peeled for her new Italian retreat centre! She manages the successful Camp Katur in the UK too.

Sand and green oak framed 14ft at Camp Katur

It was fun seeing yurts we made by Volunteers and in some of the transformational events we run, go up over the same week in two different countries.

As Italy is a waking market where Glamping is concerned, it has given us time to reflect and design things from the ground up, and what has started as a project aimed to build our own campsite in the mountains of Abruzzo has turned into something much bigger. We now run a full service for people wanting to set up campsites in Italy and have a list of properties we hand-pick that are gorgeous and perfect for this type of venture. We have also chosen some of the most beautiful structure providers with saunas, tents and more, alongside some local log cabin builders etc and of course let us not forget our own unique tents. This is a program that takes new owners, especially people from the UK by the hand through all the rigmaroles of setting up a newly sustainable campsite in Italy. But the success of this program has also brought up some questions for us because we work mainly in the UK.

We asked ourselves why don’t we do the same for rural areas in the UK, help land-owners and investors into a new program of rural development, help the large profile of campsites we work with move into a more sustainable route, and so the Heartland program is now coming to the UK too! Into a big and well-proven industry. So if you are a land-owner or someone wanting to set up a new site contact us for more details. If you want to take your new site along a more sustainable route we have a plug-in model that has been proven, but its also a way we can really give back to rural areas, to help preserve history and tradition, bring personal development and transformational events in integration with small scale country living.

In the meantime here are some nice photos of our yurt going up in Italy.

Kerry Roy loving her brand new yurt

 

‘Before It’s too late’

My inspiration currently is food, I’m getting really excited about the connection between old vegetables, cereal and legumes and a way of life that is being forgotten. Like you probably already know we do a lot of work in Italy with sustainable tourism. My current hero though is an American chef called, sean brock.

Hence the title (I stole it from him) – he revived the culinary traditions of the American south from the ground up, that is what I find exciting claiming them back before it disappearnd it’s too late. He didn’t just recreate the recipes which he had loved growing up, he went as far as getting people to grow old grains that were extinct, like Carolina rice, in a search after the real taste. I sometimes play with the idea of running a restaurant like that or having a company called “Real Tastes”, finding the real foods that aren’t grown anymore, growing them and making food for people from them. If you end up at my kitchen table that’s the game I play almost every day, and I think everyone should.

My Current hero (with vegetable tattoos)

What excites me about all of this is creating a way to take people into another layer, into an experience. Into the well being of the past, into the rich taste of real stripey tomatoes, black chickpeas. I mean, seriously wherever you live there have been veg, cereal pulse, cheeses, all grown or made in certain ways for hundreds of years, and it’s worth reaching for that taste, finding that old way of being, and weaving it into your life.

What I like about Sean Brook’s work is that he went after taste the wholesome way, and that inspires me. We have been working with cultivating some old Italian Varieties for the Heartland Association, mainly wheat, with the queen grain in my view being Solina, the soft and warm mountain grain of Abruzzo. You wait until you taste a homemade pasta made with this grain (don’t freak out if you can’t find any, just send us an email and we can get some sent to you).

Ancient Italian grain
Solina Harvest
Solina and Spinach pasta

I love taking our volunteers and getting them to help plant the fields, grow grain, harvest it by hand with us, plant herbs and gardens, and I love teaching them about conscious cooking, and the art of Alchemy in food.

Carrying apple cuttings from the red mother tree to be grafted unto our apples.

I am not joking you, eating from your garden is one thing, but eating ancient grains that have been grown in the mountains of central Italy for thousands of years, and getting people to learn how to cook them with magic, eating them with veg and pulses that too have molded to the people and the land over a millennia and simply sitting in front of the fire and letting all of that go in…. it’s like what the locals say about olive oil, “it’s not food, its medicine”. The olives are not only not sprayed, for the better part they have not even been picked for years, seeing no man, but the air and water are pure, and so you end up with – sun, stone. solitude, and silence, as is the olive tree lore.

Olive harvest with an Abruzzan Shepherd of the mountains.

The thing that inspires me, in all of that, is creating an experience. I am working on a new model for sustainable tourism, and developing a new type of campsite experience, and I want to make the Alchemy of conscious cooking one of its main pillars.

