The Magic of Summer Camp

We laughed together, cried together, embraced each other, and shared pieces of ourselves that we didn’t even know we had.  Women from all over the US and Canada came together for five days not knowing what to expect and, in most cases, not knowing anyone else before arriving.  After five days of magic in the woods, we left as changed women…stronger and with a tribe of sisters.

A little less than two weeks ago, I packed up my bags and headed to summer camp…for grown-ass women.  Yep…summer camp!  Think rustic cabins (very rustic!), s’mores, camp games, and bugs (so many bugs!).  

This was the inaugural Stratejoy Summer Camp and it was held outside of beautiful Asheville, NC.  Molly Mahar, our fearless leader, put her heart and soul into planning this event and I think it’s safe to say…it exceeded everyone’s expectations!

The goal was to come together for fun, sisterhood, reflection, and personal growth.  

Molly delivered on all of these and more!

Facing My Fears

I didn’t really know what to expect from summer camp.  I never went to camp as a child so I didn’t even have that experience to pull ideas from before packing my bags and hopping on a plane. 

I didn’t know one single person going. 

I’m a total introvert that needs her ‘me time’ and while I enjoy a hike from time to time, I’m not really a ‘roughing it’ kind of girl.  When I first saw that you share a cabin with up to 10 other women (in bunk beds, no less!), my first thought was, ‘ummm…yeah…not gonna happen!’.  

But that little voice in my head kept telling me that I needed to go and it’d be a great experience, so I listened to it and bought my ticket (thank you little voice)!  

Home away from home...our rustic cabin!

Home away from home...our rustic cabin!

Leading up to the trip, I was both excited and a little scared, but the day before I left, I sent this text to one of my besties:

Can I admit something? In 24 hours I’ll be sitting on a plane heading south.  I’m starting to feel terrified!  Like what was I thinking?!?! I’ve seen a lot of people posting pics as they’re making their way there & a lot of people are coming in groups and now know each other.  You know how clique-y girls can be, so going thru my head is ‘will anybody like me?  Am I going to fit in? etc.’  I feel like I’ve transgressed 30 years to the day before the first day of school! Lol! :)

The fear was real, folks!  But, fortunately, it was completely unfounded and the long weekend turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life.  

The Big Picture

In the morning session on the first day, our fearless and loving leader Molly, a.k.a. Sunshine (yes, we had camp names!) asked us to write in our journals what would make the weekend magical for us.  I wrote down that I wanted to see a new side of myself, to feel an a-ha moment, leave camp with new friends, and walk away changed forever (for the better!).  

I accomplished ALL of that!

Being the introvert that I am, I’m a happy wall flower at parties or where dancing is involved.  But, at camp, I let my hair down and surprised myself by dancing and singing at the top of my lungs without a care in the world.  I also shared parts of myself with complete strangers including telling about a personal moment to 80 other women, which is DEFINITELY something I don’t normally do (thank you Sassafras for encouraging me to do that!).  

It was all quite liberating!

Finding My Tribe

My cabin mates…well, these ladies are my new tribe and summer camp sisters.  There were 7 campers and 3 amazing counselors.  We met for the first time as we each arrived at camp on Wednesday.  

We only knew each other by our camp names - Dragonfly, Roadie, Halcyon, Tiny Dancer, Jazz, Bones, Eagle, Sassafras, and Animal (I was Daisy).  But through the process of the magic of camp, we shared stories, worked together on a team scavenger hunt (where some ended up with egg on their heads and/or flour & water!), and learned an 80s dance routine in 15 minutes in a tiny circle of our cabin. 

My amazing Summer Camp Sisters!  I can't help but smile when I look at their lovely faces!

My amazing Summer Camp Sisters!  I can't help but smile when I look at their lovely faces!

Throughout it all, we bonded, we cried, held each other in our arms, and laughed until our sides hurt.  I might be a bit biased, but I think we had the BEST cabin at camp!!!  

