8 Reasons You’re Going to LOVE Summer Camp

1. NEW FRIENDS

As the well known saying goes; ‘camp friends make the best friends’.

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2. THE CAMPERS

The main reason we are all there – without them, camp wouldn’t even exist!

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3. THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAVEL

I’ve managed to visit 10 states so far during the past two summers, only 40 more to go!

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4. Days Off

My favourite days off are always spent on a beach.

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5. The Sun

See all above pictures for evidence. Here’s one more of my hotdog legs on a hot, sunny day in Misquamicut, just in case you weren’t fully convinced.

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6. The Lake

Perfect for cooling off on a hot day, or watching stunning sunsets by night.

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7. The Opportunity to Experience New Things

Before camp I had never painted an army of tribal warriors, taught someone how to ride a bike, climbed a real rock face or been hypnotised on stage in front of an audience. Thanks to camp, I can say I’ve done them all.

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8. The chance to be yourself.

Never is there a better place to be yourself than at summer camp.

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Keeping up with the Kids – Counselor Translator.

Although in England different terms are often used to describe the same word (for example bread roll/balm/cob, but we all know it’s a bread CAKE really!), our words translated into American have a whole new meaning, or sometimes no meaning at all! My campers had absolutely no idea what to do when I told them to put on their swimming costume, or what to do when they were told to throw something in the rubbish bin.

You’ll find yourself translating between English and American during your first couple of weeks at camp, until you get a hang of the local lingo. To make life easier on arrival, I’ve prepared a starter pack on how to keep up with your kids when you first arrive.

The first term is the English version, followed by the American equivalent.

Clothing

Trousers                    

vs.                             

Pants

Knickers/Pants        

vs.                           

Underwear
(they get really confused with this one).
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Jumper/Hoody

vs.

Sweater/Sweatshirt
(famously sang about by Jacob Sartorius – if you don’t know who he is, it’s time to find out!).


Trainers
(the only trainer you will find in America is a personal one (PT!)).

vs.                                         

Sneakers 

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Swimming Costume

(you would think the clue was in the name when it comes to morning swim lessons, but this goes straight over their heads!)

vs.

Bathing Suit

Braces
(attached to your trousers, not your teeth!).

vs.

Suspenders

Camp Activities

Football  

vs.

Soccer

American Football                                   

vs.

Football

Skipping Rope                    

vs.                

Jump Rope

Around Camp

Lost Property                                    

vs.

Lost and Found
(usually where I’ll find one of the 20 water bottles I have misplaced lost during the summer).

Drawing Pin
(essential to pin your photos to the cabin wall!)

vs.

Thumbtack

Garden                        

vs.                             

Yard

Hair Grip
(surely the English version makes more sense here – the clues in the name!!).

vs.

Bobbie Pin

Hoover                                      

vs.

Vacuum

Jug                                                            

vs.

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Parcel

vs.

Package
(everyone loves to receive a care package at camp!).

Post                                                            

vs.

Mail

In the Cabin:

Rubbish Bin (the one the campers seem to find the funniest and look at you like you’re an alien from outer space).

vs.

Trash/Garbage Can

Torch

vs.

Flashlight

The Toilet                              

vs.

The Bathroom/Restroom
(they also like to say to ‘pee’ rather than to ‘wee’).

Cupboard                                             

vs.

Closet

Sofa/Settee                    

vs.                   

Couch

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Aubergine

vs.

Eggplant
(the famous emoji *wink wink*)

Biscuit                                                

vs.       

Cookie
(even ones that lack chocolate chips!).

Candyfloss                                            

vs.

Cotton Candy
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Chips

vs.

Fries

Crisps

vs.

Chips
(just incase you weren’t already confused enough!)

Sweets                                                        

vs.

Candy

Jacket Potato                                          

vs.

Baked Potato

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Motorway                                                  

vs.

Freeway

Bill
(in a restaurant).

vs.

Check

Boot
(of a car).                                                        

vs.

Trunk
Car Park                                                  

vs.

Parking Lot

Petrol Station                                            

vs.

Gas Station


Lift                                                          

vs.

Elevator


Lorry                                                            

vs.

Truck

Roundabout                                            
(although it’s rare you will see one, and most Americans have no idea how to use them!).

vs.

Traffic Circle

Underground                                                

vs.

Subway

Shopping Trolley                                        

vs.

Shopping Cart
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Chemist

vs.                                                    

Drugstore
(a drive through pharmacy I hear you say? Welcome to America!)

Cinema    

vs.                                                  

Movies
(*sings* Saturday night at the movies…)

Pavement    

vs.                                                 

Sidewalk
(not that anyone, besides the tourists, ever walks anywhere!).

Other  fall.jpg

Autumn

vs.                                    

Fall
(Fall in the U.S. is beautiful, particularly in New England!).

Holiday          

vs.                                            

Vacation

Post Code            

vs.                                        

Zip Code
(06750, you never forget your camp postcode!).

Queue                                                            

vs.

Line

(Mobile) Phone                                                  

vs.

Cell

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Travelling after Camp: Florida (West Coast)

If you missed the first installment of my post-camp Florida travels to Orlando, FL, read all about it HERE! After a crazy, rainy week in Orlando, it was time to pack up and head to the west coast for some much needed R&R (rest and relaxation!), and hopefully some sun.

