When I travel, my dog Boudica goes to doggie camp. It’s on a farm with a huge fenced area, horses, chickens, cats, a toddler, and a mistress of operations with a master’s degree in animal science. Boudica is always excited to see where we have come to. It’s her camp, where she can be outdoors as much as she likes and be part of the pack. Boudica is almost 13 years old, has arthritis, and have been treated for heartworms since late puppyhood, but she’s still game to play with the other dogs, bark at the horse, chase the cats.
Having camp for Bou means that I, too, can go to camp. In my younger days, working full time with three children led me and a friend to conjure up an imaginary camp just for us. It was a convent, but not your standard variety–for one thing, we weren’t Catholic. But we would sing hymns and observe the hours, at least matins and vespers and compline, and work in the garden and stomp on the grapes so there would be wine at dinner. And most important, we wouldn’t be in charge. My friend even had a photo of a pastoral scene on her office wall that was, she explained, the view out of the convent window. We knew it didn’t exist, but it was a fantasy that helped us get through the dailiness of managing a household, working, and raising children.
Fast forward…one my husband and I reached the required age, we started attending Elderhostel (now Road Scholar programs), which offer travel in a fairly small group of older adults, combining a variety of adventures with lifelong learning. As two college professors, that model of travel/learning/retreat spoke to us, and still speaks to me.
About 15 years ago I discovered Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, where they teach adults a variety of crafts in sessions ranging from a weekend to a six day week. I started going at least once a year. We lived dorm style, no cell tower until recently, no TV, communal meals, morning song (a sort of secular matins), and lots of time in our studios perfecting our baskets or bowls or quilts stained glass for the grand finale. When my kids went to camp, they did crafts along with sports and games, but here crafts were the centerpiece and adults were the campers. You can study everything from blacksmithing to woodworking. My late husband was a fan of folk school, learning about woodworking, photography, wood carving, and water color. He and a son-in-law even spent a week building plywood canoes that actually floated. His personal dream of adult summer camp for himself, though, was a baseball camp for older adults. He never got to go.
I still go to Campbell Folk School at least once a year, usually for a weekend, but for several years I have been longing to go to “nerd camp” for adults, better known as the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. A week of lectures, sermons, plays, concerts, and other adventures for the mind and spirit. I had friends who went, but I didn’t want to go alone. I also didn’t want to give up on it, remembering my disappointment that Carl’s developing Alzheimer’s disease ruled out baseball camp for him.. Last year I found a companion and we went, and made reservations for a week next year as soon as we got home. It was an amazing experience.
As the baby boomers have retired with money to spend, there has been and will continue to be more and more places like these that offer adult camp for body, mind, and/or spirit. What is your fantasy of a respite from the dailiness of life that renews, refreshes, and inspires? Betcha there is such a place out there for you, just waiting to be discovered.