by guest blogger Maya Rodale, writer of historical tales of true love and adventure
Summer camp was one of the best, most formative experiences of my life. At least, in hindsight it was. At the time it was simply…The. Most. Fun. Ever. For one glorious month, I lived in an idyllic camp deep in the woods of Maine with tons of kids my age, cute and funny counselors, fresh air, fun and games, and really good food. Looking back, here are the awesome life skills camp instilled in me.
- How to go it alone. When I was 10, I went to sleepaway camp for a month, without knowing anyone there. I’m still really impressed with myself, because I’m the kind of person who gets nervous going to a party where I might not know anyone. Yet, there I was, alone in the wilderness of Maine…with a ton of other kids and NO PARENTS!!!! I swiftly made friends. I also got to be ME away from expectations of family and friends. And I discovered that I could totally survive with strangers, which made college, school trips, and life in general a lot less scary later.
- I learned how to play guitar, create stained glass, swim, and other stuff. Each camper took four classes a day, in two-week batches, which meant I had to try a lot of stuff for just an hour a day, for a short time. Totally low-pressure exploration. I found that two weeks of bead making was enough for me. But camp is where I learned to play guitar—and that was a hobby I stuck with for years.
- How to write letters and maintain relationships. We had an hour each day for “quiet time,” which meant writing letters home. During the year, I exchanged letters with my camp friends (this was before the Internet—whoa!) and I’m still in touch with a few of them, almost 20 years later. Staying in touch with someone isn’t quite the same as a Facebook status update for all to see. It’s about managing to connect and relate to that individual in just a handwritten page or two.
- How to clean the toilet. Each cabin had a chore wheel, and sometimes that meant it was your turn to clean the toilet, among other domestic tasks. This is an instance where peer pressure serves the greater good: No one wanted to shirk her duty in front of her friends. At home, we might sulk and get out of chores, but there was no avoiding it at camp. Not only did I learn how to clean toilets, but I also discovered it’s not that bad.
- How to thrive in routine. Camp life was very regimented. Mealtimes were set, as was the class schedule and the 4:00 bell indicating snack time (imagine a bell ringing and hundreds of kids emerging from the woods and fields and sprinting for the snack tent). The whole camp also gathered each day before dinner for a meeting at which we shared announcements, lost and found items, and so forth. The result: I always knew what was going on, and so I was more relaxed and in each moment.
Oh, and…I also learned how to orchestrate the switcheroo of twin sisters (Is it any coincidence my first two books are based on that premise?), how to smuggle candy in care packages, and how to play in a rock band.
Long story short: Send your kids to camp.
Maya Rodale is the author of multiple historical romance novels, as well as the nonfiction book Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained. She has a Master’s degree from New York University and lives in Manhattan with her darling dog and a rogue of her own.Her latest book is The Tattooed Duke. Learn more at mayarodale.com.
(camp photo credit: Hunter-Desportes)