Living in a Car
Living in a Honda Civic for two years isn’t what my parents were hoping I would do after getting my engineering degree. It was the summer of 2012, my girlfriend, Laura, and I were working at Camp Stella Maris after graduating from college, and we decided to go on a road trip. Classic millennials. We thought we would be on the road for a couple months see the Redwoods, turn around and find some job. Two years later we had visited 200 camps, 47 states, and met some of the most compassionate passionate people on the planet.
Here’s how it happened: After camp that summer, we cold emailed a handful of camp directors we could find online and asked for a place to stay in exchange for doing odd jobs around camp. For some reason, some of them said yes. At each camp we took some pictures, did some work, and had a free place to sleep. It was amazing. At each stop, the camp directors we met told us to visit their friends. We were passed from camp to camp like long lost relatives. You can see more about our journey here.
The Power of Camp
At first we weren’t sure if we cared about camp. I mean, we loved our time working at camp, made incredible friends, and met each other, but that was just our little camp. Other camps were different. But over time we fell in love with the power of summer camp. We fell in love with the idea that at summer camp, we could change social norms, expectations, and give kids a more perfect world. One where people are treated the way they wanted to be treated, empowered to be themselves, and trusted to work through conflict in different ways.
Every camp we visited had its own magic and we realized that no camp can have everything, but each camp could do anything. We visited Camp Augusta where they operate on a flat hierarchy and have giant oatmeal fights. We visited YMCA Camp Kitaki where Fort Pawnee let’s kids have a place to lead their own play. We saw kids with autism flourish at Camp Tall Tree. At Beam Camp, we heard stories, of big dreamers, artists, and engineers working with kids to build giant works of art.
Three Questions To Answer Before Taking A Job This Summer
Each camp has something special and a different vision for a more perfect world. As you start to think about you summer, I hope you can start to answer a few questions.
- What are you going to get out of the job? Not just a few bucks and a t-shirt, but what new skills, friends, networks, stories, and experiences will you have? Most camps are great at the friends, stories, and experiences but can the camp you are looking at help connect you with a job after college or maybe pay for your lifeguarding?
- What is the organization’s vision of a more perfect world and how will you help make it come true? Do they care about diversity, mindfulness, nature, or maybe just the power of fun to connect people? Each camp has a different vision that shapes every aspect of camp life.
- Who will your boss be? Who is the director and why should you listen to them? You have basically infinite choices for what to do with you summer. Don’t settle working for some jerk. Find someone that inspires you, that you can learn from, and that will help you as you move forward.
Working at summer camp isn’t for everyone. We work long hours, don’t get paid nearly enough, and miss some summer concerts, but it is the best job I have ever had and I can’t imagine not spending my summers at camp.
Since finishing his silly road trip, Jack founded and runs Camp Stomping Ground with Laura Kriegel, the same girlfriend from the car… Stomping Ground is a sleepaway camp in Upstate New York reimagining a world where more is possible through radical empathy and self-direction.
Looking for a camp job? Visit www.campstaff.com and fill out your FREE profile. We’ve been connecting camps and staff since 1996; let us help you find the perfect summer job!