Homes Away From Home

I’m writing this from my bed at sleep-away camp, putting pen to paper, this time as a counselor, much as I did years ago as a camper on Letter Writing Days. Looking around at my campers, reflecting on the past six weeks we’ve spent here, remembering the previous seven summers I’ve been at camp, I feel like I’m preparing my emotions for the coming year. Let me explain…

First there is packing, probably my least favorite activity. As a camper and counselor (or traveller, sleep-over-goer, person-leaving-her-house-for-at-least-one-night), I can never decide what to bring. I always wait until the last minute to pack, and inevitably end up taking way too much,“just in case”. So, to be honest, I can’t really compare camp packing to Ecuador packing as I have yet to start the latter. But that feeling of yearning to pack just the right items and the need to take excess to be safe? This coming year, I challenge myself to learn to do with less or without, to disregard that feeling. While I don’t know all that I will need next year, I do know that it probably won’t be the things that fit in a suitcase.

After packing for camp comes the drive up to 9 Camp Road. Though felt on a smaller scale at camp, the anticipation of living in a new environment, of embarking on an adventure with new friends, is a feeling that unites camp and Ecuador. It’s the gut-wrenching mix of excitement and fear, the realization that I’m really, truly leaving home and the time that I’ve been eagerly counting down for months has finally come. It happens to me every year– my exuberance always transforms into nervous energy on the drive to camp because at that moment I start to wonder if my expectations will be met. This coming year, I challenge myself to have no expectations, to embrace each experience worry-free and with an open mind.

Once I arrive at camp, the anticipation fades, clearing a path for a myriad of emotions. It’s the emotions of eight-year-old campers that I connect with my bridge year, as they try new activities and experience the trials and triumphs of being away from home for a longer stretch of time than ever before. I see campers who can’t stop smiling because they’ve mastered waterskiing after hours of tireless attempts, and I know that I’ll have moments of that same success. I see my homesick camper who burst into tears every morning for the first week of camp, and I know that there will be moments of that same desperation for me, too. I see my camper who won’t stop exclaiming, “Guess what?!?! The boy I like talked to me today!!!!” Maybe that will be me in Ecuador, eagerly announcing that someone spoke to me in Spanish and I completely understood it (and my camper and I will probably also be united in the shock that follows this interaction leaving us speechless). This coming year, I challenge myself to allow each emotion enhance my experience.

I’m at camp now, but in a few short weeks I’ll be off to Ecuador. And while it will surely be a new experience, I think I’ll find some comfort in the familiarity of the opportunities I’ve had at homes away from home.