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A Megabus with working WIFI!

The first thing we did was head to downtown Orlando to catch the Megabus to Tampa (yes, Megabus is a thing in America too!). The journey took a couple of hours and the trip cost us around $5 each; so although it wasn’t exactly a glamorous experience,  it was a cheap and cheerful one! Megabuses over in the States have free Wifi (that actually works!), which is an added bonus to the price.

We arrived at the bus station in Tampa and it was in a pretty dodgy area – definitely not a great first impression! We quickly caught an Uber to our Airbnb that we had booked to stay in for the night, before our trip down the west coast began. This was the first time I had stayed in an Airbnb where it was just a room in someone else’s apartment. The host was nice, and gave us our own key to come and go, but it was an awkward experience as the flat was pretty small and we felt like intruders! Still, it was cheap and we were only there for 1 night. Both of our stomachs began to rumble (nothing new there, we’re both always hungry!) and there was a Mcdonald’s down the road, so we decided to venture out. This was Ria’s first taste of an American Mcdonald’s – and she couldn’t believe the size of the portions! Welcome to America, sis!

The following day we headed to collect our rental car.. We hired the car from Fox Rent a Car, as they were one of the cheapest companies around and didn’t charge too much extra for drivers under age 25 (I was only 23 at the time). The majority of hire car companies in the U.S. charge around $15 -30 per day for renters under the age of 25, depending on your age. – make sure you read the fine print before hiring a vehicle! We chose to hire a small economy car with AC (essential now the sun had finally made an appearance!!), but when the man at the desk saw the size of our suitcases, he upgraded us to a slightly larger car free of charge (and the two of us managed to fill that, it’s a good job he did!). Hiring a car is definitely one of the best ways to get around in America, and generally not too expensive either.

Our first trip was a short drive from Tampa to Clearwater Beach on the west coast. It was Labor day weekend in the States (a HUGE holiday over there) so the beach was PACKED when we arrived, but we managed to find a spot to sunbathe and relax. Clearwater beach is one of my favourite places in America; the sand is beautiful, the water is clear and warm and sun was HOT! Yes, finally it was time to work on the tan that had been fading for the last week or so in Orlando. After a few long, hard hours sunbathing, walking down the pier and visiting the tourist-y shops, it was time to grab something to eat. We went for (more!) delicious, American pizza at Extreme Pizza (the name says it all) and then set off to our next Airbnb for the night. As it was so expensive to stay on the coast due it being a public holiday, we stayed a little further north of Clearwater in Dunedin for the night. Our host told us lots about the nearby ‘Caladesi  Island State Park’, and told us it was a must-see while we were in town.

The next morning we set of to check out Caladesi Island. We caught a ferry ($14 each round trip) from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi island, and the views were great on the way out – we even caught sight of a few pelicans on the way there! The island had been slightly battered by Hurricane Hermine, and a lot of the paths around the island were closed due to flooding or fallen foliage, but the beaches were still as beautiful as we had been told! The down side to the trip were the seagulls on the beach! If they saw you take any food out of your bag, they became really aggressive and weren’t scared off easily like normal gulls. One seagull even stole a crisp right out of my fingers!!!!! Just as I was putting it towards my mouth, it flew overhead and took the crisp (biting my fingers and drawing blood in the process!). Ria thought it was hilarious, of course. The beach on Caladesi Island was rated number 9 out of America’s best beaches in 2016, and it’s easy to see why.

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We stopped at Casa Tina, a cute little Mexican in downtown Dunedin for lunch before setting off on our travels again; this time south to St. Petersburg.  We arrived at the NICEST Airbnb and were greeted by Kris, the super friendly owner of the house. It was beautifully clean and smelled WONDERFUL – and the bathroom was well stocked with toiletries and fresh towels. We were in heaven. The Airbnb was around $5-10 per night more expensive than the previous ones we had stayed in, but it was totally worth it. My advice would be to pay that little extra, the difference between the rooms is incredible. Here is a link to Kris’ place. It’s really close to the beach, and she has lots of beach equipment (chairs/ umbrella/cool boxes) that she is more than happy to lend you during your stay. Here is the review I left Kris on the Airbnb site… #airbnbgoals.

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The next day the road trip down the West Coast continued toimg_1873 Sarasota, specifically to Siesta Key beach, which was rated the number 1 beach in the U.S. back in 2015. The beach there is huuuuuuuge, with white sand as far as the eye can see along the Gulf of Mexico. The water was warm but quite shallow and still – great for cooling off but not for surfing! We spent the day lounging on the beach, followed by lunch at a local restaurant. Then it was time to head to our next location; Fort Myers. We booked through Booking.com and stayed at the Howard Johnson Inn (the American equivalent of a Travelodge/Premier Inn). The decor in the majority of American hotel rooms is SO old fashioned – think dark wood cabinets, floral quilted bedspreads and TV’s before flatscreens became a thing. But we were only there to sleep, and it’s hard to see the decor with your eyes closed!

