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I dumped my human size duffle bag and shoulder bag of sundries onto a bare mattress and surveyed the room. Two single beds–closer in size to cribs than twins–and three sets of bunk beds flanked the walls. I chose a bottom bunk in the corner for sleeping and tossed my bundled sheet and pillow onto it.
 
More than 30 years since I had last been to summer camp, I was reminded last week of the significance of this experience. Routines change, surroundings change, companions change. A different world welcomes you. It’s exciting and daunting—even for a visiting teacher.
 
There are obvious adjustments a camper can make in order to be comfortable in her setting:
 

  • Accept that bugs will be accompanying you on all of your activities. When a large grasshopper-but-more-angry-looking insect drops from the ceiling of your shower, don’t scream. Likewise, when a horsefly buzzes around you during the final relaxation phase of outdoor yoga, don’t run around your meditating classmates.
  • Surrender your hair to nature. Wash it (occasionally), perhaps comb or brush it. And let it be.
  • Think of dirt as a natural, unscented talcum powder. It will cling to your sweaty uncovered parts. It just will.
  • Embrace the schedule, the cabin assignments, and the outhouses. They are part of the adventure.

 
 But going to camp is not just about giving up luxuries. It’s about new experiences and growth. Here are some of the lessons I learned:
 

  • Start the day with exercise and a goal.
  • Support others. Be accessible, talk and listen. Give encouragement.
  • Learn. Pay attention to new experiences and people. Explore.
  • Balance structure (what you need to do) with free time (what you want to do).
  • Be introspective. Use this time to get to know your self better.

  • Have fun.

 
Opportunities for traditional summer camp are limited, especially as we get older. That just means we need to be more creative to find similar experiences. Retreats are a great alternative, and can sometimes even be squeezed into a long weekend. The upcoming Step Forward Leadership program offers an upscale “camp” experience for high potential women leaders, in addition to behavioral assessments and leadership coaching. Look at www.StepForwardLeadership.com for more information. Thrive retreats for teens and women are currently being planned in New York and Sicily. Click here if you’re interested. And centers like Omega offer a multitude of opportunities to thrive.