Summer

The Introvert's Guide to Camp

July 27, 2016

Many editors are bookish, and Ali and I certainly are. At summer camp, we were even more shy, and therefore didn’t love riotous, outgoing, sunshiney summer camp.

Looking back, we’re able to say we each survived camp twice, living to not only tell the tale, but also to provide some tips for future quiet campers—even if we wouldn't want to go back ourselves.

Here are some of the ways an introvert can survive—and make learn to like!—camp:

Caroline:

  • Surround yourself with stuff you love: I remember setting up a sort of tidy vignette on the wooden ledge of the cabin next to my pillow—my books, my pens, my letters from home.
  • Look forward to rainy days: We got to stay inside and sit in a circle talking or watch a movie.
  • Sign up for as many arts and crafts electives as possible, and you'll get to sit inside and draw or weave baskets or make friendship bracelets.
  • Become friends with the mature counselors—not the ones who wished they were your age. Thank goodness for mature counselors, the grown-up (a.k.a. seventeen-year-old) quiet kids who had somehow also found ways to really love camp. Or at least the ones who saw the quiet kids struggling on the fringes and tried to be tender to them. 
  • Remember that camp is a fantasy land but also real life: You aren’t doing something very wrong if you’re not LOVING EVERY MOMENT of camp.

Ali

  • Have an outlet for alone time. That was my journal, my top bunk, my care packages from my mom, Mad Libs. But avoid being called out as a cabin squatter.
  • Invest in a big-commitment craft.
  • Don’t go with just one friend who is a “camp person.”
  • You really need to pack books that you LOVE.
  • Write very long letters home.
  • Be prepared to either love or hate mealtime. Caro and Ali differed on this one:

Ali: The most stressful part was, oddly, mealtime. So many outdoor voices in a contained space, food that wasn't exciting, picking a table to sit at. What did you do then?

Caro: I hear you on all the outside voices in one very closed space! But I actually loved mealtimes (despite the wan salad bar). I loved the crates of milk cartons and the singing at meals—I think because I got to be a spectator and could participate at a safe distance (or, alternatively, take solace in lunch).

But the real question is, even if we didn't love camp, would we go back? Would we send our kids?

Ali: The parts that I remember liking about camp—mostly the Choco Tacos and lanyards—could have been part of my life without the social anxiety, and probably weren't worth the social anxiety. Mom and Dad, we should've gone camping!

Caro: I wanted to love camp so much, but in reality, I was too darn shy and, frankly, clingy to enjoy it. Even as an adult, trying to imagine going back makes me feel squirmy and desperate for alone time. I really believe that some kids are going to love going to camp and some kids aren't—and that it's okay for the latter to be their bookish, no-rowdy-chants-for-me-thank-you selves.

Were you a cabin squatter like us? Or were you all about camp? Share your own camp survival tips in the comments.

2 Comments

Michele July 27, 2016
Great post and what a lightbulb moment for me. I never did camp as it never appealed to me, and sleep away camp was never an option with my book loving daughter (as in obsessed) but day camps (with short weeks) for art, dance and music were perfect. As a college student she thought to get a summer job at a day camp in her last year of freedom before interning, etc. However, she hated it even as a counsellor. I never thought about the relationship between temperament and activities and how the whole thing runs through us for life. I understand it more clearly now, thank you so much for this! And yes, "the outdoor voices in a contained space".....I find that is so many place now.
 
Olivia B. July 27, 2016
I've always been a major homebody (and a secret introvert) so sleepaway camp was tough for me. I spent most of the time painfully homesick, fighting back tears at bedtime. Happily, I found a middle ground—day camp! I went to music day camps throughout middle school and high school where I spent my days immersed in chamber music, orchestra, and music theory classes. AND surrounded by fellow music nerds who were more Chopin than Capture-the-Flag campers.