I am beyond grateful for these ladies because they are a HUGE part of what made this experience the life changing event that it was, so to Dragonfly, Bones, Roadie, Halcyon, Tiny Dancer, Jazz, Eagle, Sassafras, and Animal….thank you for being the amazing you that you are and allowing me to share this experience with you.  There’s a new special place in my heart for each of you!

What we did at Summer Camp

Each morning we started off with a camp session with Sunshine.  We talked about authenticity, joy vs. happiness, and other juicy topics.  We listened, we journaled, and talked amongst ourselves to reflect on these ideas.  We learned from each other and inspired each other.  

Molly, a.k.a Sunshine...doing her thing!

Molly, a.k.a Sunshine...doing her thing!

After our morning session, we had a silent hour.  We couldn’t talk to each other, look at each or even acknowledge each other.  Sounds horrible, right?  But, it wasn’t!  It was our time to turn our gaze inward and mull over everything that came up during the morning session.  Most of found a quiet spot to journal, some of us quietly walked through the woods or around the grounds, but all of us found new levels of peace and clarity during those hours each day.  

This is where I spent my Silent Hour one morning...

This is where I spent my Silent Hour one morning...

Lunch followed silent hour where table topics got us talking and interacting with other campers outside of our cabins.  I opted to sit at the Friendship table the first day, then the Transition table the second day, and finally Careers & Career Change for the last day.  Other topics included relationships & sex, motherhood, etc.

The afternoon was open for craft time, canoeing, hanging at the lake, napping, or whatever you wanted to do!  

The Lake!  (also where I spent Silent Hour one day!)

The Lake!  (also where I spent Silent Hour one day!)

The evenings kicked off with happy hour where everyone came together to chat and get to know each other better before heading into dinner where we could sit wherever we wanted.  My cabin tended to stick together at dinner time because, well, we just loved each other’s company!

It's time for Cocktail/Happy Hour!

It's time for Cocktail/Happy Hour!

Let's Eat!

Let's Eat!

After dinner, even more fun was in store!  We had a scavenger hunt one night (which is one of those 'what happens at camp stays at camp' kind of things!), an 80s party another night, and a goodbye bonfire the last night.  Throughout all of this, there was laughing, singing, and taking off the masks and peeling back the layers.

Is it Happy Hour yet?!

Is it Happy Hour yet?!

The Takeaway

My point in writing up this recap is more than just to share this experience with you, but to encourage you to do something a little different and step outside your comfort zone when you get the opportunity.  

Carve out some time for you, take off the masks, and own your quirky or weird side because that’s what makes you awesome and amazing!

Say no to fear and say yes to life!!

My temporary tat!  By now, it's almost worn away, but the Joy in my heart will live on forever!

My temporary tat!  By now, it's almost worn away, but the Joy in my heart will live on forever!

It's taken me a full week to get fully back to "normal", but I have a new "normal" now.  I'm stronger, more confident, and ready to take on some new changes and challenges.  I didn't expect there to be a re-assimilation period after getting back from camp, but that's how much this experience affected me (and others have expressed the same thoughts...this last week was hard coming back to reality).

It may sound crazy, but magic happened in those woods and I think every camper there would agree wholeheartedly with that statement!  Despite my lengthy write up today, we can’t really describe the weekend, it’s just something you have to experience to fully understand.

Join Me at Camp Next Year!

If I’ve intrigued you and this sounds like something you’d love to experience, you’re in luck!  Stratejoy Summer Camp is on for 2016!!  I’ve already secured my spot and will be there next year and I’d love to see you there! 

If you visit Molly’s info page, you can sign up to be on the list for when she opens up ticket sales in early 2016 (and no, this is not an affiliate link…I get nothing other than the pure joy of seeing your beautiful face there next year with me!).

Have you ever done something completely and totally out of your comfort zone that ended up being one of the best experiences of your life?  I'd love to hear more about it!  Leave me a comment and let me know!