This may seem like an odd time of year to talk about summer camp, but many camps will open up their summer staff applications soon if they haven’t already. Working at a camp offers plenty of adventures… and can earn you enough money to go on another adventure after the camp season is over!
Why should a traveler work at summer camp?
Experience Once-in-a-Lifetime Events… Every Week!
I love ziplining. But so far, I’ve never paid for a zipline experience. Working at camp has allowed me to enjoy this adrenaline rush for free whenever campers weren’t using it.
The events and experiences you’ll get to enjoy depend on what camp you go to, but here are just a few other things I got to do as part of camp work: play paintball, rock climb, walk high ropes, take the leap of faith, hold an alligator, ride airboats, jump off the high dive, play broomball on a frozen-over pool, and fly on a giant swing, just to name a few.
Shoulder Seasons are Your Vacation Time
Yes, camp work typically means giving up a good chunk of the most popular vacation time: summer. But that means you’ll also be giving up the high prices and large crowds that come with tourist season. Instead, try traveling before or after camp, when you might enjoy prime destinations for less, and maybe even have them all to yourself.
Learn Valuable Travel Skills
Working at camp doesn’t mean doing the same task all day, every day. You can lead a hike, plunge a toilet, perform a skit, and make a craft… all in the same hour! This means wearing many hats and learning new skills. Some of those skills will be beneficial in travel.
I know I’m a safer, healthier, and all-around more confident traveler because of the first aid and survival skills I was taught at camp. Camp also taught me more about cooking, budgeting, fitness, and getting by with few modern conveniences. All those skills have played a role in some way or another in my travels. Plus, many of my camp coworkers enjoy traveling as well, so we have exchanged some valuable travel tips.
Build that Travel Fund
Be warned, camps aren’t known as being a place that makes their employees rich. Your pay may be equivalent to less than three dollars an hour. However, all that money can go straight into savings. Think about it: at camp, your bed, food, and daily activities are covered. You may have a couple monthly bills to pay, such as for your cell phone or insurance, but those are relatively small compared to your typical monthly expenses. All you have to do is limit your spending at the snack shack and on your days off, and you’ll build a nice nest egg for more adventures (or whatever you want to spend it on)!
Satisfy that Travel Bug
This one may or may not work for you. Sometimes, camp encourages me to travel even more. Other times, it makes me fulfilled enough that I don’t feel the need to travel as much. If this doesn’t work, try exploring the surrounding area on your days off. This works especially well if your camp is far from your home.
Currently, I’m helping out with weekend retreats about twice a month. I still occasionally travel elsewhere, but it’s because I want to, not because I feel pressured to travel. If you work at a summer camp and enjoy it, try coming back throughout the year to work weekend retreats.
Another opportunity that may arise is that you could have the chance to travel with camp as part of your job. There are some adventure camps where staff take campers to all kinds of places. One way I’ve traveled with camp is by visiting other camps as a representative of my own camp, even going to multi-camp conferences in different states. Of course some business or training is involved, but that’s a small price for an all-expense-paid trip!
Inspire Others to Adventure
Camps make a difference. Many camps are also nonprofit organizations, so you can work for a cause you believe in. But you can also make a difference by encouraging the campers you work with to go after adventure. The world could use more travelers like you!
Have you ever worked or volunteered at a camp? (If so, tell me where!) What do you think is the best advantage to working at camp?
Photos were taken during my time at Camp Rivercrest in Nebraska. I’ve worked at 3 other camps and volunteered at countless more, but apparently Rivercrest provided the most photo ops!
Every holiday or trip away from home is unique. You’ll be heading to different places and travelling for different purposes. In short, you’ll expect something different from each place that you visit. So you can’t expect one form of accommodation to cater to all of your needs regardless of the situation. It only makes sense that you should consider where you’re going to stay during each of your journeys before setting off and ensuring that you choose the option that best suits your needs at that given time. Here are a few different types of accommodation to consider next time you’re away from home.
