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About a year ago I had just finished working at a Summer Camp as a kitchen staff. The camp was set in Quebec, Canada nestled between the gorgeous mountains on the edge of a beautiful lake. This was part of my big adventure, my first ever overseas trip and I had chosen to go solo. Camp was the first part of my journey having decided it would be loads of fun, an awesome experience (who hasn’t seen the Parent Trap) and the perfect introduction to another Country. Summer Camps are a North American ritual where children from 6-16 leave the cities for 2-8 weeks (there’s some hard core campers) and head for camp, often on a lake. Campers spend their days participating in all sorts of fun activities, anything from rock climbing to canoeing, pottery or drama. The camp I found myself at and falling in love with was a bilingual French/English all-girls camp with staff and campers coming from across Canada and various other countries. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for what lay ahead, ups and downs but overall an amazing experience. As camp wound down for the summer and we had our closing ceremonies I couldn’t help but think of how many beautiful little lessons I had learnt during my summer. Lessons I could use in my everyday life and that I felt called to share so that others could too.
Happy little life lessons learnt at Summer Camp:
I learnt the importance of being comfortable as you.
Camp is a place with few mirrors, where your morning routine was slapping your hair up and there was little privacy to change (which was an experience for me). Camp fashion is wearing the same clothes twice in a row or wandering around in crocs and socks and you showered maybe once a week, but get this, no one minds. What truly matters is if you are showing up as you and letting your inner self shine all while wearing a smile, after all it’s the best accessory a girl can wear.
Try this: Can’t leave the house without makeup, looking in the mirror or showering? Go without for a day, it’s surprisingly freeing. Be comfortable and confident in your own skin.
I learnt the power of unplugging.
I found this easy to do at camp but have struggled with since. At camp you’re pretty much unplugged; we had a share computer with slow internet and a time limit of 30 mins max. Facebook wasn’t the first port of call when I woke or the last thing I checked before bed. I had to plan a trip to the little staff bungalow and would use my time mostly for emails. Through being more unplugged I found I lived in the moment more allowing myself time to appreciate the simple joys like watching a sunset, reading by the lake or journaling before bed and it was beautiful.
Try this: Do you find it hard to go a day without checking in online at least ten times? Decide to only check in once during a day or if you’re game switch off completely and see how it feels.
I learnt about news, what’s important and what’s not.
This ties in with unplugging, when you have a time limit with the internet, no nightly TV to watch (only the night sky) and newspapers in French you realise how unimportant so much of what goes on in the media is. I found it so much more beautiful reading news from family or even just sitting and chatting with a fellow staff member about our days.
Try this: What’s your computers internet homepage? Is it full of stuff that leaves you feeling like the world is full of doom and gloom? Change it! Make it something that lights you up, Pinterest is a great option. Do you read the papers or watch the news daily? Find some good news stories/videos like Soulpancake instead or share happy little stories with family and friends.
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I learnt about meal time celebration.
Camp meals are a time of coming together. At each meal the dining hall fills as everyone takes a seat around one of the many big tables with their fellow campers and counsellors. Having been a kitchen staff I know that each meal was lovingly prepared and served and everyone could feel this, our chef had quite the reputation and all this was all celebrated. Songs were sung before eating and games were played. Everyone would bond over great food and the day’s adventures; it was a time of connection which was beautiful to see.
Try this: meals are such an important part of our days; they are to nourish and fuel our bodies. Celebrate your meal, pour love into your food as you make it and bring joy to the kitchen. Take a mindful moment before eating to be thankful for the food you have, savour the tastes and most importantly celebrate, eat with other people when you can and share joyful conversations.
I learnt about language, spoken and unspoken.
As I said camp was bilingual, but my French was very basic. The kitchen staff were a multicultural bunch with 4 different languages being shared, French, Italian, Greek and my Aussie English. It was a beautiful occasionally comical mix but I learnt the beauty of spoken words. I took joy in the challenge of learning basic French and I was reminded of how important it is to keep learning new things, to practice and keep your mind active. I also learnt about beautiful unspoken conversations, the little moments had when serving young French campers their morning oats where a smile was all that would pass between us.
Try this: share a smile with a stranger, keep your mind active by learning a new language, (there’s some great apps). Appreciate the beauty of words, download a dictionary app.
I learnt about stripping back in life.
At camp you sleep in little log cabins with 8 other girls. You only had with you what you could fit in a suitcase, but it felt freeing. I soon learnt I didn’t actually need that much ‘stuff’ to function daily.
Try this: have a spring clean; minimise; de-clutter; strip back to the necessities.
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I learnt about Celebrating
At camp everything is celebrated, the start of summer, the end of summer. New campers, old campers, being at camp for your first summer or your tenth. Learning how to kayak, making it to a new level in archery. Eating cinnamon buns on Sunday or receiving a letter. I learnt the importance of celebrating the big and little things in life and to share the excitement too. During the summer there were some beautiful ceremonies but one that sticks out the most for me was at the end of camp when it was just staff left. We gathered in a huge circle inside the rustic hall and took turns sharing and celebrating what we were most proud of during the summer, it was beautiful and powerful.
Try this: Stop and take a moment to celebrate where you are in this moment, celebrate the big and little joys. Take time to contemplate your achievements, what’s making you proud? Celebrate it!
I learnt about connection in various forms.
It was so beautiful to watch the connections formed because of camp, the bonds between camper and counsellor, new and old staff. In only two months I felt stronger bonds than with people I spent two years at school with. It’s hard to describe but I think it has to do with living so close with one another, the stripped back lifestyle and being a traveler. Even though we were all so different we still connected while star gazing and chatting, sharing a teary moment or on the similarities we shared it was about putting yourself out there and being you. There were also connections with Mother Earth. When you begin to unplug, when your closest toilet is under a tree or a good walk and when you’re constantly surrounded by trees you start to become more at one and in tune with Mother Nature which is damn good for the soul.
Try this: Get some physical connection in your life. Join a group, take up a hobby anything where you can begin to connect, share and put yourself out there. Connect with Mother Nature, get outside more, stargaze, or watch a sunset.
Camp has just come to a close again for the summer, I was in Aus but I would look at the pictures filling Facebook often wishing I was there. I realised one day that some of the things I loved most about camp I could actually recreate in my everyday life, while I wouldn’t have a lake I could still sprinkle some of the camp magic in my days. What ideas can you use to sprinkle some camp magic in your life? Here’s to an amazing summer in 2013 and the magic of summer camp wherever in the world you may be.