Our western cultures have taken a noticeable shift since my parent’s generation and it’s a shift that has helped inspire Dock & Bay. Previously, the focus has always been about saving money to invest in your assets such as a car or a house (the serious stuff) but the trend these days for many of my generation is to invest your money in experiences first (the fun stuff) before you get bogged down in the financial woes of things like home ownership. This new sense of purpose is exactly what has led me and so many of my friends to travel and work around the world over the years, regularly taking ourselves outside of our comfort zone.
For me, one of my best memories has to be my working summer at a children’s camp called ‘Camp Timberlane’ in Canada back in 2012. Something that I was very apprehensive about but I worried that I would only regret not giving it a go. For 2 months, I spent every single day within this gorgeous woodland that looked out onto a huge lake, near a small town called Haliburton, about 2 and a half hours outside of Toronto. Accompanying me was nearly 180 other staff and over 700 kids ready for the best summer of their lives.
Along with 5 other staff, I lived every day in a cabin attached to another cabin full of fourteen 8-10 year old kids, essentially becoming their acting parents for the summer. This was the youngest group at the camp, which definitely made them the hardest work but also the most rewarding. We spent almost every minute of their waking hours with them from getting them up for breakfast at 7am, guiding them through all their day and evening activities & meals before finally trying to get them all to go to sleep by 9pm. This was a challenge. Imagine a group of kids all together on a 2 month sleepover, sleep was the last thing on their minds!
Every day brought a new challenge. From constant home sickness - to refusing to eat - to dealing with the broad offering of bad behaviour - to illnesses - to solving many of their arguments. But if I’m honest, that’s not what I really remember when I look back.
I remember the way these kids would look up to you as their counsellor, the way they would see you as the best person in the world if you managed to make them feel less homesick, the happiness on their faces as you announced that ‘inflatables on the lake’ was their next activity and the way they would be so sad to leave at the end of it all. They literally had their best summers ever, summers that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
This was just part of my experience too. For 2 months, the camp is almost all you see, your own little community that starts from nothing and just grows on you more and more every day. With technology and everyday ways of living largely taken out of the equation, you are given the chance to really get to know people, making some awesome friends with lots of miniature romances blossoming along the way. All the staff would look forward to our one day off a week (usually split between Friday or Saturday) where we booked ourselves a hotel room off the camp and piled into the local deserted village bar to enjoy the finest Canadian beers and cheesy music choices. Our one chance a week to take our guard down and enjoy it to the fullest! This is the part I always find hardest to remember.
All in all, an experience like no other and one that I would highly recommend, just watch out for the bears. With Dock & Bay moving into the Canadian market over the next few weeks, I thought it was an appropriate time to share this unforgettable summer with you. For anyone interested in a similar experience for Summer 2017 then you can either contact Camp Timberlane directly here or alternatively you can enquire about other Canadian camps on NyQuest’s website. This week, I’m going to tackle my top 3 a bit differently, giving you my ‘Top 3 Memories’ from that summer.
One Direction Tribute Band - Obviously
Simon Cowell stand in at the talent show
1. The lake. Waking up every morning to the most beautiful sunrises around, over this stunning lake, was breath-taking. The view would regularly stop me in my path as the kids rushed past me to breakfast. Top this with the sunsets, the awesome daily water-sports (inc. learning to water-ski) and the over-looking star studded sky at night and you realise why that place has always stayed fresh in my mind. I haven’t seen stars that clearly since they were stuck to my bedroom ceiling as a youngster.
2. New friendships: You can’t beat working somewhere as unique as this, where your friends come from all over the world including Canada, America, Israel, Australia, UK & Spain - to name a few. The weekly bar trips where we really got to know each other, often left us all nice and embarrassed the next day as we had to walk past each other c.100 times. You just had to embrace it.
The Canadians have to be some of the nicest people out there and even though many had grown up at that camp, they made us all feel welcome, showing us the ropes to camp life and putting us up on our return to Toronto as we celebrated the end of our summer. Being the Brits, we treated the camp to a special One Direction tribute band. I'm still crossing my fingers for the internet to crash in the hope it removes that video now embedded in the World Wide Web.
3. Being a counsellor. This is what made it unforgettable. It was so nice to play such a major part in the kid’s summers, their favourite and most memorable time of the year. Through the highs and the lows, all the hard work was completely worth it when we met the parents at the end and they excitedly told us how incredible their children’s summers had been and the huge part that we (the counsellors) had to play in it all. One kid even told me that I was his ‘best friend’ on parting, but hopefully that passed as I can’t say I kept in contact.
Andy taking pottery class in Toronto