Hotels are perhaps the most commonly used form of accommodation when people go on their travels. It’s not surprising. They’re comfortable, luxurious, and offer you pretty much anything and everything that you could possibly wish for as part of your vacation. They are ideal for those who want rest, relaxation and recuperation. If the weather is fine, you can take advantages of common features such as pools and sun loungers. Many also offer spas where you can receive massages, facials, and other treatments. Perhaps the best part? Large buffets or other forms of catering that keep your appetite satiated day and night. They may be relatively expensive, but they are great for a treat.
Hostels are like budget versions of hotels. You may lack privacy, as you will likely have to share your room or dorm with other weary travellers, but you will have somewhere to rest your head for the night. This doesn’t sound ideal, but their low price makes up for what facilities and luxuries they lack. Hostels are the ideal form of accommodation for backpacking. You can save the money that you do have for food and activities, without having to resort to sleeping on the streets or forking out for lavish hotels. So, if you merely need somewhere to sleep, this is the option for you. You can simply get your head down, the set off on your new adventures the following day. Job done!
Many people will not have heard of this option before, but corporate housing is great for business trips or extended leisure trips where you want a home away from home. Decorated and furnished apartments are let out for short periods of time. They are often located in large cities, so provide the perfect option for those who are considering a city break. While you explore by day, you can rest safe in the knowledge that you have a comfortable home to return to at night with all the amenities and home comforts you could wish for.
If you’re seeking an experience a little further out from the city and the wilderness calls, camping could be the best option for you. What do you camp in? A tent. However, things nowadays are a little more complicated when it comes to purchasing the right tent for your needs. Different styles are designed for different purposes, and prices can vary from low to extremely expensive. So work out how long you’re going to be out in the elements for and how severe weather conditions are likely to be. For even the shortest of trips, you’re going to want something that is watertight and water resistant. If you are going to be camping for a while, you will want something a little larger to avoid feeling cooped up or claustrophobic. At the same time, you want everything to be as lightweight as possible, as you’re going to have to carry it to and from your designated campsite. Tents, however, aren’t just for those looking to venture into the woods. They are also a must-have for festival-goers who are planning on seeing all of their favourite bands over an extended weekend.
If you fancy heading out of the city and into the countryside, but fancy a little more comfort than the humble tent can provide, you may want to consider a more permanent fixture. A log cabin, to be precise. These give you a taste of the rural at the same time as guaranteeing your warmth and security. They are rustic, homely, and a great way for you to escape from the rush and hubbub of the inner city without having just a thin layer of material between you and the elements.
These are just a few different forms of accommodation that you might experience on your travels. Remember that there’s so much more out there than the standard hotel room. Broaden your experience and be adventurous!
Do you love the idea of getting flights, lodging, ground transportation, meals, and attractions for free or steeply discounted? Who wouldn’t want that! This is what makes travel hacking so enticing. But this can be too daunting when it comes to churning credit cards and running up a big bill.
Never fear, there are plenty of travel hacks where owning a credit card is completely optional! Below are credit-free hacks based on my personal experience, as well as a few collected from others in my travel networks.
When I first visited the Subaru dealership, I brought measuring tape with me. I wanted to make sure I was able to lay down in the trunk with the back seat down. If you road trip in a van or SUV, this could be a comfortable and cheap option for overnights. For me, I started doing this as a kid. Before getting my own tent for Christmas, I would often choose to sleep in the back of my dad’s Jeep Cherokee during family camping trips. My first car was a 2000 Ford Explorer. I bought it for about $1750, and made a large portion of that back in savings by sleeping in it at free campgrounds and WalMart parking lots. Since then, I’ve learned to fit an inflated air mattress in the back, how to make temporary privacy curtains, and that my favorite free spot to stay the night is casinos that allow RVs overnight. Just a few steps away, I have access to bathrooms, WiFi, and security!
Help others for airline perks.
Back when I was an EMT, I helped out with someone having an emergency while boarding our plane. Had this person stayed on the flight, the crew would have offered to refund my ticket to sit with her. Although this didn’t happen, a flight attendant gave me one of those super-expensive snack boxes I would never afford to buy myself. Megan Parsons shared, “this couple asked if they could help me because I am flying alone with a baby. I said yes and their boarding position jumped significantly.” Obviously opportunities like these don’t always arise, but it always helps to keep an eye out!
Use free toilets.