Along with all of that, I believe its time we take Glamping, as it’s called, into another direction, I don’t appreciate that it has become this Instagram sort of experience, I want it to be real, I want to combine 4 elements in the campsites we work to create. We already covered food, the second is obviously, open unspoiled nature, the third is the structures themselves, and I have always preferred the tribal ones, although I have seen some amazing spaces that inspire me in other directions. You can inspire people in so many ways by taking them into a setting. I loved staying at the Albergo Diffuso (scattered hotel, as in, it’s not just one building but half of the old village) of Sextantio in North of Abruzzo, it’s like living in an untouched medieval hilltown – the whole feel is 15th century, the houses are untouched and all done in an old way, the restaurant is in a castle cellar, it allows one to drift into another place, to dream..

The old rooms of Sextanio inspire a dreamlike atmosphere

The fourth pillar is inner work. My volunteers make me laugh a lot (even if I make them cry in return) but together we have made experiments in group conscious work, I am their guinea pig and they are mine, and for a spell, we experiment together in another way of being. The setting is wild Abruzzo and you can feel the old Samnite pastoral nomads walking their sheep in the air, and so we too let go and find different ways. I let them explore consciousness and they let me take them to places they haven’t been before, and we keep the process open and shared. We also run events that take people into this process on a deeper layer, and so this fourth element is the one I deem most important. A lot of it is allowing people to share more, and putting things in the centre, but the connection to weather and body and how everything communicates with itself is also important. One of the things that happen when we host for example is that it always rains when new people come, it’s like a rule, we will be enjoying months of Italian sunshine and…. boom, a newcomer and a storm. Explain it to a 21-year-old?!, but the thing is that some of them get it, so much so they kind of control the weather afterwards, so if you end up seeing some really strange weather, it isn’t climate change, it’s one of our volunteers on a wild day, Ok I’m just joking.

Group work in the Sun

I’ve seen our workers become telepathic, and all it took is putting them into the group making process, living in nature, and sharing life together in a tribal setting, they wake up at 4 am in different tents going through the same thing, later they go back living in separate countries and the same thing happens, its like for a spell they are still connected, yet after a while the spell (usually) fades.

Fire time magic and the power of being

I would like to develop this whole system into the campsites we design and work with, that’s what excites me, a framework and experience from the ground up. Lucy is also a fountain of ideas, she has endless experience types, and how to tailor them around a business plan and she makes me really laugh at some of the ideas of what she would like to see in a campsite/retreat experience.

So this is our current focus – we have started designing a whole new type of experience, and its code is going back to wholesome, to the food grown in a locality, to its history and tradition. The magic of being together in nature. I feel quite amazed that somehow all I need to do is choose a new direction and life finds me the people to work with, and suddenly there is this flow of people asking for our help to design their campsites. And here was me thinking we went against the “Glamping” stream, in that we always push for sustainability and back to earth practices. I thought most people just want to turn their campsite into a money-making machine, but I was wrong, and people find us exactly for that, so in order to help, I thought I would write the basics down, good ideas should be shared openly. I can’t say it will be a good idea for everyone but it inspires me, before it’s too late.

The Marriage of the Sacred and the Profane

Portugal 96′ Mike with his axe-pipe

With 2019 at the doorstep, we wanted to share some history with a view to a more sustainable future so in the last days of 2018 I would like to look at some of the history of nomadic tents in the UK, and the role the Alternative movement played in introducing another way of life. 

My Story starts when I decided to leave mainstream society and travel. Yet before I had even managed to immerse myself into a traveling lifestyle, I met a different kind of destination. I was Born In Israel and going to my second meeting of world travelers, taking place in a forest by the hills near Jerusalem I have met another type of travel, a journey of awareness,  I have met a group of people who practiced group consciousness work in that gathering and so just as I was about to take my first nomadic steps, those were entwined with consciousness work.

The following year, having fallen in love with an amazing Sardinian girl and spending the winter in Italy, I have decided to go to another European meeting of travelers. I and that girl have separated during the winter and we agreed to meet in the mountains of Portugal. When I got to the gathering, I met instead, the very same members of that group. The same two people who came to Israel the year before have greeted me just as I arrived, it seemed as if they were waiting for me. I say I traveled for love, as I used to call that Sardinian girl my true love (sometimes I still do), But the point is that destiny had another thing in mind for me, so I traveled for love, but I got the spirit instead, and so I entered the medicine area they were running as a service for the gathering. We treated the sick, and we worked with the healthy. It was a gathering of 3000 people so there was very little time to rest.

