If you went to summer camp as a kid, your experiences there are probably among your best childhood memories. I know that’s true for me. I was a true summer camp kid. I went to sleep away camp for at least a week, if not multiple weeks, every summer. When I was too old to attend the camps, I became a counselor in training and eventually a counselor. My summers from the age of eight or nine until seventeen were spent in a cabin, in the lake, in the woods, and around a campfire. Summer camp influenced my entire young experience and shaped my future life. In fact, I’m still a part time day camp counselor today.
Camp provided me with the opportunity to meet new kids and make new friends every single year. Camp was where I had one of my first kisses, and where I met my first “boyfriend.” We were like twelve, so boyfriend meant that while we were at camp we held hands and snuck kisses when the counselors’ backs were turned. At camp I learned about true, authentic connection, which taught me to search for my true and authentic self.
If you didn’t have the opportunity to go to camp during the summer, you probably feel like you missed out on something. Everyone I know who didn’t go to camp as a kid wishes they could have. Everyone who did go wishes that they could back and experience the same things all over again as an adult.
Well, now they can, because summer camp for adults is a real-life thing. Here’s everything you need to know:
13 There are all different kinds of adult summer camps
Throughout the US, Canada, and even Europe there are companies popping up that run summer camps for adults. They’re usually in remote locations where attendees can disconnect from society, which is precisely what they’re aiming for. The goal of adult summer camp is to get the opportunity to be a kid again, to play, and to take a break from the real world.
The accommodations are just like summer camps for kids. Attendees stay in cabins that they share with five to ten other “campers.” Some of the facilities have their own showers, but some have a separate building with shared facilities, just like at the summer camps of childhood. Attendees share cafeteria style meals in a mess hall style building.
Adult summer campers spend their time at camp doing everything you’d expect: playing outdoor games, doing team building activities, swimming, sitting around campfires, and making new friends. The point isn’t networking, but making true, authentic connections.
12 Most of them are boozy parties
The major difference between some adult summer camps and the kids version is the booze. None of the summer camps I went to had an open bar, but many of the adult summer camps do. The most popular adult summer camp, Camp No Counselors, has a reputation for being a giant, boozy frat party.
The activities offered at the camp are much the same as at kids summer camp, but they can all be done with a drink in hand. Camp No Counselors also modifies some of the traditional summer camp games to include drinking, and they replace other activities with popular drinking games like Flip Cup and Beer Pong tournaments.
For many, the booze soaked environment adds to the fun of being at summer camp. For some, the booze is the only way they can convince themselves to participate in the corny activities offered at summer camps with the necessary enthusiasm. For others, the booze facilitates the connections with others that camp offers.
11 But all that booze can actually have an unexpected dark side
Some writers have gone to adult summer camp with the express purpose of writing about their experiences, especially since adult summer camp is such a hot trend right now. Their experiences revealed that some of these boozy summer camps get a little messy and even a little insidious.
With so many drunk adults in one place, a lot of things could go wrong. Playing camp games can be a challenge even without the booze, so when you add booze the injury count can soar. Campfires also aren’t the safest when excessive amounts of alcohol are involved.
But the most disturbing trend about these boozy summer camps is actually how the “campers” end up interacting with each other while drunk. The main point of adult summer camp is making connections with other people, and when so many drunk adults are looking to make connections, hook ups are inevitable. Many of the writers who attended boozy adult summer camps described situations where consent was at best, murky, and at worst, ignored.
Of course, this doesn’t happen at every adult summer camp with an open bar, but in some cases, boozy adult summer camps are providing a space for drunken, nonconsensual encounters.
10 But there are sober options as well
For those who don’t want to go to summer camp themed frat party, there are also sober adult summer camps. These camps are focused entirely on providing the camp experience without any distractions, including mind and mood-altering distractions. These sober adult summer camps are probably the closest you’ll get to the true summer camp experience.
The organizers of these sober camps believe that to form true connections with others and ourselves we need to focus completely on the experience. The focus is self-discovery and deep, vulnerable interactions with other people. These camps often add mindfulness experiences, like meditation and yoga, to the normal suite of summer camp games. They also focus heavily on having authentic experiences with nature. Think lots of outdoor games, hiking, and exploring.