“Go when you can, not when you must.” I heard this from a NYC tourguide ten years ago, and it’s stuck with me as a useful, albeit awkward travel motto. Of course needing to use the bathroom when there isn’t one available can result in ruined clothes, laundry expenses, smelly luggage, and embarrassment. I’ve pointed several visitors to free bathrooms in a small tourist town near where I live, and look out for free restrooms while I travel. This tip is especially useful in areas where most public toilets cost money, since they’re still usually free at restaurants, paid attractions, churches, trains, and porta potties. (Bonus tip: always carry a pack of travel tissues. Your stall may be out of toilet paper, and in some countries the stalls don’t always have toilet roll holders!)
Get free food and drinks in the airport with this simple tip.
We know that the shops and restaurants in airports are overpriced. But do you know how to get food and drinks past TSA security? More and more people are realizing that you can bring an empty bottle and fill it with water once past security, instead of dropping several dollars for a disposable plastic bottle. (If you do forget your water bottle, some airport fast food places might give you a free water cup.) You can add single-serve flavor packs if you wish. As for food, it’s totally okay to go through security as long as it doesn’t contain many liquid-based components. (Mustard on a sandwich should be fine; a heavily-frosted cupcake is a no-go.) You don’t even have to fit your food in your carry-on or personal item as long as it’s consumed before boarding.
Find mistake fares and airline sales.
Stephan Mark Smith shared, “Check each day until you find a mistake fare.” While I personally have yet to find a mistake fare, I did take advantage of a cheap airline sale a few years ago. As long as you’re not too picky about your destination, you could plan a great trip around a cheap flight!
Fund your trip with gift cards.
Just about every aspect of travel can be paid for with a gift card. If you have partially- used gift cards lying around, get creative and brainstorm how they can be used towards upcoming travels. For everything else, check out Swagbucks. Many people think of this site as a rebate program. But I promised that none of these travel hacks require a credit card, and this one doesn’t have to, either. On Swagbucks, you can earn points by watching videos, playing games, taking surveys, and my favorite, using a search engine. These points then translate into gift cards for gas, hotels, cruises, restaurants, Groupon, and more. You even get free points just for signing up!
Check the fine print on coupons.
Between free travel gear and free souvenirs, this hack has saved me a lot of money, and provided me with wonderful things I never would have gotten if I had to pay for them! I ignore most coupons because their stipulations require me to buy something I don’t need. But years ago, while backpacking Nashville, I found a coupon that offered $3 off at a local candy store- no minimum purchase! I even surprised the cashier when I got a $2.50 nut log for free. Since then, I stay on the lookout for coupons offering free food, free souvenirs, and free gear. I also like stores that allow coupon stacking or using coupons on already-discounted items. My favorite coupon right now is the $10 rewards coupon I get from Eddie Bauer twice a year. I have to spend at least $10 to get $10 off, but it’s still a good deal for useful gear and clearance items!
Visit your library before leaving.
A library is more than books. When planning my trip to Europe, I learned about Rick Steves, and wanted more of his advice than what was offered online and on PBS. I went to the library and found his Europe Through the Back Door guidebook as well as a few seasons of his show on DVD. Of course my rental time wasn’t long enough to bring these with me in Europe for 90 days, but I could take notes on the most useful information for me. For shorter trips, a borrowed library book is great for downtime, as long as you make sure not to lose it. With a lot of weekend road trips I’ve been taking lately, I enjoy getting an audio book or two from the library to listen to in the car. I’ve also taken periodicals from the free magazine rack. Your library may have other perks that benefit travel as well.
Double up on freebies at events.
Some of my favorite travel memories have been at free local events. I went to some of these at the advice of a local person or fellow traveler. Others I stumbled onto completely by accident. Either way, you’re likely to find a free concert, play, or street fair, especially in large cities. Not only is the event free, but you can often double up on freebies at events like this since the sponsors often give free items away. This could mean food, apparel, pens, and other items that make excellent souvenirs.
If something goes wrong, cash in on all you can.