The next morning we had planned a trip that we were both SO excited about. I am a HUGE wildlife fan; Ria has spent many hours being forced to watch David Attenborough documentaries and has learned to love it too. Florida is famous for many reasons, but one of the main ones is the Everglades National Park, which is home to around 200,000 alligators. We drove deep into the Everglades to Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours. As the name says, you ride around on an airboat (presumably as the fan/motor is above the water so it can’t slice the alligators up into a million pieces!). The captain of the boat drive around the swamps like a crazy person, but it was great to see the alligators in their natural habitat. Florida is home to over 1.3 million alligators (they even live in Disney World!), so make sure to stay well away from ANY fresh water while you’re visiting.

After our Everglades trip, we spent the afternoon at the Mall (as I said in my previous post, there’s nothing me and Ria can do better than SHOP!) and then I took Ria for her first ever Walmart visit (confession: although I do love Walmart, I’m much more of a Target girl – their homeware department is SO much better!). Ria was in her element, especially when she reached the fabric section (check out her Etsy site – SewBowChic), and we easily spent at least an hour in there. The staff in the store had never heard an English accent (English people tend to stick to Orlando!) before and we quickly became store celebrities, with the staff radioing to their friends to come and listen to us speak. Americans are so cute!

We arrived at our next Airbnb in Bonita Spring – and we had picked well! The apartment was super nice, as were the hosts, Christian and Megan, and the place had a pool AND a jacuzzi (and a gym actually, but who cares about that when you’re on holiday!) on site. We spent a couple of hours chilling out before the long drive back to Tampa the following day.

Can I just take a moment to say that driving on the highway (a.k.a motorway) in America is TERRIFYING!! They all drive SO close to one another, plus it’s not illegal to undertake either. The drive back took just over 3 hours and when we arrived in Tampa, we decided to find out what we had missed the first time around (there HAS to be more to it than the dodgy bus station, right?!). Our first stop was Ybor City, where we had some lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings (great wings, funnily enough) and then wandered around the historic city, famous for its cigars and immigrant population.

We then walked through Channelside, Tampa (I think we were the only people I saw walking during the whole trip), past the cruise ports and the Florida Aquarium, and ended up walking nearly 2 miles down the famous Tampa riverwalk (we had to burn off those calories from all that pizza somehow!).

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Our final day together quickly came around, and we spent the morning at the Tampa Zoo before catching the Megabus back to Orlando in time to catch our flights. I was flying back to Bradley International, Hartford CT, to visit Ben at college and Ria was off to Miami for a few days.

The West Coast of Florida is such a beautiful place to visit. My top tip would be to hire a car – life without a car is SO difficult in America, as things are so far apart and most of the roads don’t even have any kind of pavements (I’m not kidding when I say NO ONE walks in America!). Clearwater, Dunedin, Sarasota, Bonita Springs and Naples are all SO much prettier than grotty Orlando, and 100% worth a visit to during your post-camp travels this year.

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February 19th, 2017.

Although it’s SUPER early in the year to be making post-camp travel plans, I have already began to make mine. Pretty much since I arrived back home from camp last year, I have been working, working, working (sadly not just ‘9 till 5’ as Dolly sings) and saving up to be able to go travelling after camp this year – and I’m SUPER excited to share my plans with you.

It has always been my dream to be able to go travelling; to discover new places, to meet new people and to experience new things. Going to summer camp for the first time was the first real ‘travel-like’ experience I had ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on plenty of holidays with my family, crazy party-holidays with the girls and weekends away to European destinations, but summer camp was completely different. Travelling so far away on your own for one can be daunting, and arriving at a place where you know absolutely no one can be hella scary! But I loved it. The thrill of getting on a plane to a new place for the first time is one of the best feelings and although returning to camp is still an exciting adventure for me, it’s time to check some new places off the list.

So on Thursday evening, I sat down to Skype Ben after work (if you don’t know who Ben is yet, check out my Relationships at Camp post – the title is a big giveaway!). With us both working so much, and the inconvenience of the 7 hour time difference, we don’t get to Skype too often at the minute. I was SO excited to see him, but even more excited when he suggested that we book our flights for after camp.

We have been planning on going to Australia since the end of last summer, getting a working holiday visa and travelling around together until (fingers crossed!) camp the following summer. Although the plan originally was to fly straight from New York to Melbourne (where we are going to visit our friend Tom – check out his guest post from last week!), I had been looking at how much extra the flights would be to stop off in Hawaii for a week before we get to Australia. Direct flights from New York were working out around $800 per person (or roughly £644 to us Brits!), but Skyscanner showed flights from NY to Honolulu, Hawaii, for $413 pp (£333) and flights from Honolulu to Melbourne, Australia, for $285 (£229).

Ben definitely didn’t take much any convincing when I suggested this to him, a week on the beach in Hawaii is definitely what we will both need after a crazy 12 week stint at camp. For around $100 less, we can stop in Hawaii and both tick another place off of our list. It’s safe to say, I’m SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited! I have text Ben every single morning so far to remind him that we are going to Hawaii – I think at the moment, we’re both more excited about going there than to Australia. But first, 78 more days of hard work and saving up for me!

Where are you planning on travelling after camp? Leave me a comment and let me know! If you’re a first-timer at camp this year, check out my ‘Planning your Post-Camp Travels‘ guide for some inspiration!

