Remember when camping was the only overnight activity you'd do away from home? Well nowadays there are many more options for adventure seekers. One is called "glamping" which involves camping in more glamorous conditions than simply a pitched tent in the woods. But this newest one is really out of left field.
Champing is the newest trend in the burgeoning 'spiritual tourism' industry. It allows people to spend an entire weekend inside of an ancient church for a multi-night sleepover extravaganza. They get to hang out alongside other history buffs who want to rough it in the most ancient of conditions.
The activity was first launched by the Churches Conservation Trust in the United Kingdom, a charity organization that takes care of more than 300 churches nationwide. The goal was to offer a totally unique experience that could immerse tourists a more immersive look at these ancient facilities, while raising the necessary funds to support their conservation.
The churches that will participate in the champing range in size and era of use. Some were Victorian age worship sites while others were gigantic, Medieval cathedrals. This offers would-be champers a great selection for whatever type of ancient venue they'd like to see. Yes, this includes churches that are decorated with gargoyles—because who doesn't like gargoyles?
How do the sleeping arrangements work? Typically there are sets of rugs laid out across the floors and the champers sleep on mattresses.
Guests are also treated to presentations from local historians, home-cooked meals from local farmhouses, and evening star gazing.
The craziest part of the whole experience? You are literally handed the key to the ancient church for an entire weekend. That level of trust might be overwhelming for some. As Rachel Dixon of The Guardian wrote:
"Unlike the average hotel, our bedroom was public property: when we neglected to lock the door, a man wandered in with his dog to look around... It was a bit overwhelming, especially when the key was handed over—a suitable huge, heavy, ancient-looking chunk of iron."
According the CCT, these venues have remained in relatively good condition throughout the champing phenomenon. It turns out that tourists treat them a whole lot better than they would a hotel room.
It's not exactly a 5-star room on Airbnb, but staying in these historic venues isn't about the glitz or glamour, it's about reliving history. For true history buffs, this is the ancient church version of a Civil War reenactment. A direct immersion into an important piece of world history.