I definitely would not recommend getting into a car crash as a way to travel hack. With recent personal experience, it’s a hassle, it’s costly, and it can ruin the joy of travel, at least temporarily. But if something like this does happen to you, milk it for all it’s worth. My favorite car crash perk has been the free massages and chiropractic adjustments, especially helpful since my health insurance ended just a couple weeks after my crash. You can enjoy this benefit even if you were only a passenger in a crash. When I got my rental car, I planned a weekend getaway to Redding, California. While I paid for the gas, the rental was covered by insurance, and it didn’t add mileage to my own car. Speaking of mileage, since my car was totalled before its warranty ended, I got most of it refunded. While each situation differs, look into what’s available in the event of an unfortunate incident involving a car, plane, hotel, restaurant, event, or attraction. Don’t be demanding or threatening, but be sure to get what you’re owed.
What travel hacks have you done? Let me know in the comments!
Since this week marks the start of school for my area, I decided to reflect on my own summer. While I didn’t have any big trips planned and faced some difficult challenges, it turned out all right!
I decided to experiment with a different type of travel this year. Instead of taking time off work, I utilized my days off for maximum adventures. This mostly involved weekend road trips. Although my per-day costs of travel mostly increased with this style of trip, I wasn’t losing money by not going to work. I was also motivated to pack more into each day of these shorter getaways. As a result, here are my top six favorite trips of this summer!
Even though my schedule changes at the end of summer, I’m still determined to travel. I especially want to since it’s hard to travel in Oregon right now- everything’s up in smoke! Recommend where I should go next in the comments.
Despite being only about an hour and a half away from my home, I felt as if I had somehow been transported to an African safari. I rode around in safari trucks with guides who knew a lot about the dozens of animals we passed. And before falling asleep in my tent, I listened to the carols of a pride of lions.
In reality, I was at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon. I’ve been to this drive-thru safari experience a few times, but that wasn’t in the plans for this trip. I was there to take part in Roars and Snores, which involves a sleepover inside a lion enclosure, plus a jam-packed itinerary for animal enthusiasts. The event description on their website was somewhat vague, so I knew I was in for a weekend of surprises!
I arrived at Wildlife Safari an hour before Roars and Snores began. This was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the free Safari Village, which has a petting zoo, taxidermy room, and dozens of animals you can’t see in the drive-thru safari. There’s also an overlook to the lion enclosures, where I saw staff setting up for the night’s experience. Then I went to the gift shop to check-in. I was told to have a seat in the restaurant where guests would soon enjoy dinner and a presentation.
The barbecue-style dinner was delicious, with enough food and variety for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. Several zookeepers showed us slideshows about two animals we would see that evening: lions of course, and also bears. I learned a lot about these beasts, like how lions “carol”, which is a sort of role call using roars.
After everyone was stuffed, we walked it off on the way to the nearby lion enclosure. The keepers explained how they don’t train Wildlife Safari’s animals to do tricks like a circus might. However, they do need to train the creatures in some ways to make sure that they stay healthy. For example, we got to watch the lions mimic their trainers by lifting up their paws, and that way they could be inspected for injuries. Each lion who did this was rewarded with raw meat kebabs. However, no one at Wildlife Safari forces the animals to do anything. These snacks were a good encouragement to get inspected and go into their nighttime shelter, but if a lion chose not to do this one night, then the staff would record this and try again the next day, but otherwise let the lion be.
Since these aren’t truly “trained” lions, we got to see some of their wild instincts up-close through the safety of a fence. When the lions saw the children in our group, or even adults squatting down, they would pace in front of that person. In the wild, lions often go after smaller prey because it’s a more guaranteed victory for them. But some of these lions’ habits weren’t the same as a wild lion. In this pride, a female was in charge. Typically a male would be the head of a pride, but since the two adult male lions were rescues, the females had more skills. The adult males are also kept separate from the cubs so that a male cub doesn’t try to overpower an adult male like they often do in the wild.
After the lions went to bed for the day, we hopped on the safari trucks and headed over to the bear enclosure. On the way, we passed through parts of the African and North American sections of the safari, so we got to see several species along the way. When we got to the bears, I watched them eat watermelon, play with boxes, and take their medicine. It was a great experience, but I hope I don’t get that close to a bear in nature!
By the time we were bussed down to the lion enclosure with all of our camping gear, it was getting dark. I don’t think I’ve ever set up my tent after sundown before, but it was accomplished! We were rewarded with a campfire and s’mores. Maybe the event should have been called Roars, Snores, and S’mores!
