By: Barbara Palmer, Camper
Bring a Friend to Camp. Or Don’t. But Get There.
The first time I went to Campowerment, I went with two friends. Not best friends but women who knew me, knew enough of my history and soul that I thought we would have a common experience that would bond us further. Connect us it did and those women are now my sisters, not just my friends. The time we spent, the days we shared, the ability to connect in ways that our regular interactions could not, bound us in ways I never thought possible.
When the time came, one year later, to attend Campowerment again, I was excited to experience an East Coast camp: the different mix of women, the different physical location. But the biggest difference between Malibu and Indian Head Camp in the Poconos was that this time I was going alone. That was not my intention. I had invited my closest girlfriend to join me but a scheduling conflict left me contemplating my own cancellation. In the end, I believed the universe was conspiring to have me face one of my biggest points of anxiety and setting me up to go it alone.
How could I possibly have a meaningful experience all alone? Who would I debrief with? Damn, who would I be sleeping next to?
It is amazing what happens in 72 hours. From the first Circle, you get a glimpse into the many (and in some ways few) motivations that brought each woman to this oasis in the woods. You gain perspective on your own life and struggles. By the time I entered Bunk 2, I wasn’t sure if I would go deep; if I could truly share and connect with complete strangers. Who were these women?
We started by dining together, making pleasant small talk. We settled into our bunks and made our beds (note: invest in the rental linens and find your bed made up for you…so worth it). By the time campfire came I was starting to remember names.
In the first 24 hours, our paths crossed in fitness classes, Circles and Workshops lead by Experts. More meals and color war where we could collaborate in competitive fun. By late that afternoon, I was starting to connect with each of my bunkmates.
As I read lakeside, one of those women joined me and shared that while she was enjoying her time, she still had more questions than answers. I walked away from that chat feeling I was making a new friend. A true friendship. By later that evening, after a late meditation session, I had connected with another of my bunkmates on an equally deep level. The next morning, over a bunk walk in the woods, I went deep with a third. It was happening. The magic was starting to take hold.
Each of these individual women (6 came alone, the other four came in two pairs), were opening themselves to the opportunities being presented. We shared what we learned from the Experts (but never what was shared in sacred circles). And then the fun really took hold. Ten individuals threw caution to the wind, let their guards down, and performed a risqué karaoke routine. The prep was filled with tears of laughter. Inside jokes were being created. It was impossible that we didn’t even know each other’s names 48 hours before.
That night, after a raucous dance party closed down by most members of our crew, the conversation got serious. Stories shared, tears shed, hearts swelled to allow in and bond 10 individuals. Everything had changed.
That next morning we all felt it. It was coming to an end and yet it was all just starting. I knew it would continue outside of this magical place. The group closing ceremony wrapped up, but we stayed behind. We held our own circle of gratitude. We held hands and took pictures and hugged. And hugged again.
These women were why I went to camp alone. I didn’t think I was looking for sisters but that is what I found. And maybe that was the point.
While it was very different from going with established friends, it was equally great. Just different. In the end, the universe gave me what I needed. Exactly when I needed it.