For one night every two weeks, each cabin group adventures out into the woods with their sleeping bags and food in hand to spend a night in the great outdoors. As a camp counselor, I loved nothing more than putting my backpack on and leading my campers along the trail knowing that soon we would be cooking over an open fire, telling stories, and finally falling asleep under the stars. Today as a Summer Camp Program Director, my most cherished moments are welcoming cabins back to camp after an overnight. I delight in hearing campers’ stories of their experiences, the challenges they overcame and most of all, their excitement and pride about the adventure they had. The power of this traditional summer camp activity should not be underestimated. Perhaps spending a night outdoors is something we should all do more often.
Reconnect: Getting away from the grips of technology and getting outside, even for one night, can make all the difference. Campers and staff share stories of becoming closer over the course of an overnight. Taking the time to talk, share and listen to one another without the usual distractions helps groups connect and bond tightly together. That these meaningful interactions take place in beautiful, natural surroundings serves to make them even more powerful.
Marvel: Campers often tell me about the deer they saw or the sound of a babbling creek that they fell asleep listening to. Think back to the first time you saw a frog, bird or other critter. Try to remember the excitement and intrigue you felt. If the kind of feeling I’m talking about could be bottled up, it would be labeled wonder. Spending more time outside in nature creates opportunities for us to rediscover our sense of wonder. We are lucky to live in a world with such beauty.
Accomplish: For an overnight to be a success groups need to work together to carry supplies, collect firewood, clear out a sleeping area, build a fire and cook meals. Teamwork is paramount and achieving your group goal is a fantastic feeling. For many campers and staff spending the night in the woods without electricity and other comforts is an enormous achievement. I cannot begin to count the number of campers whose overnight experience has given them the courage to try other new things.
Where will you go on your next outdoor adventure? What will you discover?
This post was originally written for the Y’s “This Week in Young Leaders” blog. You can it by clicking on the link below.