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Campers in the Wild – Mychal Ertel

by Christina Billie
 ∙ Dec 14 ∙ 7 Min Read

Hi everyone! I’m Christina Billie, and I’m part of the intern quad of the Campowerment Crew this Fall! I’m here to amplify stories that bring this community to life for those who are new here and for those of you who have been part of this experience for years! 

I began by seeking those with unlikely stories of finding their way to Campowerment, or those with a unique path to deeper connection here…which led me to Mychal Ertel, who’s a total die-hard camp girl, has been on many of our retreats and even headed up fitness classes for the community during quarantine!

Christina @ Campowerment: Let’s start from the very beginning…tell us a little bit about you!
Mychal: I live in Bedford, NY, and I’m joyful, fierce, and loving.

C: They tell me you’re a lifelong camp lover, too. What about camp culture do you love, and in what ways does that come to life for you at Campowerment?
M: Camp is literally in my blood (and my kids’, too).  I started in 1980 and continued going to a remote lake in Maine every summer for eight years until I was a junior counselor.  Almost every aspect of camp is special to me.  The foremost importance is the friendships, the bunk-time bonding that can only happen when you are up late at night together.  I love the singing in the rec halls, I love the activities, I love the team spirit and the competition. 

At Campowerment those aspects of being a camper are ever-present. Camp Olympics is an absolute blast, late night bunk-bonding a must.  While the activities are somewhat different (not running from water ski to tennis to arts and crafts) I still love the idea of a schedule and being offered so many amazing activities/seminars to participate in all day. 

C: How did you find your way to this community?
M: Heidi Checkoff a Campower Ranger (counselor) and then met Tammi [Campowerment’s Founder] at Heidi’s daughter’s ski Bat Mitzvah in Utah. We became fast friends during a happy hour, and the rest is history….

C: Which Campowerment experiences have you participated in since then?
M: I’ve been to retreats in California as a camper two times (2016 + 2017), and a fitness expert in the Poconos two times right after that. [Note: Mychal also led her signature Big Momma’s Bootcamp online during our donation-based stint of 200+ sessions during COVID!]

C: When you leave camp to return home, what goes through your mind?
M: As my children say when I return home…“Mommy is a Zen Goddess Princess.” 

Something changes when you leave Campowerment.  You are more mindful, less agitated, more easily able to put things in perspective, more patient, more productive. It is a necessary recharge and reset that affects the day to day life in a profound way. Just as soon as the “Camp Mojo” begins to wear off, it is time for another Campowerment.  It is perfect.

C: I love that! And get why Campowerment.com is so appealing to keep that “halo” on! Have you experienced unexpected takeaways from your Campowerment experiences?
M: I had a real epiphany at my second Campowerment retreat on the ropes course.  And it was a very different one than most of the other campers that make breakthroughs out there. As a generalization, what I would hear the women talking about and the different testimonials were about how scared women were to “let go” and jump, and that once they did, it was a metaphor for life and whatever was holding them back, a bad relationship, a health issue, a job, etc they felt inclined to conquer those issues because they conquered their fear high up in the sky.  Even if they didn’t quite make it to the trapeze bar…they went for it.  Well, here is my story:

I am relatively athletic and not super scared of heights. I climbed up the 30-ft pole pretty easily, looked at the trapeze bar, jumped and caught it, came back down, received praise from everyone around me (very few people were able to do this feat), all in a matter of minutes. When the women there to support us stopped hugging me (Grandy was one of them, lucky me), the facilitator of the ropes course told me that I “totally missed it.”  

He said I was so hell-bent on catching the trapeze and completing the task, that I didn’t even take a small moment to look out at the Pacific Ocean, the view, and enjoy the moment, the accomplishment.  He was so right. And that was the metaphor for my life.  I have been so focused on getting a job done, being the best, being praised for my efficiency, my accomplishments, in life, at a job, in athletics, that oftentimes I cannot be present and enjoy the ride, the journey. I was (because I have since been much more mindful of this downfall) so focused on the end goal, I missed all the joy of getting there.  

Soon after returning home, I began a new job that I loved.  My husband would offer different ways for me to be better, more recognized, the best, etc. I was finally able to just tell him I am for the first time of my life not trying to be the best, I am enjoying exactly where I am and if I go far, great, if not, I am presently happy.  This has been one of the most important lessons I have learned in my adult life.  

C: That’s so beautiful! Congratulations on a major life lesson learned. What do you find special about the Campowerment culture and community?
M: The community is really about women for women—women fixing each other’s crowns. There is support from everyone everywhere which is very liberating and without judgment.  Women share their deepest vulnerabilities with strangers and it really allows for self-exploration and deep friendships. It’s like no other place on earth for adults.  

C: They tell me you’ve led fitness classes with Campowerment at retreats and online…and that you got certified in a new way to lead spinning at a retreat. That’s awesome. How have you discovered new parts of yourself through your involvement with Campowerment?
M: Had I not been tapped to teach Cycle at Campowerment, I never would have gotten certified, never would have taken a class at Equinox, which has in turn led me to my current career teaching a bunch of different modalities at Equinox.  I even got certified in Pilates last year. One thing has led to the other and I love my new job at Equinox.  I was a former attorney!

C: How have you taken what you learned from your experience and put it into your everyday life? What did you walk away that has helped you be your best as a woman, a mother to girls, a partner, a friend, etc?
M: I mean!! Zen goddess princess makes everyone happier.  

C: What do you want other women who have not yet become a part of this community to know?
M: Anyone whoever talks about going to Campowerment, I personally guarantee that they will leave a better “you”.  There is no way not to grow and learn—a little, a lot, no matter what, you leave better.

C: And lastly, what is your funniest or best memory at/with/through Campowerment?
M: My best memory from Camp was Grandy’s pre-dawn dance party in Malibu for her 80th birthday.  It was this magical moment and it made me realized that life is just about being loved and keeping that youthful spirit.  She was everything and what I want to be when I grow up!  A little ball of positivity.  I am trying to live in that positive spirit. 

… 

To Mychal: thank you for sharing your story! 

To all the women reading this: I hope you can picture yourself in the company of incredible women like Mychal (and me, my team and so many other special women who belong here). 

Join us and let’s create the future we’ve been dreaming about, starting now…with Campowerment.com

 

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