What happened when this former shy kid went to summer camp for the first time at 30 years old
There are certain rites of passage that many kids and teens seem to experience, and summer camp is one of them. But that wasn’t the case for me.
Between growing up extremely poor and being a painfully shy kid, I missed out on a lot. My summers were spent in the house where my older cousin babysat me because a real babysitter was just too expensive. When I heard people talk about going to camp, it always sounded like such a foreign experience: tie dye shirts, s’mores, spooky stories around a campfire. I admit it did seem fun, but as a big introvert, I was happy to miss out on sharing a cabin with strangers and making new friends.
I’d heard of a few adult summer camps, but when I learned there was a Club Getaway location about two hours from New York City, I jumped at the chance to go. I’m still shy and introverted, but I decided this would be my summer of adventure; I said screw it and signed up. I brought a friend along (hey, I needed support), and we made our way to Kent, Connecticut.
When I tell you I lived my best life, I absolutely lived my best life from Friday night until Sunday afternoon when camp ended.
While I don’t have a childhood summer camp experience to compare it to, I’m going to assume I would have loved and hated camp as a kid. The adult experience gave me the freedom to roam by myself at my leisure and interact with others when I felt like it. I’d also purchased the Cheers package when I signed up, which included all you can drink alcohol. I didn’t drink excessively, but when my social meter was running low, I went to the bar for a beer, found a little nook where I could sneak away, and chilled out for a few hours.
The alcohol definitely made everything better, but I actually genuinely enjoyed alcohol-free moments as well. I’m usually the down-for-whatever friend but I kinda sorta really don’t like heights. Okay, I hate heights. But the first activity I did on Saturday morning was an aerial ropes course. My friend was all for it and quickly got harnessed up, but I had a bit of hesitation. I reminded myself that this was my summer of adventure: “Do what you can.” If I were a kid, I might have felt intimidated and run back to my room because everyone else was brave and I was Chicken Little. But as an adult, I was surrounded by other adults who were focused on themselves and free of judgement.
I got harnessed up and went for it—and I immediately regretted my decision. While my friend whizzed through, I took slow, shaky steps. Again, I hate heights, but I made a deal with myself: “Let’s complete the first level and take it from there, okay?” And that’s what I did. There were three different levels of increasing difficulty, and after completing one, I decided I was done. I happily cheered my badass friend along as she completed the entire course.
There wasn’t a hint of jealousy or disappointment. Instead, I knew my limits and pushed myself a bit further, but stopped when things became too uncomfortable.
After that experience, I knew I was ready for a bit more fun and tried a few zip lines and a giant swing.
I had the most fun while I actually did things (climbing, zip lining, etc.) but my good ol’ friend social anxiety kicked in when activities weren’t scheduled (i.e. talking to people during meals). My friend who came with me is Ms. Social Butterfly, so she was usually the one to spark conversations with other camp-goers, and I’d just piggyback my way in. When I did actually chat with other people, though, I was amazed at how many of them were repeat visitors.
One guy had been at camp four previous times. Another returned every summer for three years in a row. We asked a cute couple that was attending how they found out about Club Getaway—they had just googled fun date ideas. Everyone was so different, but we all just wanted to let loose, have fun, and briefly relive a bit of childhood or create a memory we never experienced as kids. I even met a camp employee who was a South African mountaineer. So damn cool!
On the final night, we had a 007-themed party, and everyone else seemed to have come prepared for the theme but me. All of my clothes for the weekend were casual, but I was able to head to a nearby TJ Maxx and find a $10 little black dress. Was it 007-approved? I don’t know. I’ve never actually seen a single James Bond movie, but it was sexy and fun. I’d felt anxious that I wouldn’t fit in if my clothes didn’t fit the theme, but once I walked into the dining hall, it was clear that everyone was doing their own thing. Some people didn’t dress up at all, and others had a more comedic take on 007 by dressing up as Austin Powers.
I was only disappointed when we couldn’t have our scheduled midnight bonfire and s’mores because of the rain.
By Sunday, I was exhausted and ready to go home. But it wasn’t an “over-it” type of exhaustion. It was more of a “I came, I saw, I zip lined, now let me head back to Brooklyn” kind of exhaustion. I exchanged numbers with a few people (one of whom I plan to meet up with soon) and, overall, it was a fun experience. Do I plan to go back to adult summer camp or Club Getaway? Absolutely. Will I bring a friend along? I might be ready to do it solo next time—but no promises.