“There are wood ships, there are good ships and there are ships that sail the sea. But all the best ships are friend ships, and long may they be”
Hello there! My Name is James and I’m one of the Regional Marketing Reps for Camp Counselors USA. As part of the CCUSA family - I get to travel around the UK and run information sessions at Universities across the Midlands. At these sessions, I have the chance to share many of my experiences and memories of my time at camp. In doing this we at CCUSA hope to help the wonderful people that we speak to, to take the opportunity and make their own memories of Camp during their own best summer ever.
My Summer home and own personal paradise is Camp Laurel South. Located on the shores of Crescent Lake, ME, I’ve spent three of the best summers of my life by the lake-side and am returning this year for my fourth. Despite that improving the near perfect seems impossible - I’m confident in the belief that each summer, things only get better than the last and that this summer is going to top the charts as my best yet.
For my three previous years, I’ve spent at LOSO, I have been a waterskiing/Wakeboarding Counselor & Boat Driver. Out of my program area I live and work with the youngest boys at camp. You’d be right in assuming that I’ve never had a dull day at my summer home. This year, I’ll be returning to camp as leadership staff and am elated that I’ll be able to reflect onto Laurel South, some of the good that camp has given me over the years.
At my camp, I’ve experienced that almost every decision made is done so with four words in mind, “be kinder than necessary.” It is the most wonderful mindset for anybody to adopt and what it means is that everything anybody does at camp, they do so with others in mind. See a piece of rubbish on the ground? Pick it up, save somebody else a job and keep camp looking lovely. See somebody looking down? Introduce yourself and make a new friend. Whether it’s an action that you are unthinkingly compelled to do or a conscious decision that you yourself make, the positive nature of the whole place rubs off on you. In its purest form, camp is about fun, friendship and is a paradise away from the “real world”. I find that being kinder than necessary becomes so natural and normal after spending a summer at camp; its one of the many reasons why it is just so wonderful.
Without a doubt the thing you miss most when you return home, is the people. Whether that be your co-counselors, your campers, or any of the other amazing staff you’ll meet at camp. You’ll get home and be reminiscing for weeks and months to come. If I tried to list some examples of things I miss about the amazing people I have met, I’d fail miserably. This is because over the years all the little memories I’ve made fuse into one big indistinguishable mash of stories, inside-jokes and who knows what else. All that I know is that when I think back to the people I’ve had the chance to work with, it never fails to make me smile. It truly is such a beautiful thing that you go there for such a short period and by the end, it’s like you’re family.
I’m sure after you return home you’ll be asked “How was camp?” Believe me you’ll never be able to properly get across just how amazing your summer was. I always feel like in the moment I’m asked, I seem to forget all my best stories. If you want to catch a true sense of any camp counsellor’s summer, just hang around them long enough and It’ll come out, usually always prefixed by “This one time, at camp…”
So, I’m going to be honest in that I am repurposing this tip here. At my camp, we are all told in orientation, “buy into camp”. It’s certainly something I took on board and I’m so glad I did. “In essence, if you invest yourself into camp you’ll get so much more back in return. Camp is all about giving, about tasking yourself with making sure that everybody around you is having as much fun as they can. Without realising it, camp will be giving you that same effort back. It comes in the form of respect and admiration from your peers and being looked up to as a role model by your campers. Believe me, there are few better feelings in the world that being somebodies “favourite counselor.” Essentially, if you devote yourself to trying hard and doing your best, more often than not, you’ll succeed (and you’ll probably have a laugh whilst you’re doing it too).
One of the staple camp activities, as I’m sure you will realise after your first summer, is colour war. At Laurel South, we call it Spirit Day - In all honesty it’s just two days of the most colourful madness. The whole camp is split into two colours, blue and green, and pitted against each other over countless events that are deeply rooted in camp tradition. What’s great is that despite the high stakes of the competition, it’s all done in good spirit with great sportsmanship being a key ethos at the centre of the whole event. Spirit day is so much fun as the whole camp gets involved, you get dressed up in your chosen colour and go absolutely cray. I’m sure each of you at your own camp will have something very similar but different, that’s one of the fantastic parts of summer camp – each one is beautifully individual.
“That book you’ve been meaning to read for ages” - At camp, if you are off duty or have some down time at rest hour, there are few things that are better to do than to sit down and pass the time with some reading. Use your time away from technology to get into that book you’ve wanted to read but just haven’t had the time. With your busy life, some time to read a book might be something quite novel*. *Pardon the pun
“A Crazy Creek Camp Chair” - Whether during orientation, at camp fires or at meetings you’ll be spending a lot of time sat on the floor or benches. Believe me, this chair will save your back and your butt, consider getting one online before you go and getting it shipped to camp.
“A Watch” - Although whilst you’re at camp, the days will fall away and you’ll have little idea of what date it is - you still need to be on time to your activities. So, to ensure that, get yourself a waterproof, digital watch that you don’t mind getting beat up a little. Once programme time is done you can go back to working out what day it is by what meal your having.
As I said earlier there isn’t a funniest moment or a funniest story, just an endless collection of excellent moments. One of which that stands out happened this year during one of our evening programmes “Heist.” The event bio was that we had entered an alternate reality, that the camp we were in was a mere reflection of our camp and that everybody you saw outside of our cabin group was a programme. We had to circumnavigate the camp passing various tests, sneak through alarmed rooms patrolled by guards and rescue an undercover agent that had been captured. All in the hope of retrieving our evening snack that had been stolen by the creators of the alternate reality camp. I know this is mad, right? This really happened.
As part of our cabin group and the leader of our mission I told the campers that instead of me who’d be leading them, that i’d enlisted an old friend to do so instead. I swiftly returned after excusing myself, having donned an all-black outfit, camo face-paint and as many pieces of “spy equipment” as I could find. I introduced myself as “Chip Russel” the Scottish Veteran of the S.A.S. First drafted at age 11 as a covert child operative; Chip had served over 10 years on the force and fought in 19 wars that were so secret you weren’t even aware they happened. Essentially we all got really into this activity and went through the whole task taking it all very seriously. It was possibly one of the most hilarious evening programmes, such that Chip Russel became a famous name in our cabin and the real me, James was asked “Can Chip Russel be on duty tonight instead of you?” It’s the little things that make the best memories.
With regards to using your 30-day grace period after your time at camp. My advice is to not be afraid to go off the beaten track. Obviously, the tourist staples like NYC and The Grand Canyon are a must, but it’s not the be all and end all of travelling around the US. Ask the American counsellors their recommendations of where they would go if they could. As well as that, make sure you find out where they are from and what there is to do around them. If you are going somewhere, let people you know from camp in on what your plans are, you might get a local tour guide free of charge.