A year ago when I was at home I traveled down to my camp for its Spring Camper Weekend. It’s basically just a weekend of camp about 2 months before the official summer season begins. I drove 8 hours from Massachusetts down to West Virginia on the Thursday. I was really excited. I arrived and went into the office. I talked briefly with the registrar who I knew from past summers. She said dinner was at the director’s cabin in a bit. I decided to walk across the property to dinner rather then drive down. See camp a bit.
The quietness struck me. There was essentially nobody around. People wouldn’t really show up till the following afternoon. It was just a boring (albeit beautiful) evening in Anywhere America. This was not the camp of my memories. The camp of my memory was filled with noise and laughter and singing and noise and games and food and noise and worship and fun and even more NOISE. Walking across camp in that quiet, empty moment was just weird.
But I finally reached my director’s cabin. I knocked on the door and walked in. And that same, great, bear of a man was there to greet me with a hug. A few minutes later my friend I had CIT-ed with 7 years before walked in. Soon we were sharing a meal together. Now I was truly at camp.
The weekend was beyond awesome. It was all the fun and craziness of camp packed into a weekend. The weather was beautiful. I saw fellow counselors, campers and friends who I hadn’t seen for a year or more. And as quickly as it started, Sunday afternoon came and just about everybody left. I stayed till Monday morning before driving home but I was thinking back to my arrival on Thursday night. I was at camp, but I wasn’t.
I have been a pretty extensive list of places and I feel blessed for being allowed to do so. But the places that remain special to me are not the ones with the biggest buildings or nicest landmarks. They are the places where I had community. This is why places like my camp and South Africa remain indelibly on my heart. I had friends there. I still have friends there. I care about those people and therefore those places. It will never be “easy” to leave those places when and if I return to them. But they are the places that this self-proclaimed “travel hater” feels excited about traveling to.
And you know what? Come the end of this year I might have to add another place to my list.