I really liked how the staff thought of everything to make the stay as pleasant as possible. Besides dinner and s’mores in the evening, ice chests full of beverages were available. This was especially helpful since I had left my water bottle in my car parked a mile away. An outhouse was places in our lion enclosure to use at night, but there were a few opportunities to use the Safari Village restrooms before that. (As a note, Safari Village is really cool after the park closes and the usual guests have left.) Even a continental breakfast was provided, which wasn’t mentioned in the information online.
Although this event is called Roars and Snores, neither of those happened until after I had crawled into my sleeping bag for the night. Lions use their roars as a way to keep track of everyone else, so when one lion roars, the others roar back. When the lions listen to this “carol”, they are able to tell if someone is missing, or if a stranger participated in the carol. They did this roll call (or is it a “roar call”?) several times at night before the roars of the lions were replaced by the snores of the other campers.
I awoke the next morning to more lion carols- quite the alarm clock! I got ready foe the day, tore down my campsite, and leisurely enjoyed the continental breakfast. Two African cranes noticed that all of us humans were caged up and walked over to the outside of our fence. It was like they had gone to the zoo to see the people exhibit!
Our first activity that morning was to go inside the enclosure that the lion cubs would use that day. We took cardboard boxes, spritzed them with perfume, and placed them around the enclosure. Apparently lions love playing with boxes and the scent of perfume interests them, but I think it also helped that the keepers placed meat in some of them! Once we were all safely outside of the enclosure, the lions were released and had a blast!
The last activity of Roars and Snores was with a big cat that can’t even roar. Everyone had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a cheetah.
It’s hard to believe that thia all took place in less than 24 hours- they packed a lot into this short vacation! If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out Wildlife Safari’s website regularly for announcements about upcoming Roars and Snores sleepovers. They also sometimes offer an event that includes dibner for both you and the lions, bur without the campout. Your group could also book a private event that includes a lion encounter. Even if none of these are available for the date you want to visit, I’m sure you’ll still have a great time at Wildlife Safari at the drive-thru or in an animal encounter.
PS- Discounted tickets are often available on Groupon, good for either drive-thru admission or an elephant car wash! Better yet, get Groupon gift cards for FREE when you sign up for Swagbucks!
Happy Earth Day! Most of what I write here is creative ways to travel that will save you green. But in honor of today’s holiday, I’m going to shift gears a bit and talk about another way to save the green.
Many environmentalists frown upon travel as it causes greenhouse gases and a bigger carbon footprint. True, carbon costs associated with travel can be astronomical, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cleaned up and greened up. Since Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd, here are 22 ways you can make your travel more green!
(Bonus: In addition to saving the green for the environment, many of these will save the green in your wallet, too!)
Stay in Hostels Staying in a hostel dorm with others requires less square footage and encourages community. Hostels also often tend to buy in bulk and cut out worthless amenities, so you won’t create excess waste with miniature shampoos.
Go Camping Get in touch with nature, and then be encouraged to preserve it! Any kind of camping is probably helpful for the environment, but you can take it a step futher with primitive camping, where you won’t have electricity hookups, WiFi, or possibly even flushing toilets!
Stay with Friends Instead of creating a demand for a temporary place to sleep, go somewhere that’s already being lived in. Your friends will probably equip you with the same shower, dishes, and bedding they always use instead of providing disposible or temporary supplies like a hotel does.
Don’t Request Sheet Changes Unless Absolutely Needed In your own home, you probably realize that washing sheets from just one bed is enough to load an entire washer and dryer. Save the water, soap, gas, and electricity by skipping sheet changes. You don’t replace your sheets at home every day, do you?
Bring Your Own Toiletries in Reusable Containers I’ve shared some of my favorite travel toiletry containers here before. Whether you use my recommendations or not, siphoning toiletries from bulk containers into smaller, reusable containers is much better than purchasing one-time bottles from the travel section of superstores.
Borrow or Buy Used Travel Gear There are some items that may be necessary while traveling, but useless in everyday life. If you absolutely cannot go without it, ask your friends, family, and social media followers if you can borrow their tent, or ice chest, or lawn chair, or… you get the picture.