It was 96′ and the alternative scene and the traveling world were very different to what they are today. People used to really live on the road, groups like Spiral tribe worked trans into magic. One of our cases was a girl from the spiral tribe who had kidney failure, and the drama around her healing, and the rest of her friends and some of the strange magic that issued when they tried to take her away, were beyond anything I’ve seen, she ended up almost dying and we had to start her treatment from the beginning, but we mostly worked on ourselves while treating others, the biggest changes took place in us, a younger group of people being taught another path.

I have spent 3 months working with that group holding the medicine area for the larger gathering, in the course of that process everything changed, I have been transformed forever. I was taught psychic abilities I dont even know how to write about, and I have witnessed miracles. I left that gathering a changed person, or you may say even, that on leaving that gathering I ceased to exist as myself, There was no continuity, the person I was before had very little to do with what I became.

Photo: Portugal 96′ Mike with his axe-pipe

But the thing I want to speak about in this entry is the work itself, not the medicine work that was carried, but the journey of awareness that a group of young people took under the guidance of the members of the medicine area. A theme that was really strong in that gathering was the separate “medicines” of the different races, many people have heard about the teaching of Native Americans, or their way of life, maybe fewer know of the Chinese esoteric system, and the same for African magical belief systems.  Those are the 4 races: the white, the yellow, the red and the black. It seemed to me that what we were working out was the medicine of the white race, the medicine it has lost because unlike all other races it did not seem to have its own esoteric belief system. We wer not  just treating symptoms, we aimed to tackle the symptom of modern day preception altogether, to open up the western frame of mind, and the experiment succeeded in us.

In that gathering in Portugal we have found the key, by attempting a mass shift of awareness in the general Gathering goers, we also opened up our individual awarenesses. The secret tool so to speak is that by breaking the boundaries of separation within oneself one can take them down in others around. Things like Telepathy, thought forms moving into the manifest, weather control through feeling, and a host of other things, were made available to us, a small group of young people who never had a clue.

You may ask how is this relevant for the here and now, or even where this story is even going. This story is a sort of insight into the alternative movement, and the secrets that it explored. The problem with secrets is that they are not normally shared. All of us that have been there have certain issues talking about what we experienced in the open. We often get psychological profiling or shunned, or even because we do not want to frighten people, so we end up never talking about it. This story is an attempt to point out that parts of the traveling scene and the alternative movement, or you may call it the new age traveler scene had discovered something monumental.

The group that has taught us were all from the UK. it was now a year later, and after a spell of living back in Israel alone, and the atomic meltdown that this group suffered as a consequence of what they attempted to do, I found myself following the call for a working partner, It was as if I reached enlightenment, yet I was alone, more alone than I have ever been, because now I was also different to anyone I knew, I seemed to have been transformed on a really deep level.

I traveled to Scotland to take part in another gathering, in that gathering I have met most of the younger group that we with me in medicine area, we were all young and none of us really knew how to process the experience or even talk about it, I guess we suffered from a post-traumatic syndrome, yet because we all traveled no one really had time to reflect and arrive at some resolutions. 

I’m getting back to the motive behind this blog post now, and that is that in that gathering I met a woman, she was very tall, and she used to walk around with a brown woolen Jallabyia from Morroco, she walked barefoot in the mud and she played her violin by the fire, but what struck me most about her is the way she lived, and the tribe she belonged to from Tipi Valley (a land-based community in Wales with people living mostly in tipis) . In great contrast to the rest of that gathering where the travelers couldn’t deal with the wet wood, the midgies and smoke, they lived in a proud big tipi. Kids were running around a massive fire, and big iron skillets and pots were cooking food for all to share, whilst it felt like the rest of the gathering couldn’t deal with the harsh Scottish weather, those guys were at home, and that home, was a tent.

Here was a group that actually lived on the land year round, I fell in love with her as you may have already gathered, yet in my personal story, there is still another story, the story of the impersonal, the story of the Alternative movement. Traveling later to Tipi Valley in order to “kidnap” her so to speak from the “Indians”, in some sort of modern tribal act, and traveling the world together, we ended up coming back to live there. Bit by bit, the rest of the younger group from Portugal have followed suit and we lived in a sort of fusion of two core elements of the alternative scene, the medicine tribe, and the tipi people: The marriage of the sacred and the profane.

