ALL ROADS LEAD TO CAMP
Chapter II: This One Time, At Summer Camp
I never attended summer camp as a kid, and for good reason, I was attending auto racing events every weekend in the summer months with my dad from the day I was born. At the age of nine I was provided access to my own private campground on a 10-acre riverside property, backing onto hundreds of acres of bush, with our family’s move from the city to the countryside.
And while that kind of access to nature has greatly influenced my current journey to overnight wilderness summer camp ownership and direction, as I shared in my previous blog post entitled “Of Nature & Nurture”, an equally influential overnight camp experience as an adult has contributed to my desire to undertake this project.
In the spring of 2005 I had been a business school graduate for less than a year, and was working a retail job to make ends meet. A co-worker there mentioned that her friend was the Director of an international overnight kids ESL camp on the University of Western Ontario campus in London, Ontario, and that she thought I should apply to be a counselor because of my zest for life.
As it turns out, I was offered and took the position, having no idea heading into it just how impactful the three summers of work with Tamwood International Camps would be on the rest of my life.
That first summer was incredible, the bonds that were made with campers, group leaders and fellow counselors is something you simply can’t describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. Add to that an increased dependency on us as counselors, that came with the language barrier that existed for many of the campers who were from locations such as France, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, Russia and Turkey.
And while the two summers I spent on the campus of UWO in London were wonderful, it was my third and final summer working at Tamwood that provided the most enduring memories.
That summer, myself and two of my best friends, still to this day, boarded a Greyhound bus in Toronto, to begin a 73 hour trek across the country to Vancouver. A few moments stand out from that ride that I imagine will never leave my memories of that summer.
The Toronto Greyhound Station where the 73 hour trek across Canada began for Jory and his two friends.
It took more than 24 hours, with all of the stops in small town Northern Ontario, to exit our own province.
Halfway across the plains of Manitoba, our bus decided it was no longer enthused about carrying us the rest of the way to Calgary, where we were scheduled to transfer busses for the remainder of our journey. The spot that we broke down was like something out of a movie. Nothing but flat fields as far as the eye could see, with a massive grain elevator and a tiny little diner marking the T intersection we found ourselves stranded at. That diner may well have had it’s best and worst day of business in history that day, with the two-person team of cook and server scrambling to accommodate the bored and hungry state of 35 bus passengers. They did a bang-up job, all things considered.
After what seemed like hours waiting for the new bus to arrive, and despite our drivers’ best efforts to catch our transfer before it left, we made it to Calgary in the late evening, only to be harpooned again, this time inside of the Calgary Bus Station. What happened next is something you could never plan. We found ourselves in the bus station café, which had already closed up shop for the evening. That café did however have a jukebox, which provided some entertainment for my two buddies and I, plus a couple from New Zealand who, as it turns out, were the only two other people making that same trip from Toronto to Vancouver in one shot. We bonded, shared stories, and even convinced a local pizza joint to deliver some pies to us, inside the bus station café.
The sunny afternoon that we rolled through the Okanagan Valley was another major highlight of the cross-country bus trip. It was as though someone took a paint brush and did their best Bob Ross impersonation, creating a mural of gorgeous scenery across the bus windows, which completely captivated me in the moment.
The Okanagan valley in all it's glory.
I recall the majesty of the Rocky Mountain’s, day in and day out, as we traversed Vancouver on excursions and airport runs.
Our first ride on the Sky Train from Vancouver to Burnaby, where camp was being held on the campus of Simon Fraser University, we quickly learned that you have to be aggressive if you want to get on that train. As it turned out, our suitcases came in quite handy for “making space” on a train packed with commuters, uninterested in doing so without some encouragement.
The excursions that summer were incredible too because I was enjoying those sights and experiences for the first time, right alongside the campers. One excursion that stands out was a trip to the largest amusement park in Vancouver, Playland. That particular week of camp I was leading a group of 8-12 year old’s from multiple countries of origin, and this was going to be one of the highlights of their camp experience. We all hopped on the city bus to make our way to the park, and once inside, it was game on. As I recall, everyone had a fantastic time, which for me personally included a trip through the haunted house with a few of the youngest campers in the group. At first, they had all mustered up the courage to go through together, without being accompanied by an adult. But after standing in line for a few minutes and listening to the screams coming from inside, they all found themselves questioning their courage, and invited me to be the sacrificial lamb for their fear fuelled journey. Of course, I happily accepted their offer and can say without a doubt that those were the best 6-7 minutes of camp that year, including the smiles and gratitude the kids expressed afterwards to me for leading them through the experience.
The Haunted Mansion at Playland theme park in Vancouver, British Columbia.
That summer was a landmark one for Tamwood as a business, as it welcomed its first campers from the United Arab Emirates, and as one of the most seasoned counselors at camp, I was selected to guide the group of 15 boys. While there certainly were some obvious cultural differences between us, I bonded with those kids as well as any other group that I had the privilege of leading during my days as a camp counselor, and look back fondly on meeting that challenge as best I could.
Of course, there were many more wonderful memories derived from that six weeks of camp, including serving as the driver of the shuttle bus for excursions and airport runs, outings into the bowels of downtown Vancouver with fellow counselors on our time off, and the plane ride home, where I saw for the first time the seemingly endless Rocky Mountains, prairies stretching out further than the eye could see in every direction, and the incredible size of Lake Superior.
I’ll be forever appreciative for these summer camp experiences, as they gave me so much knowledge and so many wonderful memories that have and will continue to greatly contribute to my journey toward overnight wilderness summer camp ownership and direction. A journey I’m incredibly grateful for your support in, as I share the stories of my life, that have contributed to where I’m headed, with future camp families and potential investors.
Thanks for taking the time 😊