Do Laundry Effectively If you need to do laundry on your trip at all, first see if there is anything you can wear more than once between washes. Bring your own eco-friendly soap instead of the single-serve packets found at the laundromat, and try to line-dry your laundry, even if you have to do so indoors.
Carpool If someone else is available to travel with you, going in one car instead of two will cut your emissions in half. Better yet, if you’re both licensed drivers, split the driving time to help keep alert and avoid accidents.
Take the Bus or Train I love both of these options! You get to see so much more of the country, and reap the benefits of extremely low passenger miles per gallon! Trains are often a vacation in themselves, and long-distance buses make travel available to all income levels!
Walk or Bike Everywhere at Your Destination Make a point to do this everywhere you go, even if it means staying closer to the city center. I can’t imagine all that I would have missed out on if I took cars or city transportation everywhere I’ve been.
Don’t Fly First Class I’ve flown first class one time, and it was WAY overrated. Flying in coach means that the seating allows for more passengers to fly (and thus cuts down on emissions per person), plus lowers the waste of beverage cups and snack wrappers.
Pick Restaurants that Serve Local Food You’ll get a better sense of the local cuisine and prevent excess trucking and shipping of food.
Become a Vacation Vegetarian I’m not saying you have to give up meat. (Not everyone can!) But try to select veg options in your travels. Besides the environmental advantages, vegetarian options often cost less, and you will be less exposed to those icky stomach bugs that travelers fear.
Bring Washable Dishes or Stay Somewhere that Offers Them It’s not that time-consuming to wash your dishes after eating instead of throwing them away.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle!) Vacations tend to make me thirsty! Instead of buying drinks everyday, I’m saving my wallet, my waistline, and the Earth with a reusable bottle.
Recycle Ticket Stubs (or Use an eTicket) These are usually recyclable, but rarely do people think to recycle them!
Visit Local Parks Fresh air, green plants, and a free place to explore the local culture. What’s not to love?
Borrow Books or DVDs for Downtime Sure, you could buy a paperback for those times you need to relax. But many hostels, and now even some hotels, offer lending libraries or book/movie exchanges. Reduce the demand for new materials, and lighten the weight of that carry-on you brought!
Avoid It Why do you need a tacky souvenir (that’s probably not even made at your destination), when there are more effective, and more eco-friendly, ways to capture your memories? One of my favorite mementos are my travel journals. Photos are another great option, or if you absolutely want to buy something, send yourself a postcard or letter from your destination.
Traveling has allowed me to widen opportunities as a writer. Most of my published work has been devotionals or advice for running camps. But recently, more of my work has become travel-related. Here are a couple to share:
The Essential Travel Packing List for Moving Overseas
I write a lot for Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. I kind of have to, being the editor! I wrote several articles for the Winter 15/16 issue, including an interview with the Silver Ring Thing National Touring Team, a review of my latest favorite devotionals, a handbook for babysitting, and the secret that will have everyone forgetting about their diets as they indulge in your Christmas treats, plus a few others. For the final article in this issue, I decided to take a step back from my traditional writing and make my first-ever photo essay! I really like how it turned out. You can read all of the articles I just mentioned, plus columns from other incredible writers, by getting a free subscription to Girlz 4 Christ Magazine. Click here to visit the website and sign up!
Nearly two weeks ago, I attended a young adult Bible study for the first time. Since I was a newbie, and summer and European possibilities weren’t too far away, I didn’t expect much to come of it. But little did I know that the group was planning an outdoor retreat! I didn’t know anybody, but since I was invited I decided to go for it. So on Friday afternoon, I brought my over-packed backpack, sleeping bag, and pillow to a big white van where I met up with a few of the others. We hopped in and headed south to Klamath National Forest in Northern California.
Now, if you read this website as inspiration for your own travels, I must warn you that I can only sort of help you in this post. This retreat was done mostly on private property. However, if you can find a natural setting, you can still imitate a multitude of things that happened in the past couple of days.
I do believe that the internet is a wonderful thing. But I think all of us can admit that, deep down inside, there is something missing from it. When we rely on instant connectivity, we tend to forget about connecting with the people and environment around us. Since everyone that went was in the same boat, we enjoyed some rare, uninterrupted face-to-face connection.