These adult summer camps also focus on complete disconnection from the “real world” in order to be present and foster interpersonal connections. So, these sober summer camps are often completely device free.
The most popular sober adult summer camp is Camp Grounded, which runs out a remote location in California. Some have described their experiences at Camp Grounded as life changing.
9 Some of them are super exclusive
Most of the adult summer camps out there are like all-inclusive vacation packages when it comes to booking. You choose from pre-selected dates, pay up front, and you have a spot in the camp. However, some of the camps, specifically Camp No Counselors, are more exclusive. They actually have an application and screening process.
Prospective attendees fill out an application with requires them to tell the organizers about themselves, their goals, and their reasons for wanting to attend camp. The organizers of the camp then review all the applications and hand pick attendees for each session of camp. The goal is to put together a group that is likely to get along and gel together well. The organizers essentially curate a summer camp group with the goal of providing the best experience for all the attendees.
At the camps where the organizers pick the attendees, the experience is more manufactured from the outset.
8 Some are focused on extreme adventure
Just like summer camps for kids, some of the adult summer camps are themed, so attendees can pick the kind of experience they want. At Camp Getaway in Kent, Connecticut, attendees have the option to attend Adventure Camp for adults. The attendees of Adventure Camp can choose from activities like rock climbing, challenge courses (think mini Spartan races), bungee jumping, ziplining, and mountain biking.
Campers also have access to a variety of extreme sports centered on the lake which is a central feature of the camp. Campers can waterski, wakeboard, kayak, and canoe, and there are courses or classes to teach them how to do all these things.
For those who aren’t in to extreme adventures, but love to be active, the camp facilitates all kind of opportunities to play team sports. There are regularly scheduled volleyball, baseball, and basketball games, as well as the camp favorite, kickball.
Camp Getaway isn’t the only adult summer camp focused on extreme activities, either. There are adventure themed adult summer camps all over the country. At Arizona Cowboy College you can literally learn to be a cowpoke, and at The WoodenBoat School you build your own boat, which you use for a water trek at the end of the week.
7 While others are just focused on having a good time
If you’re not looking to be super active and you want a more restorative experience, there’s definitely summer camp options for you too. Soul Camp is an adult summer camp that focuses completely on giving campers the opportunity to hit the reset button. The three R’s: rest, relaxation, and reflection are definitely the goals at Soul Camp.
Instead of focusing on activities like sports and extreme adventures, Soul Camp focuses on activities like yoga, dance, group meditation, horseback riding, and arts and crafts. Campers at Soul Camp are encouraged to connect with themselves through the activities and to turn their positive energy outward to connect with others as well. The camp promotes what they call “Soulversations,” which are deep conversations where souls are given the opportunity to connect.
If you’d rather have a laid-back summer camp experience that’s more focused on traditional camp activities, there’s camps like Camp Wandawega, where campers sleep in tents, teepees, or primitive cabins. Activities include, laid back hikes, playing horseshoes, practicing archery, and fishing to name just a few.
6 Most of them have a “no talking about work” rule
The goal of all these adult summer camps is to provide space away from the hustle and bustle of the “real world.” These camps also encourage campers to leave behind their professional, capitalism driven selves while they’re at camp.
So often, when we meet new people we end up talking about our jobs, what we do rather than who we are. In some cases, we’re so identified with our jobs that we don’t even know how to describe ourselves without talking about our jobs. And we don’t know how to start a conversation with a new acquaintance without the question, “What do you do?”
To facilitate a separation from professional identities and a focus on authentic selves, most adult summer camps have a “no talking about work” rule. Of course, they’re not going to kick you out if you tell someone what you do for work, but the camp facilitators encourage campers to talk with each other about what they enjoy outside of work. Camp facilitators also help campers discover new activities that they can explore when they get back to the real world.
5 Many of them are also technology free
These days, we’re all attached to a device pretty much all the time. For most of us, our laptops are open the majority of the day. Our phones are always within arm’s reach. When we’re sitting around, waiting in line, or even going to the bathroom, we’re on our phones checking social media. Devices are such an integral part of our lives that we’re basically cyborgs.
