Making Connections at Adult Summer Camp
Because we all need a little more goofiness in our lives
As soon as one of my besties and I arrived at Camp Our Way, we knew we needed a drink. We had drove in a day later than everyone else and alliances had already been made, friendships were quickly established, and flirtations were in full flutter. We kept joking that we were Wednesday and Pugsley Addams banished by our diabolical Aunt Debbie. This was going to take reinforcements.
Within an hour of unloading the car and redecorating the bunk bed (for Instagram, natch – the site's usual gig was a youth cabin), we were in a Lyft to the nearest liquor store, having promised the driver a huge tip if he would make the trip from San Marcos to Wimberley. Turns out a few packets of sugar and some hot(ish) water from a dispenser can make a reasonable simple syrup (eyeball equal parts of both if you are playing along at home). Add rum and a few hundred limes (cut crudely with a waiter's knife) and you have a classic daiquiri. Down two of those and you are ready for a theme party.
It must be said here that neither of us are exactly joiners. Only I had been to summer camp before, and that was hardly at my free will. I spent most of it trying to convince kids that I was from the exotic land of Colorado and rolling my eyes every time someone started chirpingly singing "this is the day." I briefly considered a similar defense mechanism but before too long I was doing sloppy death drops outside the dance. That had a little to do with the open bar (our trip to the liquor store was apparently not needed – Camp Our Way provides a seemingly never-ending supply of local liquors and beer as part of the package), but mostly had to do with the transformative power of Nineties R&B. Praise Chilli. Camp was going to get me one way or another.
Camp Our Way fills the a.m. hours with the same kinds of activities that I signed up for (and skipped) during my childhood trip to camp – archery, various sports, and arts & crafts (there's also wine tasting, which I suspect would not have been condoned by the folks at Wayland Baptist). To COW's credit, they respect your boundaries and you can create your schedule mostly how you wish. There are no semi-maniacal counselors cajoling you into ziplining or capturing the flag. If you want to spend your afternoon swaying in a hammock or sliding down a waterslide, have at it. But you'll kind of miss the point.
I didn't get the chance to formally interview any of my campmates. I was having too much fun, for one, and they weren't there for journalistic "color." But through informal conversation (and a fair amount of eavesdropping), it seemed many of them were there for the same reasons, whether they were in their early 20s or early 60s. The "real" world gives us scant chance to find connection. We find it where we can, griping with co-workers or meeting strangers through apps, but bonds are stronger when they are forged out of accidental moments. On the last night we were all wowed when one of the campers sang a pitch-perfect version of Adele's "Chasing Pavements" at the talent show, her voice filling the night air. She was dressed as a hippie, part of the evening's hipster vs. hippie theme. Sure, it was corny – as were the other dozen or so acts – but we all need a little more goofiness in our lives.
Later that evening, after a few rounds of drunken Crocodile Dentist, I felt a little sad that we missed the first day. Maybe calling the experience transformative is too much, but you could tell that more than a handful of campers left with new friendships, a couple even with new romances. The Facebook group set up for our "class" is still very active months later. Perhaps if I joined the fun earlier, I would have been a part of that. But no matter, I still got a weekend without worrying about emails or deadlines. And my friend and I have almost convinced our circle to book a weekend next session. This time we'll be right on time.
The next Austin-area camp is Aug. 25-28. www.campourway.com.