Have a Campfire
Mix a little bit of danger, a little bit of fellowship, and a little bit of visual stimulation, and you would get what’s known as a campfire. Now, campfire’s aren’t all fun. This weekend I ended up with a hole in my favorite pair of pajama pants due to a spark landing on them! But even after that incident, the fire ring was still the best place to circle up and participate in conversation.
For a couple hours on Saturday morning, each trip participant had the opportunity to go into a different part of the property for some time alone. Since there was no agenda during this time, we could read the Bible, nap, pray, snack, journal, sing, or just be still and become more aware of our surroundings. I did a bit of all that, except for sleeping. (The army of ants crawling up my shoes encouraged me to stay awake and alert!) My spot was next to the creek with cascading miniature waterfalls. While this activity was very simplistic, it actually turned out to be a unique and enjoyable activity. After all, how often do you get the opportunity be alone and away from anything man-made?
Whether it was taking the long drive to and from our destination, sharing a meal, setting things up, coexisting during downtime, or trying to figure out how to remove the head of a tick from someone’s skin without any tools, there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company. (Except when we were enjoying solitude as mentioned in the point above!) Funny, interesting, and embarrassing stories were shared. It may have been because it was a limited number of people with limitations on things we could do (being off-grid after all), but we got to know each other faster than people I’ve seen on a regular basis over a long period of time.
Take a Hike
Hikes are always fun. We took a hike that would have been fairly short, except the trail wasn’t always a trail. Sometimes vegetation made it hard to find the path. Sometimes we had to climb over or in-between rocks. For a few instances we balanced on a log as we crossed the creek. There were several points where we relied on the literal helping hand of others. A couple people got scrapes or bee stings. Twice I fell! But the unique situations made it all the more adventurous.
Find a Waterfall
You must know that I love waterfalls. There weren’t any waterfalls that we found notable enough to be named, but we found several tucked away deep into the woods. We were quite possibly among the few people who were able to witness this unknown waterfalls, which in and of itself was something pretty special.
Raft a River
This weekend marked my first time rafting in California. Actually, it was my first official time rafting anything other than the Rogue River. While I didn’t attain my goal of rafting over class five rapids, we did hit a few fun class threes. Plus, there was plenty of calmer water where we just got to talk, splash around, and find birds and turtles. Our group took two rafts out on the Klamath River on Sunday, and it was a beautiful day for doing so. Definitely a highlight!
Don’t Keep Time
A few years ago, I read a book where one chapter issued a challenge to spend some time without keeping time. It was a nice idea, but since I always need to be somewhere or do something at a certain time every day, I could never do this for a sufficient period. But as we pulled into our camp for the weekend, I decided to turn off my phone and not turn it back on until we were headed home. I didn’t bring a watch or any other way to tell time. In fact, the only electronic I used was my camera, and the time stamp on that isn’t even accurate! Other than overhearing a few people tell each other what time it was, I had no idea what time it was at any point in time. It didn’t matter if it was 10 am or 2 pm, lunch time was when I was hungry. Bed time was when it was dark and I was tired. I don’t know if I went to bed at 9:30 or midnight. You probably won’t understand how it feels until you try this yourself, but it is a very freeing experience.
I also used this weekend as a study on how I pack, in preparation for packing for three months of Europe in a carry-on. Coming up, you’ll see what I learned from this experiment.
Since today is Memorial Day in the United States, I’m sure plenty of you have also enjoyed some sort of outdoor experience this weekend. Share what you did in the comments!
About a month and a half ago, I attended a dinner benefit for Wilderness Trails. That evening, I met the program director for the girls’ camps and offered to help out for camps and retreats. She was eager to get me involved, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I was available all weekend during a girls’ retreat. So Friday evening, I met the other leaders in a store parking lot and we loaded up the van and headed up the mountain!
Wilderness Trails is a free camp for kids in need. In the summer, they have outdoor camps where everyone sleeps in teepees, but in the winter, it’s a bit more luxurious. They have a six-bedroom lodge complete with bathrooms, a kitchen, and a large meeting area, where all the weekends retreats during the school year take place. The organization is based in Jackson County, Oregon, but this weekend’s camp served girls in Klamath and Douglas counties, so it was a quiet ride to the Cascade Mountains with just the adults! Since I had never been to Wilderness Trails before, I was in for a real treat when we arrived at the lodge that evening.