 

 

Relationships at Camp

As Olivia Newton-John said back in 1978; ‘summer lovin’, had me a blast’ and boy, she wasn’t wrong! Before going to camp in 2015, I was a strong, independent woman – and then I met Ben…ben4

Yes, I speak from experience when I write this blog post. I fell victim to an Awosting boy (or for all the Chinqueka girls out there… ‘we’ve got Awosting boys, in our hands’), and haven’t been able to shake him off since, despite my best Taylor Swift impressions.

Camp is obviously all about the campers, but if you throw a group of young people together and give them time off in the middle of nowhere with not a lot to do, things are going to happen. There are several different types of hook ups that can happen at camp, and here are a few:

The Newbie

A new girl/boy arrives at camp and at first, they are generally overwhelmed by everyone and everything. To the returners, you are fresh meat and it’s generally a race to see who gets there first and calls dibs (tragic really!). Newbies, you basically have the pick of the bunch! Take your time and choose wisely, who knows where it could lead!

The First

There are people whispering during staff week about who fancies who (yes, we are basically back at primary school), and who is going to be the first to make  make a move. No one wants to be remembered as the guy/girl who was the first person to hook up with someone last summer but hey, someone has to take one for the team!

The Day-Off Hook Up

After too many hours spent sunbathing on your day off, the heat goes straight to your head and you end up randomly getting together with one of the girls/boys on your day off. You don’t really mention it to anyone and pray that no one noticed you were gone, but of course everyone will know sooner or later –  gossip at camp spreads like wildfire! You’ll regret it but the great thing about camp is that there’s always new drama, and people quickly forget.

The Rebound

People move on quickly at camp. The person you hooked up with last week may have moved onto someone new this week with no explanation as to why! Make sure you’re not anyone else’s rebound – or you could get yourself involved in some serious camp drama!

The ‘Camp Goggles’

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I can only hope that one day he loves me as much as he loves Greggs.

When I asked Ben how he would describe ‘camp goggles’, he said:

‘Camp goggles are basically when you get to week six of camp, and even the trees start to look attractive’.

Some people aren’t involved in any kind of relationship throughout the majority of the summer, and then week six comes along and you suddenly see that certain guy/girl in a different light. You may find yourself saying to your bestie ‘Oh, Fred is looking mighty fine today’ when in reality, Fred would definitely be a 5/10 tops in the real world. You end up getting together and then you go home, look through his Facebook profile pictures and think to yourself ‘what was I ever thinking?!’. I like to tease Ben that I’ve had my camp goggles on for a year and a half now…

The ‘One’

I never expected in a million years that I would go to summer camp and come home with a boyfriend, and I’m definitely not the only one (although I made the mistake of choosing one that doesn’t lives in England – what was I thinking?!). I know at least 5 couples who have met at camp and have gone on to have long-term relationships waaaay after summer has ended – with one couple even getting married in the Fall last year (congrats again Sam and Dan!). Anyway, I have kind of kept my blog a Ben-free zone so far but if there’s any day to share him all with you, Valentine’s Day is as good as any. Camp has changed my life in so many ways, but finding him will always be the best one.

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Summer camp is a great place to meet like-minded people and have some fun, but here are a few words of advice when it comes to relationships at camp:

  • Do NOT (under any circumstances!!) discuss your/other peoples relationships with the campers. Yes, they’re not stupid and yes they will get suspicious if you even so much as TALK to a member of the opposite sex, but never ever ever ever discuss what is going on outside of camp with them. I spent my whole summer pretending I didn’t even know who Ben was. If the campers caught me speaking to him and asked me about it later on in the cabin, I would simply say ‘who is Ben? I don’t know anyone called Ben’. It drove them crazy but camp is all about them, not what their Counselors get up to during their time off camp.
  • Don’t let camp relationships interfere with your job, or distract you from the real reason that you are at camp. You are there, first and foremost, to make sure the campers have the BEST summer of their lives. My camp director likes to call this squae‘white and yellow square time’. The white square represents the most important reasons you are at camp; to teach campers, to have new experiences, to learn new things… while the yellow square represents personal reasons such as camp relationships and enjoying days off. The white square is much bigger than the yellow square, and you need to remember that throughout the summer.
  • Don’t get caught! If you do end up being in a relationship at camp, make sure you keep it away from camp. Being caught in a compromising position with another staff member on camp property can lead to you being fired… and it’s totally not worth it!

Happy Valentines day! xo

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Guest Blog: Tom Perilli (Part One).

The first guest blog on ‘How to Survive Summer Camp’ comes all the way from down under… I recently met up with Tom during his travels to England, and he was super pumped to get writing and share with everyone how summer camp has changed his life. I’ll leave the rest to him…

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Hey there! I’m now realizing the difficulty in summing up the intricate aspects to a summer camp experience (I have literally stared at a blank Word document for a solid 15 minutes now). I’ll try and condense what I know about summer camp, and how going to camp pretty much changed my life (cringey, I know).

My name is Tom; I’m 22 years old and live in Melbourne, Australia. 3 years ago I was studying for a Bachelor of Exercise and Health Science at a University in central tom4Melbourne. I was already a year and a bit into the degree, had been passing most of my units and was generally on track to complete the degree with almost another year and a half left to go.

