What being a camp counselor taught me

Maybe it’s something in those charred s’mores or maybe it’s the dirt in the water

As summer draws near, and as it does each year, groups of crazy young adults all across the country will soon dedicate themselves to working for next to nothing as counselors at summer camps. Hundreds of kids and their counselors (aka bigger kids) look forward to camp as being the best few weeks of their summer. Escaping to this little community of dirt and laughs is a refreshing break from reality.

Some of the most invaluable lessons can be taught and learned in the northern woods for both campers and counselors. Here are just a few of my biggest lessons to be taken away from camp and applied to the real world.

Smiles shine brighter when they come from dirt-covered faces

Something about only showering once a week makes the little things so much greater. The minimalist attitude instilled at camp amplifies the positives in our lives. We can all take a page from this book in our real-world lives.


The bumps and bruises don’t hurt so bad


Easy fix for running face first into a tree: rub some dirt in it

Being the best me will bring out the best you

Positivity is contagious. A smile can brighten somebody’s day more than you may ever know. This is especially important when the main demographic that you deal with has a median age of  nine— kids are impressionable and will morph to just about any mood you display. So don’t ever be afraid to smile a little wider and laugh a little louder.

Tan lines are pretty much the coolest

These pasty streaks are a sign of dedication and commitment. They are the badges of a summer well spent.


These are lines of victory (please excuse my very beat up feet)

Everyone is a friend, you just have to meet them

In the practically perfect camp atmosphere, it’s almost impossible not to make incredibly strong bonds with just about everyone. Bringing this mentality of everyone being a potential friend back into the real world works wonders on not only your social life, but your psyche in general.

People are the best thing to know

There’s no such thing as too many friends.


The scrappy bunch of people you’ll meet at camp are some of the best you’ll ever meet

Complaining is easier, but being positive leaves an impression

Sometimes life gets hard – it happens for all of us. Finals got you down? Can’t get your tent set up? You got your Birkenstocks wet when Johny pushed you into the lake? The easier thing to do in any of these situations is to complain— we’ve all been guilty of it. But when little kids are looking to you, their counselor, to be their most positive role model, the best move is usually to look on the bright side of things and keep your chin up. This helps improve your mood as well as those of other’s and their perceptions of you and the situation at hand. After all, nothing is doomed!

Just because things go wrong doesn’t mean they go badly

Life is imperfect, even at camp. Nature has it’s way of throwing a wrench in a lot of things, the key to making it out alive and relatively unscathed is pushing. Never give up hope and always push through. There is a light at the end of every tunnel and just because the path to an end may wind more in some situations than others doesn’t mean the journey there isn’t worth it.


Good things take time. Great things take work

This one isn’t original but if camp taught me anything, it’s that anything that’s worthwhile won’t come without some effort. You’ve got to want it, you’ve got to mean it, and you’ve got to sweat for it.

University of Wisconsin