Many people are discovering the benefits of doing a digital detox, which consists of going a certain period of time without any television, smartphone, social media, or even Internet. Adult summer camps provide the perfect opportunity to engage in a true digital detox. Many adult summer camps don’t have televisions, computers, or WiFi. They discourage cell phone usage and engagement with social media.
Some adult summer camps take it a step further and enforce complete digital detox while campers are at camp. Campers are told to leave smartphones at home and there’s no access to any sort of digital technology.
4 Most people go there to make new connections
Making friends these days is challenging. There aren’t many places to meet new people, and the places that we commonly meet new people don’t foster true connections. People who are looking to make new friends struggle. Our digital age also means that more and more we’re connecting with people via devices rather than face to face. It’s hard to find a place where you can meet new people and really engage in fun and conversation. Adult summer camp provides this place.
The founder of Camp No Counselors says that he came up with the idea after planning a vacation for him and his friends. He wanted to get away from it all with some of his friends, but when they were looking for places they couldn’t find anything that really fit the feel they wanted. They were looking for a remote venue that they could have all to themselves.
The founder stumbled on an old summer camp that could be rented out, but in order to have it to themselves they’d need to book all the cabins. He told all his friends to invite their friends and have them invite their friends, and by the time the vacation was planned there were over thirty people staying at the camp for the week. He met total strangers at the camp that week and they became lifelong friends. He decided he wanted to facilitate that experience for others, and an adult summer camp was born.
3 Being over enthusiastic is encouraged
Around puberty we all learned that being super enthusiastic is kind of nerdy and definitely not cool. Being cool requires a certain amount of snarky cynicism. The cool kids are always making fun of the super enthusiastic kids.
As we grow older, being super enthusiastic is still frowned upon because we’ve all developed a strong sense of cynicism. At the same time, a yearning for authenticity develops, and if we’re lucky, we begin to realize that our well-developed cynicism is a block to authenticity.
Adult summer camp is a place where being the super enthusiastic kid that was lost to our worldly cynicism is encouraged. The camper who’s willing to be the silliest is usually the most well liked. The camper who cheers the loudest for the other campers while playing games attracts new friends. The camper who’s willing to give their all to that relay race gains respect.
Adult summer camp is like an inversion of the real world where the enthusiastic kid we all suppress in our real lives can come out and play.
2 You’d better brush up on your field day games
No matter what adult summer camp you attend, you’re going to end up playing classic camp games. Remember those games you played at field day in elementary school? All of these are likely to make an appearance at adult summer camp. Water balloon tosses, relay races, wheelbarrow races, capture the flag, dodgeball, and tug of war are likely to happen at some point during the camp program.
When playing these games, campers are encouraged to let out their inner kid. You shouldn’t be playing these games like an office professional, you should be playing them as if you’re a preteen again. Campers are encouraged to leave their reserved, proper selves behind during these games. This means lots of yelling, cheering, and giving it your all. Letting it all hang out while playing these games also encourages campers to show their real selves and make bonds with other campers. Plus it’s good for tons of smiles and laughter.
1 And you’d better have some disposable income
If you’re interested in attending adult summer camp, you’d better have a good amount of disposable income, or you’d better start saving now for next summer’s camp. Many of the camps are weekend long programs, but even a few days at camp puts a strain on your wallet. A weekend at Camp Getaway runs between $425 and $500. A weekend at Camp No Counselors will run you between $500 and $700. A four day trip to Soul Camp is a whopping $1,200!
These prices do include lodging, entrance to camp activities, all of your meals for a week, and in some cases, an open bar for the duration of your stay. However, there are other activities and offerings that aren’t covered by the sign up costs. Some camps have spa facilities and treatments cost extra. Other camps have activities that are only available for an additional fee.
Bottom line: you definitely need some serious dough to get in to adult summer camp.
Adult summer camp is a manifestation of the fact that our generation is longing for connection and community that our everyday lives are failing to provide. Adult summer camps provide the space and opportunity to have a truly unique experience. They offer rest, relaxation, fun, an opportunity to be in nature, and connection. For those who can afford the experience, adult summer camp is a different kind of escape from the real world.
Sources: Buzzfeed, Thrillist, Birchbox, The Fresh Toast, Business Insider, Soul Camp, Camp Getaway, Camp No Counselors, Camp Grounded, Camp Wandawega