I had generically flown straight out of High School headfirst into a University degree without even the slightest contemplation of another alternate route. Sure, there were discussions amongst my mates in my last year of High School about what pathway they might find themselves on the year after, but none of these really deviated from the ‘norm’. The norm in this case being my stock standard, chartered course towards 3 years of mind-numbing study. And I can tell you, none of these discussions even came close to considering a job at a summer camp in the USA.

I can honestly recall everything about the day I decided to completely drop everything and ditch the whole university thing for a while. I sat in the back row of my Biomechanics lecture staring at the dude in front of me who was watching Breaking Bad on his iPad. For those of you who don’t know, Biomechanics is the study of how long you can keep a student awake without them completely throwing themselves down the lecture theatre stairs out of sheer boredom. I remember staring around the room thinking ‘If I don’t even enjoy studying this stuff, then why would I enjoy doing this for a career’. So I packed my stuff, folded my desk away, got up and left – which took a lot more courage than it took to write this sentence. I have always hated getting up in during a lecture – you know that feeling where the whole room is staring at you because you’re the only thing that has even remotely stimulated their visual awareness other than Darren up the front talking about his tennis ball’s trajectory towards a racket (note, people could care less about your ball Darren).

Anyway, the 50 minute tram ride back home from Uni involved me thoroughly filling out my application with Camp America. I didn’t know heaps about the whole agency or what they provided, I just wanted out. The next month or so consisted of a lot of phone calls backwards and forwards between myself and Camp America staff; interviews, police checks, visa fees and the momentous camp placement. A legendary Camp America marketing manager, a giant amongst men, managed to place me at his camp. Apparently my application video which involved me acting like a douchebag in my garage managed to impress my prospective employers.

So on June 6th that year I flew out to Camp Awosting for the first time. Awosting was based in Morris, Connecticut; the upper north-east of America. I had just as much knowledge about Connecticut as I did about Biomechanics – not a lot. I flew into New Jersey and stayed in the Camp America arrivals hotel because it was free, and you don’t reject free things (except those people who spray perfume samples in department stores – nobody likes those guys). I explored New York for a week by myself before I left for camp, I sort of just bounced around naively having no idea what I was doing that day or where I was going. One day, I hired a bike in Central Park and rode around the entirety of it. I had 30 minutes left with the bike so I decided to ride down the streets of New York. I shakily returned the bike 27 minutes early to the vendor and completely regretted even trying to attempt to road cycle through one of the busiest cities on earth.

Before I knew it, the day had come to bus it out to Connecticut. Saying I was nervous about the whole thing would be an understatement. Saying I was pooing my pants would probably be far more accurate (disclaimer: I wasn’t literally pooing my pants FYI, although I feel like my fellow bus comrades definitely had some experience in that field). I arrived at a shady Burger King in a town called Torrington; a Burger King that I’m now fond of because this was where my adventure began.

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I fell in love with Awosting instantly, and I hadn’t even made it down the driveway yet. You sit around for the months prior to your departure imagining what it’s going to look like, and for a location to appear exactly as how you’d imagined it was remarkable. From the incredible green foliage of the trees that encircle the camp, to the stunning lake it overlooks, Awosting won me over before I’d even met the people. And I couldn’t even comprehend the thought that I was going to be teaching water-skiing on that magnificent lake day after day  (somehow I’ve gone this whole spiel without even mentioning I was hired as a boat driver/ water-ski instructor!).

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I met my Camp Directors, the Jepsons, while they were having lunch in the Dining Hall.
I didn’t know at the time they would go on to become life-long friends of mine, in all honestly I was extremely afraid of them to begin with. I spent most of the time trying very hard to convince them that they hadn’t hired some psychopath from Australia (although psychopaths don’t generally know they’re psychopaths). They were the kindest, most empathetic employers I’ve ever had, or ever will have. And they’re pretty much the reason that I’ll fly from the bottom of the earth every year just to be there for the summer.

Anyway the next 4 months went on to become one of the best experiences of my life. It seemed like this weird dream-like blur at the time, like everything that was happening around me wasn’t completely real. The people I met, the things I did, the places I saw that year have all become framed sub-conscious memories in my mind.

I can sincerely say that the campers that attend Awosting are some of the sweetest kids I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve never had a cabin full of kids that I’ve dreaded going back to after driving the boats all day. The little things like building bubble forts with the boys (inflated bed sheets using desk fans), or even just the ghost stories we told before going to sleep were some of my favorite moments over the years.

I do truly treasure the friendships I’ve made at Awosting though. I don’t take that for granted at all. From being able to run a water-ski program with one of my best mates, to hanging out with some of the coolest little dudes I’ve ever met, I don’t ever forget how fortunate I am. Just last month I managed to get over to England for the first time and brave the cold for 2 weeks. I was on the go almost 24/7, taking trains between cities all over the country just to visit some of the absolute legends I’ve been lucky enough to meet at camp. If I had sat through the entirety of Darren’s biomechanics lecture back in 2014, I definitely wouldn’t have had these experiences I’ve had to date.

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If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing now, you’re just wasting your time.

The summer camp thing was only meant to be for a year but I’m now going back for my fourth consecutive year. Every time another year rolls around, I ensure that I can somehow fit Awosting back into my life. I’m grateful every day that I even got the chance to be introduced to Awosting and its inhabitants. I know that someday long down the track I’ll be able to bring my kids over to the U.S. and share with them the memories I’ve gained, and life-lessons I’ve learnt at that camp.

