When Ricky Arras was a kid, he went to summer camp sporadically—but as an adult he goes every summer.
In fact, he loves summer camp so much he sometimes goes to more than one camp.
Arras, a 30-year-old green energy consultant from Nashville, Tennessee, is part of a growing trend of adults attending camps that recreate the summer camp experience of childhood.
Just weeks after he went to his first Camp No Counselors camp in his home state, he was at the CNC’s New York camp.
“You can be a kid again and just have fun with people and not have this mantra of ‘What do you do (for a living)?’” he said. “You can leave that all behind for a weekend and that’s kind of rare.”
Adults-only camps include traditional-style summer camps were campers can share cabins complete with bunk beds, and play capture the flag, dodge ball and kick ball, make friendship bracelets and swim in a lake; educational camps; adventure-and-extreme-sports camps that feature such activities as bull riding; survival camps; yoga camps; and music-and-dance camps.
Why Sign Up for Camp?
An escape from their typical routine and a desire to make connections with like-minded people are the reasons adults seem to be seeking out Camp No Counselors’ camp for adults, said Dave Kushner, the organization’s vice president of community engagement.
A “traditional” sleepaway summer camp experience for adults, Camp No Counselors has 22 locations in the U.S. and Canada. It doesn’t have rules per se, he said, but campers are asked to turn off or put away their cell phones and other tech devices and to not talk about work.
“When you’re a kid you get to make friends based on shared interests or just personal chemistry,” he said, but as adults there are fewer opportunities to make friends like that.
Meeting new people is often connected to your work or about networking, which is why campers are asked not to talk about what they do for a living.
“Even people who are happy with their career are so happy to not be defined by it for one weekend and just be themselves,” he said.
“It really breaks down a wall of networking, or being opportunistic, where people can just put their defenses down and make friends in really innocent ways.”
Connect with Yourself
Creating a space for people to make new connections with other people is at the heart of many adult camps, but equally important is making new connections with yourself. Putting away digital tools and not talking about work are just two ways that happens. Another way is trying new things, or as many campers put it, getting outside your comfort zone.
Kyle Taylor, LMT, a 59-year-old massage therapist who practices in Palm Springs, California, considers himself a dedicated practitioner. A self-described workhorse, he regularly does 20 to 30 massages every week.
Time for trying new things didn’t exist in his world, until, that is, he found LMT Success Group, an organization that offers adventure learning—massage therapy continuing education training combined with an exotic vacation.
Taylor was actually looking for medical massage training, not a vacation where he’d be sleeping in a tentalow (a tent on a raised platform), when he found LMT Success Group.
The organization offered the training he was looking for, all right, but in Costa Rica. This was not at all what he was expecting, but he thought, why not?
When he got off the plane in Costa Rica, Taylor didn’t know what to expect or where, exactly, he was going. A van picked him up and they drove through coffee fields, pulling into the driveway of a compound in the mountains.
“A door [to the compound] opens up like something out of Jurassic Park,” Taylor said, “and as you’re getting out of the van, there’s a guest relations attendant waiting there with a cold wash cloth and the juice of the day.
“All I can say was, [I was in] awe.”
He found himself taking part in intense training days interspersed by excursion days that featured white water rafting, hikes through the rain forest and a visit to a volcano.
Before Taylor’s Costa Rican camp experience, sky bridges and waterfalls were not in his mindset, he said, but being placed in that environment altered his attitude and allowed him not only to relax, but to get so far out of his comfort zone that he learned–and practiced massage–differently.
“What I learned that first time I went to Costa Rica transformed the way I do my work completely,” he said. “It was a matter of just stepping out of that comfort zone and having that ability to relax.”
Open Your Mind
Whatever form adult camps take—retreats, adventure learning, traditional sleepaway—you’ll get the most out of it if you go with an open mind, said Melissa Garside, cofounder of Soul Camp, a mind/body/spirit/wellness camp for adults with locations in New York and California.
“If you go to events and you always go and immediately do the yoga or you feel most comfortable doing the woo-woo stuff, try something new,” she said. “Let yourself try something you’ve never tried before.”
Arras, Kushner and Taylor agree.
“Every time I talk about it to somebody who doesn’t know, they just immediately think it’s some big hook up or orgy. ‘Oh, a bunch of adults, open bar and co-ed cabins. I wonder what that’s about!’” said Arras, who has attended five Camp No Counselors camps.
“But that’s not what it is,” Arras added. “At its core, it’s innocent. It’s fun. It’s you getting out there and meeting new people.”
Your Guide to Adult Camps
Most summer camps are all-inclusive, except for travel to and from the location.
Lodging styles vary from tentalows to private cottages to bunks in a shared cabin.
Each camp has its own rules. Soul Camp, for example, doesn’t allow alcohol or drugs, and others ban cell phones and other digital devices.
Read your camp’s FAQs for those details.
Camp No Counselors. A traditional sleepaway summer camp experience with activities like dodge ball and water sports, arts and crafts and talent shows. CNC has 22 locations in the U.S. and Canada with dates in May, June, August, September and October. Ages 21-plus. Rates range from $550 to $750 for four days.
Club Getaway. This traditional sleepaway summer camp had been inviting adults to its lakeside location in Kent, Connecticut since 1976 so it has all the classic camp activities and then some, including water sports such as canoeing, water skiing, and kayaking; fitness gear such as rock climbing, zip lines, and bungee trampolines; fitness classes such as Pilates, yoga and Zumba; off-campus excursions to the Appalachian Trail and a local vineyard; live music and dance parties; and singing and storytelling by the campfire. Ages 21-plus. Sessions available May to September. Rates are $489 to $569 for a weekend.
Camp Yoga. You don’t have to be a yoga enthusiast to attend this traditional sleepaway summer camp. Yoga is offered everyday but so are activities such as Pilates, hiking, a high-rope course, rock climbing, dance parties and sing-alongs. Four locations in Canada and five in the U.S. with dates in February through June and August through October. Lodging ranges from shared tipis, cabins and lodges to private rooms. U.S. rates range from $375 to $950 for three days. Ages 19-plus.
LMT Success Group. It’s always good to get continuing education so why not combine your training with an adventure? That’s the premise behind LMT Success Group’s adventure learning offerings, which range from staying in tentalows on a mountain in Costa Rica to a cabin on a cruise ship in the Caribbean or Alaska to the more standard Las Vegas resort hotel experience. Lodging types, dates and rates vary by type of education vacation.
Seminars at Sea. The Center for Pain Management combines massage therapy CEs with the adventure of a cruise, in its annual Seminar at Sea. Attendees set sail on a Royal Caribbean ship that features fitness activities and entertainment, and may depart at ports of call including Nassau/Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Kitts. Prices range from $975 to $1,330 for seven days.
Soul Camp. A mind/body/spirit/wellness camp offering activities such as zip lines, horseback riding, yoga, meditation, a speaker series, classes, and live entertainment. Soul Camp takes place from Aug. 24 to 26 in New York and Oct. 23 to 27 in California. Each location has private and shared cabins and cottages. Rates increase as time gets closer to camp dates and range from $800 to $1,400 for three or four days.
About the Author
Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine, and her articles for massagemag.com include “Software Engineer Turned MT Shares the Secrets of Corporate Massage Success,” and “This Grant Program Makes Sure Cancer Patients Get Massage.”
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