When I was a kid, the best thing about summer was camp. I went every year, and during college continued to spend my summers at the camp where I grew up. I worked with campers from the youngest to the oldest. My first full-time job was as a camp assistant director. Now, I’m glad to have a job and I LOVE the one I have. But I lament that summer doesn’t bring much time for camp anymore.
The benefits of camp for kids are myriad. Spending a stretch of time in a new environment lets kids practice building competence away from home. Breaking out of routines provides an opportunity to gain greater insight into how the world works. Seeing new things offers opportunities to practice the powers of observation and inquiry. New experiences let campers decide what new practices and ideas they might want to incorporate into life at home.
And (you probably know where I’m going here) travel offers a lot of the same advantages.
Five years ago I worked with my mom to develop our Costa Rica Rainforest Adventure for Families – a program we affectionately call “family camp” around the office. There are a lot of things that make it as good as, or even better than, traditional summer camp.
- To start with, adults go, too!
- You stay in one lovely, family-owned rainforest lodge the whole time, with private rooms for each family.
- Varied activities appeal to diverse interests and offer lots of new experiences.
- Every activity is optional.
- Animal interaction, new foods, rafting, and ziplining invite you to leave your comfort zone but let you choose your level of personal challenge.
- Self-contained grounds are safe for kids’ independent exploration.
- Lots of chances to meet local people provide the fruitful learning of cross-cultural interaction.
- On select group dates, multiple families travel together and give everyone a peer and the chance to make new friends.
Since then, I have led this trip twice and my husband once. Several other Journeys staff have brought their own kids or grandkids on the program. We’ve all loved it and learned a lot alongside our travelers.
This year, for the 5th year of family camp, I am thrilled that adventure experts Chris Chesak and Sally Grimes will accompany the July trip with their two daughters, Lillian (9) and Sylvia (7). Chris is an Executive Vice President of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Sally is the President of Benchmark Outfitters, a regional outdoor gear store in Ohio and Kentucky. Between them they have nearly 40 years of experience in the outdoors industry, at organizations including The American Alpine Club and REI. They are beyond excited to make this their first international family adventure!