Anyway that’s enough of the soppy stuff from me. Go to summer camp is essentially the point I’m trying to make, you’d be an idiot not to.

Peace&Love
Tom

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Summer Camp vs Camp Rock

So if you follow me on Twitter (@how2survivecamp if you don’t!), you’ll know that I watched Camp Rock a couple of nights ago. As a huge fan of cheese and a good singalong film, I think Camp Rock is a GREAT film. 9 years later (can you believe it?!), I still have the songs on my iPod so the kids at camp can singalong during cabin clean up (I obviously NEVER listen to them outside of camp of course… *rolls eyes*).

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Anyhow, I decided to list all the similarities and differences between Camp Rock and real summer camp so all the newbies out there will know what to expect this summer. Here goes…

Similarities

  • Camp Rock is set on a beautiful, picturesque lake. The majority of summer camps are set on a lake and the waterfront is a place where many of the activities on camp will take place.
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  • Mitchie’s parents discuss at the beginning of the film that they can’t afford to send her because it’s too expensive. This is no joke – the majority of summer camps cost a FORTUNE for the campers!! Camps can range up to as much as $10,000 for an 8 week stay which is CRAZY, but totally worth it!
  • Many camps are the summer home to the children of famous people. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a certain Desperate Housewives star when she camp to drop her daughter off. Many celebrities themselves have too been to summer camps, such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Denzel Washington, Seth Rogan, Mark Zuckerberg and Zooey Deschanel.too cool.gif
  • At Camp Rock, Tess is the diva of the camp. Prepare yourself, all camps have diva’s (both campers and counselors).
  • The campers (and counselors) break out into random synchronised songs without any advance warning – especially during meal times. If you don’t like to sing, I suggest you spend the next couple of months either learning to love it or practising your lipsynching skills.

Differences

  • The campers at Camp Rock are all practically borderline adults. At real camp, campers ages can range from around 5 to 16 years old.
  • Tess rocks up to Camp Rock in a limo, sans parents. Campers usually get dropped off by their parents who swing by in their huge SUV’s that are so big, they make my Citroen C1 look like a toy car. I’m yet to see even the famous ones arrive by limo!
  • I never saw anyone on Camp Rock lugging HUGE trunks out of the cars on Camp Rock, or sweating while they are trekking them across camp in the midday sun. Real camp is a lot less glamorous, and a lot more hard work on opening day!
  • I’m yet to meet a camper who also works in the kitchen during his/her spare time! Campers are kept as far away as possible from the kitchen – counselors too for that matter!
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  • The campers at Camp Rock seem to spend a lot of time unattended, whether in their rooms rehearsing or while eating their lunch in the dining hall. At camp, it’s rare the campers are ever alone without a Counselor in sight. Most camps don’t allow campers in the cabins during free time unless their is a Counselor present, and they are always accompanied at meals/during activities.
  • Although campers often break into spontaneous, synchronised song, it’s rare that a dance ever accompanies it unlike at Camp Rock (unless you count the actions to the Banana song!). And I’ve never seen anyone dancing on the dining hall tables at my camp – there’s a stage for that!
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  • The Counselors at Camp Rock (minus Shane Grey aka Joe Jonas) all seem pretty old to me. I find that the majority of Counselors at camp tend to be in their 20’s.
  • Generally you will find that the campers spend their free time making friendship bracelets and playing Tetherball (check out my Camp A-Z Glossary if you have no idea what Tetherball is!), rather than rehearsing labouriously for the upcoming talent show (although this has been known to happen!).
  • The cabins on Camp Rock look pretty cosy with a few single beds dotted around, rugs on the carpet and curtains on the windows. Usually camps aren’t quite this glamorous, and you might find yourself sleeping in a cabin with bunk beds and a carpeted floor if you’re lucky!
  • Camps are usually a technology-free zone. The kids at Camp Rock have mobiles (aka ‘cell phones’) and laptops, which for me defeats the whole point of going to camp and getting away from the real world!
  • The campfire at Camp Rock is HUGE! Camps usually have a campfire circle surrounded by wooden benches that the campers/Counselors sit on. If the fire was that big at real camp, we would all be burning alive.
  • The campers at Camp Rock all look very clean and presentable with brushed hair and ironed clothes. Half the fun of summer camp is that you don’t have to worry about brushing your hair in the morning (until visiting day comes around of course!).
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  • Sadly The Jonas Brothers don’t come with the camp package, and are yet to perform at the end of summer show at any real camp.

So although there are definitely more differences, Camp Rock is a great feel-good film to get you in the mood for a summer at camp. If you haven’t already watched it, give it a go!

 

Summer Camp Packing List

If there is one thing I do know about in life (apart from summer camp, obvs), it’s packing. In my world, there is no such thing as over packing and I love to pack for all possible occasions. I have compiled a list of all the essential* things I take to camp and could not survive without each summer.

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*whether or not you consider things such as cabin decorations a ‘necessity’ is for you to decide!

The first debate is whether to take a suitcase or a rucksack. Personally I have always taken a suitcase to camp and so do most other people, but the choice is entirely yours. I have devised a Pro/Con list for both below to help you decide!

