If you’re on Facebook, chances are you’ve seen at least a few posts from your friends about their kids’ summer camp experiences over the past couple months. There are the pictures of kids with toothless grins, boarding buses with their sleeping bags in tow, and hilarious snippets from those “The counselor said I had to write” notes. We see proud photos of the little campers returning home suntanned and looking so much more grown-up than when they left.
For some, these photos may bring back fond memories of talent shows and canteens, and a longing for your own childhood camp days. For me, they evoke flashbacks of the one summer I insisted on going to sleepaway camp. I hated it so much that I actually convinced my parents — who normally couldn’t agree on anything — to agree to take me home halfway through on visiting day.
From what I recall, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the camp itself. Rather, I just wasn’t the “camp type.” I hated early mornings, the words “cold” and “lake” in the same sentence send shivers down my spine to this day, and the idea of mandatory activities — even if they’re labeled as “fun” — never sat well with me. (And, for the record, the kid who’s always picked last in gym class isn’t exactly going to be ecstatic when something called “Color War” begins.)
But, as much as I detested my own camp experience, I’m somehow envious of my friends who loved theirs. In their thirties and forties, they still keep in touch with their camp friends and still shout, “That’s so camp!” when certain songs play. I want that. I want camp friends, and camp songs, and secret handshakes, and jokes only my bunkmates understand.
So I’ve decided to do something about it.
At the age of 44, I am officially taking a do-over and going back to sleepaway camp. No, this is not a reality show or some sort of Rodney Dangerfield-esque sequel to Back to School. Adult summer camp is a real thing, one I learned about only recently, that seems to be picking up steam throughout the country. I’m talking overnight, lakeside, sleep-in-a-bunk-bed camp filled with fully-functioning adults giddy to escape the real world. And if summer Fridays at work just aren’t cutting it for you, summer camp could be the perfect solution. In fact, there is actually quite a variety of multiday, multinight, all-inclusive options to choose from. Read on to check out a few.
This is where I’m heading (specifically Soul Camp East). It’s a body, soul, and spirit immersion at Camp Towanda, one of the nation’s premier sleepaway camps and setting of the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Campers will have traditional camp experiences like sleeping in bunks, eating in the mess hall (with much better food, I’ve been assured!), Soul-Lympics (their take on the camp-favorite Color War), talent shows, and bonfires. These are paired with a wide range of optional activities like yoga and meditation, cardio boot camp, dance lessons, and astrology classes. There’s even a speaker series hosted by some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts in the wellness industry. With a focus on self-care, Soul Camp does not permit alcohol, and they gently suggest tucking away your phone and refraining from social media during your stay (which, shockingly, they say all campers abide by).
Camp Grounded invites adults to “disconnect to reconnect” for an off-the-grid weekend in either the California Redwoods or Henderson, North Carolina. More than 50 activities are offered: Capture the Flag and archery for the active; photography, tie-dyeing, and basket weaving for the creative; and ukulele and beatboxing for the musically-inclined. Campers can choose to bunk with others or pitch solo tents on the grounds or outskirts of the camp for a little more privacy in the outdoors.
Camp No Counselors sets up bunks in four locations across the United States: Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, and New York. Perfect for adults who really like to let loose — and perhaps relive their college years — this is a typical outdoorsy camp (think: friendship bracelet-making, paddle boarding, Slip and Slides, and zip lines). But there’s one major twist: a weekend-long open bar. Each night ends with a dance party with themes ranging from ‘80s Apres Ski to Woodstock, and though they go until 2 am, they don’t seem to stop campers from getting out of their bunks for the more traditional activities.
WeWork, the coworking platform that offers modern and creative office spaces throughout the country for freelancers, startups, and even larger businesses, also has an option. WeWork Summer Camp invites entrepreneurs from across the globe to spend an all-inclusive weekend in the Adirondacks. People can sign up independently or with their companies, and participate in a range of traditional camp activities as well as more adult ones: networking exercises, outdoor survival courses, and evening concerts (with an open bar available the whole time).
The self-proclaimed “summer camp for makers, entrepreneurs, and world shakers” in Rock Hill, New York focuses on accelerated business and personal growth. Campers can take advantage of a vast range of personal- and career-focused classes and learn about everything from mindfulness meditation, to using Instagram in business, to publishing a book. As with Soul Camp, there is no alcohol permitted on the grounds.
This sport- and adventure-focused camp is located in the Berkshires in Kent, Connecticut. Unlike the other camps that are held only one or two weekends a year, Club Getaway offers a variety of weekend camps throughout the year, geared toward different target audiences such as young professionals, baby boomers, Jewish professionals, and even midweek camps for families with small children.
This September, when my Facebook feed is filled with back-to-school photos including those of my own first graders, I won’t see it, because I’ll be in the woods with no Wi-Fi at camp.
Don’t worry, I’ll write ... but only if the counselor makes me.
Jenny Powers is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.