I liked my summer job at home before I left for college but returning to Roseville for summer meant taking a step backwards in my life and losing out on adventure elsewhere. The travel bug injected its addicting venom into my veins during freshman year of college and the only cure was travel. Being a typical poor college student meant that if I wanted to travel I would need someone else to pay for it. As you can imagine, the parents weren’t exactly loco about the idea of them paying for me to travel through South America for the summer so with my options limited I took a leap of faith and applied to work at a summer camp. I got the job a month before camp commenced and after what felt like a few days later, I was on a plane to New York and a bus upstate with all expenses paid in full. If I can find a way to travel for free so can you.
According to the American Camp Association there are 3,020 camps in the US; 7,760 programs; and 23,510 camp sessions. That means that thousands of businesses around the U.S. NEED employees and are willing to pay to get them to their camps. When I worked as a camp counselor my camp paid my fare to fly from California to New York and then paid me for my work. while I was at camp I spent my days off going on trips that would not have been affordable if I had paid my own way across the country.
I want to share how I was able to travel and how to find someone else to pay for your travel adventures. Consider this an unfinished guide to finding a summer camp that will help you see the world.
Step One: Make a list of activities/hobbies/interests that you have skills in. There are people who will pay you to share your skills.
Step Two: Consider locational preferences. Travel for yourself and give yourself to your travels. If you love the beach find a camp near one. If you love mountains find a camp in the mountains. To find the summer of your dreams you have to look in the right place.
Step Three: Find that person who will pay for your skills. With 3,020 *registered* camps in the U.S. alone, there is a camp for everything: sports camps, extreme sport camps, camping camps, science camps, art camps, music camps, horse riding camps, water sports camps etc etc etc… Google is your friend.
Step Four: Apply Apply Apply. Play to your strengths and highlight how your skills will contribute to their programs. Remember: camps need people like you, people like you don’t need camps. Even if you don’t think you can get the job, apply apply apply.
Step Five: Practice for your interview. It is important to remember that camps want to hire people who have qualities that will contribute to their mission. Brain storm a list of desirable qualities that you possess and examples of when and how you have demonstrated them. Are you applying to be a water sports camp counselor? Think of water sports experience, prior teaching experience, experience working with youth, leadership experience etc… Camps aren’t looking to hire counselors who are the best at what they do. Camps are looking to hire counselors that can support, lead and/or teach their campers in the best manner to do what they do.
If you are accepted to your camp of choice then skip to step seven.
Step Six: If you aren’t hired by your camp of choice it’s not the end of the world. That camp probably sucks and doesn’t deserve to have you anyways. Remember that traveling is more than about where you are, it’s about who you’re with and the people you meet along your journey. I worked at a camp that specializes in working with kids with behavioral disorders and cognitive disorders. I worked harder than ever before and have never been so frustrated and strung out. I also met some of the greatest people in my life that summer that I will never forget, campers included.
Step Seven: Pack your bags, turn off you cell phone, buy a journal and record your experience. Summer camp will be unforgettable. Unfortunately, you’ll forget most of it but a journal will preserve all the delicate and laugh out loud memories that you hold so dear to your hear.