Suitcase

Pros:

  • Generally larger than a rucksack – more room for that extra pair of shoes!
  • More room on the way there means there’s also more room on the way back to fit in all of your American purchases! Branded clothes in the U.S. are SO cheap compared to England, and people always expect presents!
  • Suitcases have wheels – pretty self explanatory really.
  • I find clothes tend to get less creased in a suitcase – no one wants to arrive at camp and have to start ironing!
  • I like to take a small rucksack/day bag as hand luggage to use on days off etc., and a suitcase allows me room on my back to do so.

Cons:

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Not ideal suitcase terrain!

  • Suitcases have wheels. This is
    excellent for when you arrive in America and have to wheel your case around the airport, but not so great when you arrive at camp and your suitcase refuses to wheel down the gravel driveway/over the tree roots surrounding your cabin.
  • There is not often not a whole lot of room in your cabin to store a huge suitcase for the summer.
  • If you’re planning on hiring a car/campervan to travel with friends after camp, fitting everyone and their suitcases in can be a tight squeeze! I speak from experience – it’s not fun!

Rucksack

Pros:

  • Rucksacks are great when you arrive at camp and there are zero paths in sight to wheel a suitcase on!
  • Limited space in a rucksack means you have to be choosier about the things you take, and can prevent overpacking.
  • They fold/store easier than a rigid suitcase.
  • They are useful for if you want to continue to travel after camp. This year I am planning on going to Australia straight after camp, so will be taking a rucksack for onwards travel.

Cons:

  • I like to make the most of the 23kg luggage allowance on offer (because why not?!). As a 5ft 2 (OK, 5 foot 1 and a half) female, carrying 23 kg’s on your back is no easy challenge.
  • See above comment about creased clothes.
  • See above comment about small daysack. No one wants to be that person wearing two rucksacks, right?!
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When your rucksack is practically bigger than you!

So, you see the dilemma. The pro’s of the suitcase have always outweighed the con’s for myself, which is why I have always taken a suitcase. This year, I will be taking both (my rucksack is going inside the suitcase until it is needed in September!). Make the right choice for you!

Now for the important part – what to pack. Let’s start with the essentials – clothes. Here is what I would typically take with me for a summer at camp. I have split it into two sections; camp clothes and off-camp clothes. Camp clothes should be things that you aren’t afraid to get dirty or covered in paint, and clothes that you might not necessarily bring home with you at the end of summer. Off-camp clothes are things to wear for your days/nights off, and for your post-camp travels.

Clothes

Camp Clothes

  • Shorts.
    • I would recommend around 7 pairs of shorts. I usually take sports shorts to wear at camp, as they are lightweight, easy to move in and keep you cool in the sun.
    • You may need a certain type of shorts for occasions such as Opening Day – for example, my camp requires us to wear khaki coloured cargo shorts on Opening Day. Make sure to ask your Camp Director before you leave for camp!

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      Opening day clothes!

  • Shirts.staff tee.jpg

    • You will more than likely be given staff t-shirts to wear around camp each day – check with your camp or ask previous staff.
    • If it is your first time at camp, and you don’t have old staff shirts to wear, I would take 3/4 t-shirts that you can wear during pre-camp/staff training.
    • I also pack a plain white t-shirt and a plain black t-shirt. Lots of camps play games that involve being in teams, so plain, cheap t-shirts (head to Primark!) always come in handy. You may even end up tie dying the white one at some point during the summer – camps love tie dye!
  • Hoodies/Jumpers.
    • Camps often sell/give staff a camp hoodie, so I would pack 1/2 other jumpers/hoodies that you can wear around camp in the evening when it gets cooler.
  • Jacket.
    • When it rains in America, it really rains! Make sure you pack a good lightweight, waterproof jacket for rainy days.
  • Bathing Suits.
    • I take 2 bathing suits that are acceptable to wear around the campers. Some camps only allow you to wear one piece swimming costumes on camp – check with the camp before you arrive. I suggest two as one may not dry in time to be worn again – and no one likes putting on damp swimwear!
  • Pyjamas.
    • I take around 3 pairs of short pyjamas, plus a full length pair. Although it sounds crazy, early June in America can be COLD at night. I made the mistake of just taking shorts in my first year and was so cold when I went to bed at night, I ended up lending someone else’s pyjama bottoms.
  • Pants/Socks/Bras.
    • Although laundry is done weekly when the campers arrive, it may not be done as often before then. I normally take around 15-20 pairs of pants (just to be safe!).
    • At least 10 pairs of socks – they always go missing or shrink in the laundry! I usually take sports socks that are comfortable and I can wear with my trainers.
    • I take around 4/5 sports bras, plus around 3/4 ‘normal’ or ‘bralette’ style bras.
  • Shoes.
    • I take 2 pairs of trainers with me –  one older pair that I don’t mind getting paint on during evening activities and one nicer pair to wear at my activity.

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      #noregrets

    • CROCS! I know I’ve said it a million times, but I can’t tell you how valuable Crocs are at camp. Until recently, my camp did not allow open-toed shoes in the dining hall. Wearing trainers all the time in 30 degrees heat can result in some seriously sweaty feet, and there is nothing better than taking your shoes off and putting on your Crocs after a long day.
    • Flips flops – a must for the camp showers.
  • Accessories.
    • Waterproof watch.
    • Hat.
    • Sunglasses.