I’ve been working at camps since I was twelve, the age of some of the girls at this camp! When I was fourteen I became a counselor, and I got a paying summer job at camp in high school. For the past three years, I was a full-time, year-round camp employee, a short career that I thought I had ended back in August. Apparently not. After this weekend, I definitely think I’ll continue working with Wilderness Trails in any way I can! This weekend may have seemed small for other camps I worked at, but it was a huge weekend for them: 33 campers with 7 adults! Forty is more than their lodge typically holds, so once all the bunks were filled, we covered most of the dorm floor with mattresses! The dorm I stayed in had eight beds, but since we had 11 people, it ended up looking like this:
Yeah, it got pretty messy in just two days!
Because it was raining most of the weekend, and cold all weekend, we spent most of the time in the lodge. We ate delicious meals, played games, did devotions, made crafts, did hair, and one girl even taught me how to finger knit a scarf! On Saturday night, we set up a projector and watched God’s Not Dead. I hadn’t seen that movie yet (I was invited to an advance screening before it hit theaters, but an ice storm hit the night I was supposed to go!), so I enjoyed watching it for the first time. Although I didn’t find it to be the greatest movie, it did have a good plot line and message.
When we weren’t in the lodge, we were in the barn. On Saturday morning, we went there to play games that were too active to play in the lodge. In the afternoon during free time, some of us returned for more fun. They had bows, arrows, and bales of straw for indoor archery practice. On one of the rafters hung a rope swing that many of the girls played with. They even had an auto-belay rock wall! I had a lot of fun, even though I myself didn’t do anything except shoot a few arrows. (I quickly gave up on that because the arrows were missing fletchings and none of the bows suited me… and I’m not a huge fan of archery, although apparently I’m an archery snob when I do end up doing it!)
Since I hadn’t seen much of the camp property, when I got my one-hour break on Saturday afternoon, I spent most of it going for a walk. This meant bundling up in my heaviest coat and donning scarf and mittens, but it was certainly worth it. I began outside of the lodge, which is surrounded by picnic tables.
I then walked past the barn and along a dirt road. I was hoping that this was the way to the entrance, since I wanted to take a picture of the entrance sign. I had seen a glimpse of it on Friday night, but it was dark when we arrived, which apparently messed up my sense of direction. I eventually made it to a trail marker, and I was so lost, it couldn’t even point me in the direction of the entrance.
Instead, I ended up at the A-frame cabin, which was pretty cool to look at the exterior. Between the lodge and the A-frame, I’m tempted to organize my own group and rent out the camp!
After walking for awhile, I figured I wasn’t going to make it to the entrance. (I found out the next day that I had been walking away from the entrance the entire time!) Plus, it was starting to rain, so I decided to turn back. But then, the strangest thing happened. It started to hail!
Since it was only little bits of ice, the hail didn’t hurt, so I decided to take a longer way back to the lodge. This way, I spotted the tepee village where the summer camps are held. Of course the tents are taken down for the winter, but the play structures and outhouses were still there!
On Sunday morning, we got a big surprise…
It snowed! This trip had covered every type of winter weather: dry, rain, snow and hail! Because the snow had gotten fairly thick for such a short amount of time, we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to make it to the church we had planned to attend. But we set to work anyway, packing up, cleaning up, and loading the vans. Fortunately, we were able to make it to Mountain View Christian Fellowship.
Mountain View is a small cowboy church up in an area that’s mostly for camping vacationers. Even though our group more than outnumbered their regular attenders, they were wonderful to welcome us with open arms. After feeding us a big breakfast, they involved the girls a part of the worship session. I know some of these girls don’t attend church regularly, and some weren’t exactly sure how to behave, but the pastor was great with them. We he was taking prayer requests, many of the girls asked for prayers for their imprisoned parents, which was a pretty emotional time.
After the service, we ate a quick snack, then we all got into our assigned vans headed toward our respective home counties, and said good bye. It was a great weekend that I hope to repeat!
Oh, and the church had two pet dogs too, which were pretty cute.