I had the most incredible summer of my life, and it is all thanks to Camp Leaders. I flew all the way to Utah, United States to work as a Camp Councillor and to make memories I’ll never forget. I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world, but here are 7 things I would never have experienced if I hadn’t got on that flight:
1. Met my people
Ask anyone who’s been to camp what they miss most, hands down they will say the people. The people make all the long days and tiresome hours worth it. Everyone is crazy, wild and unbelievably approachable. Some of my favourite memories are just sat in the staff room during breaks talking about anything and everything or exploring Utah and seeing their favourite spaces. Even now, I’ve been home for 3 months, I’ve seen my camp friends about 6 times since leaving and we’re taking a trip for New Year’s Eve. I could go on forever, but these are the purest friendships you will ever have. Also now I have friends all around the world, what’s better than that.
2. Met so many awesome kids
The kids you meet at camp will stay with you for life. They are the happiest, purest kids you’ll ever meet. Ignore the ‘brat’ stereotype because out of the 100 kids I had in my care this summer, about 3 of those were difficult. The 97 others, just want to mock your accent, make friends and get to know you. They look up to you, you’re interesting because you’re different. I spent the majority of summer explaining what a bin was, in my South Yorkshire accent. They loved it. Anything you do is amazing to them, even when they mocked me for eating chips (fries) with a fork.
3. Discover America
I chose to travel with Trek America at the end of camp as it can be a little daunting to be 18 and in America for 12 days alone, so I decided to go for Trek (a lot of people travel together, I didn’t want to chance it). I chose the Western Wonder as I was placed in Utah, the west, and it was packed of some insane sights. To be honest Trek America had so many bucket list things, I’ll list them:
San Francisco – Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, meeting all my new friends, meeting Karl (the locals call the fog Karl).
Yosemite – I love hiking and this is something I never thought I would do. Hiking and camping in Yosemite is something you could never imagine. We explored different hikes, we chose Vernal Falls as it was a stunning waterfall and wasn’t too strenuous. We then chilled and had pizza in the visitor’s centre.
Las Vegas – A long car trip, around 12 hours, in fact. But it was here I found a love for the musical Hamilton, a bit late – I know. We stayed at the Golden Nugget which is situated on the very famous Fremont Street, where many there is Casinos and the exhilarating Zip Lining is located. Being under 21 in Vegas can be quite intimidating but I had a truly unbelievable time. Party buses, casinos, exploring the strip until the early hours of the morning, deliberating the need for 6 ‘I ❤ Vegas’ shirts, then tanning around the shark tank at the pool. To top it all off the hotel even had dressing gowns! What more could you want?
The Grand Canyon – The first thing our tour guide, James, said was that on average, people only spend 12 minutes there in total. They take pictures and they go, whereas we were lucky enough to enjoy the view at sunset. So we spent forever taking pictures and enjoying the tranquility. We returned the next morning and were able to hike around, which also meant taking some terrifying photos, i.e. pretending to hang off the edge.
Arizona – During the final night of our journey, we had the opportunity to sleep on a beach… In Arizona! At 34 degrees! Even though we were sweating cobbs, definitely a tick off the bucket list.
Los Angeles – I feel like this is on most peoples bucket lists, and we all know why. Who doesn’t want to accidentally see a celebrity in Starbucks? (I wish) We didn’t have a massive amount of time in LA as it was the end of the tour but we explored the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, saw the Hollywood Sign and found some great gift shops. The dream. However, our tour guide was amazing and took us up to the Griffith Observatory after the tour finished, which had the most breathtaking view of Los Angeles.
4. Went out of my comfort zone
There are many different roles you can have at camp. You can be support staff – i.e. kitchen staff, cleaning, security – or a counsellor, i.e. program specialist or general councillor. I was hired as the program specialist councillor for Outdoor Cooking, this meant I taught our campers how to outdoor cook during activity times but also had a cabin at the same time. This was great as I got to know all the girls in my cabin individually but also got to know a lot of the other campers. I have never taught cooking before so I had to adapt myself and learn how to make the session work for every kid. The best comment I had while teaching was when explaining the safety rules of fire, one child explains that “guys if you wanna be a bagel, now’s not the time.” You get used to (and love) the absolute madness from kids.
5. Sleeping in a hammock next to a mountain
Even better, got paid for it! I was able to work with the Rising Star program at my Camp, kids who are too old to camp but too young to begin the leadership program. I was able to take them camping with a couple of other councillors. We cooked outside, had a huge campfire and all became besties. Cringe I know. Then I climbed into my hammock and slept under the stars next to a mountain. Another wild moment of realisation. Just thought how 2 months before was chilling in my suburban house and now I’m chilling in a hammock in the Uinta Mountains in Utah.
6. Hiked a mountain at 1 am/Rode a horse/Spent my life in Walmart/Tubing down a river
I was very lucky to have the weekends off at my camp, which meant that we could spend our free time exploring Northern Utah. Salt Lake and Park City are gorgeous (and great for spending) and even chilling around camp. For instance, we decided to hike Moose Mountain (right next to camp) at 1am which seemed like a good idea at the time and was hilarious but totally dangerous and stupid. Another time we spent a couple hours riding the horses around camp and the mountain area, which was terrifying but funny and something I’ve never done before. Walmart will be your best friend. The bargain bin DVDs, best friend. Massive selection of oreo and M&M’s, best friend. Random homeware that you really don’t need, best friend. Plus it’s cheap, what more can you want. Lastly, one of my favourite weekend memories was when the entire staff went tubing down Provo River, literally 50 people floating down a river, cannot get better than that. Plus, there was a rope swing at the end, and who doesn’t love a good rope swing.
7. Explored cities alone
Something that was really great for my self-confidence, was travelling to an entirely new city on my own for the first time. As long as you’re safe, prepared and know the local emergency numbers! There’s no better feeling than having the freedom to do as you please. I was in alone in San Francisco for a day: I had the opportunity to see so many impressive sights, Pier 39, Alcatraz and Fishermans Wharf. I literally walked from Pier 1 to Pier 39, ate a hot dog, it was great.
Overall, Summer 2018 was a game changer for me. I’ve grown as a person and try to experience life as it comes. Camp will change who you are, for the better. So seriously, if this is even a slight interest, head onto Camp Leaders website, call them up, have a chat, and start the adventure of a lifetime.