If you are a returner, you may also want to pack any camp/tribal clothes from previous years at camp.

Off-Camp Clothes

I would normally take around 6/7 outfits that I can mix and match to wear off of camp. These normally include:

  • 5/6 Tops – vests/shirts/t-shirts.

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    Make sure you pack one smart outfit to wear at the end of camp celebrations!

  • 4/5 Bottoms – denim shorts, patterned shorts, skirts etc.
  • 3 Casual Dresses/Playsuits.
  • 1 Smart Dress – formal wear for the end of camp meal etc.
  • 1/2 Pairs of Jeans – I usually take one pair of black skinnies and a blue pair.
  • Jacket/Cardigan – something to wear on your nights off when it is cooler in the evening.
  • Shoes.
    • 1 pair of Converse.
    • 1/2 pair of smart flats/sandals.
  • Accessories.
    • Sunglasses.
    • Jewellry

Remember, you can always borrow other Counselors off-camp clothes (if you make friends with people of the same size) – permission granted!

Toiletries

Camps usually do a staff trip to the local Walmart/Target during staff training, so don’t waste your luggage allowance taking huge bottles of shampoo etc! Toiletries are pretty cheap over there too and come in HUGE sizes (like everything else in America) that will provide you with enough to last you the whole summer. Here are the toiletries/accessories I take with me to camp:

  • Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, contact lens solution (all travel sized).
  • Toothbrush.
  • Razor.
  • Deodorant – A word of advice, spray deodorant is SO expensive in America. Why, I hear you ask? I HAVE NO IDEA! The majority of Americans use roll-on, so I like to take enough spray deodorant to last me the summer.
  • Hairbrush/bobbles/hair grips.
  • Face wipes.
  • Contact lenses – make sure you take enough to last you the whole summer and a few extra in case of any mishaps. If you wear monthlies, consider taking a few dailies for day off trips to the lake etc.
  • Any tablets/pills/creams you will need throughout the summer.
  • Make up. 
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers/scissors.
  • Sunscreen. You can buy this in the States of course, but I find it to be cheaper in England and buy a couple of bottles to take with me each year.

Things I buy once I arrive:

  • All of the travel sized items above, in full size.
  • Shaving cream.
  • Razors.
  • Face wash. 
  • Nail polish remover. 
  • Cotton wool pads.
  • Female hygiene products.
  • Cotton buds (or Q Tips as the Americans call them!).
  • Bug spray.
  • Moisturiser 

Extras

Without a doubt, 50% of my suitcase is filled up with junk from this ‘extras’ category. The below are not mandatory, but may make your time at camp much more enjoyable.

  • Pictures/photographs to decorate your cabin. Campers love to see photographs of who you have left back at home (especially any pets!), and the photos will cheer you up if you are ever having any fed-up moments (it happens to us all).
  • Decorations for the cabin. I like to pin up flags and hang bunting around the cabin to give it a ‘homely’ feel. pierre.jpg
  • A toy/stuffed animal – meet Pierre, my #1 travel companion and great distractor for homesick campers! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
  • A small rucksack (for days off etc. as mentioned above).
  • Water bottle. 
  • Flashlight/torch.
  • Journal
  • Camera (plus any necessary batteries).
  • Chargers (phone/camera etc.).
  • Socket adapters. 
  • Games to keep your campers entertained on rainy days (I LOVE Dobble/Uno/any card game that can keep them quiet (ish) for hours!).
  • Headphones.
  • Speakers. I like to play music during cabin clean up to motivate the campers in a morning!
  • iPod.
  • Nail varnish.
  • Books/Kindle.wacky1
  • Beach Towel (for days off at the beach/lake).
  • Fancy dress items. I LOVE fancy dress, so I take many outfits and props that can be used for different costumes. This can include face paints, wands, plastic glasses, crazy hats, hair accessories and much more – use your imagination! You may also want to bring something American themed for the 4th of July celebrations!
  • Travel documents – IMPORTANT!!! Make sure you have your passport, visa papers and any other document you may need to travel.
  • International Driving License. If you plan on hiring a car in the USA, many companies require you to have an International Driving Licence. You can purchase one of these for just £5.50 at selected Post Office Branches.
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Pictures, flags, bunting and Pierre all help make the cabin the little bit cosier!

Extras you can buy at once you arrive at camp:

The following definitely aren’t essentials, but may make your time at camp much more comfortable/enjoyable.

  • Underbed storage boxes.
  • Shoe rack.
  • Mattress topper – camp beds aren’t exactly known for their comfort!
  • Clip-on fan (a lifesaver in the summer heat!).
  • Friendship bracelet string.
  • Duck tape.
  • Water bottle.
  • Stationery set.
  • Inflatables -everyone loves a lilo on a day off!
  • Shower caddy (to store all your toiletries in – makes like 100x easier when you are traipsing across camp to the showers!).

Things camp normally provide for you:

Double check with your camp before you arrive, but international Counselors are usually provided with the following:

  • Bedding/sleeping bag.
  • Shower towels.
  • Laundry bag.

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Well, that about sums up my camp packing list! My advice would be to write your name on absolutely EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!! Camps usually hire a company do collect and wash the laundry each week, and things often get mixed up in wash bags etc. Happy packing!