Photo:Tipi Valley winter of 98′ curtsey of Rik Mayes

like I said, we rarely hear about the contribution of the new age traveler scene, people who left their lives to travel like gypsies, living in benders and tipis on the land (this was before yurts were integrated), at best we hear some personal stories of magic and mystery, but more likely we usually hear of tales of failed protest and broken communities, so it is not really understood what this flare did, and where it guided mainstream society, its members now live in the terraced flat next door.

It is said that the new age traveler scene was a bricolage of beliefs with an affiliation with the oppressed, which is a good observation. So in order to shed a little light on its contribution and to share some of its core truths, I felt like I needed to write about the past. To touch a little on what we were trying to achieve, what we explored: a new way of life that had community and magic in its core. The long crystal clear nights of winter when snow lay on your tipi, and big beech fires were the only way to warm up, kids running into the stream and coming out blue from the cold, yet smiling. There is a story in Tipi Valley that Archie Lame deer came to visit when he was traveling in Europe, He told the people of Tipi Valley that they are truer to the Indian way of life than most Indians.

I belonged to the medicine people, and the woman I lived with, to the tent people. In coming together we attempted to bring those two families into one, bring them home, into a vision of living the medicine on the land. Though after a few years, the amount of profane in the community we lived it conflicted with the sacred, or you may say we have not reached a balance of the two. 

So this little family, the small tribe we were part of inside the larger community of tipi people left and started a strange life in trucks on the road, looking for a place we can root the medicine work in the land. There are endless magical stories of travel and community in that period too, the guy who brought us together in Portugal 96′ used to call it “Transfusion”, because we were coming together as a community on the road, fusing in movement. 

Having touched on some of those subjects, not so much in order to showcase, or even reveal, but as an attempt to remind us all about the role of the alternative movement and the lives it led in search for meaning, and touching a little on my journey in order to give this impersonal story a personal touch, I am trying to point out that the tents we make, the life we try to direct others into, are a result of some larger truth, the medicine way of the White race, the alternative.

Years have gone by now, and those alternative truths have been blended and watered down into the mainstream, its a sort of trade-off that we as the people who lived them underwent too in most cases. It is often argued that Margaret Thatcher killed of the new age traveling scene, but I think that as a movement it simply didn’t have a clear vision, kids were born that wanted to go to school and trying to stand tall in protest, made it clear that the alternative scene didn’t really have anything to protest about, it came out of mainstream society and it got swallowed back into it, and the tradeoff of that lifestyle resulted in us  making tents or teaching alternative lifestyles as courses, and it also gave birth to Glamping, a whole new industry, our friends run festivals, wedding hires, its as if the lifestyle got distilled into the everyday, and we have those people living in tents to thank for that, them and their love for the natural, for the tribal. 

Photo: Making yurts on the road in Tuscany

I say it was a trade-off because on some level we would have preferred to stay poor and live those two realities, we would have preferred to bring that marriage of medicine and tent living into a meaning of its own. But in a strange way, we sold off a part of the sacred so we can find a way to live in the profane. Now we all have tent making businesses, and we hold Glamping sites, yet we feel like we are selling a part of the magic instead of bringing it about in full form, as if we are selling ourselves in every tent we make, selling our fire, the tears that we cried by them, or worst still, we feel like the core issue is always missed, that we sell the tent without the lifestyle, as if we bring many others into the community without ever sharing the magic, that we took part in, the secret we hold.

Maybe its also an attempt to remind us all about what all those tents are really about, and the small tribes of nomads who left a normal life in order to live in them, they were not Indians the grew up in London and Bristol. We understand that this new leisure industry and its success isn’t just another way of holidaymaking, it is built on the lives of people who fought to make a difference, and maybe if you end up in one of those tents, you could somehow trace it to the Transfusion that we went through in them. So behind our tents, there is also a secret love story, with another way of living, and that is the one I wish we could really share.

But enough with all the nostalgia. As its winter I like to reflect, to look ahead at new visions and we have been making some exciting new plans, yet before we launch into them I thought some History would help us all to reflect, and remember why this love affair we have with tents, why has this alternative now a million pound industry, I wanted to share some of its magic, and meanings.