Growing up in Southern California, it wasn’t a trend to ship off your kids to camp for the summer. Summer is practically a year long thing in LA after all, but when my good friend and branding guru, Allison Leipzig reached out to me to teach at her summer camp for the soul I was intrigued. Camping? For me? I’m the type of gal who has a deep intimacy with 500+ thread count sheets, a taste for foodie food, and a love affair with room service. How was I going to feel living in a bunk with 10 others in rural Pennsylvania? Turns out: just fine thank you.
Soul Camp founders Allison and Michelle grew up as camp junkies. Every summer for 7 weeks these ladies made the pilgrimage to Camp Towanda (the actual camp in Wet Hot American Summer) to bond with their besties, make some awesome arts and crafts, eat s’mores, play Capture the Flag, and do a little canoeing on the lake. After not seeing each other for years, the ladies reconnected one day while hollering affirmations in an IntenSati class in the city. Fate intervened and they decided to bring the magic of camp to their community of fitness, yoga, nutrition, and transformation experts they mingled with daily. When you arrive at camp, up the windy dirt road, you are greeted by a team of peppy tie-dyed covered camp counselors. Swag is everywhere. Introductions are flying. Suddenly it’s time to pick your bunk. You find your assigned cabin, a homemade wooden wigwam, that holds numerous identical twin bunk beds, nestled in between graffitied walls. The thought of sharing my most intimate space with 10 other strangers was…well, intimidating. Despite the fact that the entire bunk can hear your bowel movements like the drop of a pin, I settled in just fine. My Soul Sisters (and brother :), we had one boy in our bunk, taught me things an only child could never know without this proximity. Like a slumber party every night, having a room full of your soul mates certainly makes it easier to wake up to revelry every morning.
When I found out that there is no alcohol at Soul Camp, I admit I became a bit….uneasy. I’m so used to having my glass of vino at the end of my night to chill out that I thought I would feel a little out of sorts. The Soul Camp tribe had other means of intoxication planned. The first day, I visited Psychic and Intuition coach Betsy Cohen and let her lead me deep into a guided meditation. I found my sixth sense and left with a feeling of being connected to my higher self. The next period, I sat in on some Soulversations with the incomparable Nitika Chopra and Stefanie Ziev as they talked me into bliss about releasing fear and finding the people who “get” you. Then I wandered around the grounds exploring the garden, meeting the chickens (I just love chickens!), and ended my day with an impromptu bunk astrology reading by the instinctual phenom Jenn Racioppi. The next day, perfumed with healing aromatherapy oils, I began my day with David Mehler who practices Vikaz, aka Network Chiropractic. Vikaz is energy work that heals the mind, body, and soul, and David is a true healer. Even Laurel Bleadon-Maffei, who channels angels and brings divine guidance, took me places I never thought I would go. I ended that second day with a lake-side yoga class lead by the spectacular Domenic Savino, my brother from another mother. His expert adjustments and touch left me feeling the joy of Soul Camp for days afterward. If Soul camp is a drug, I never want to recover!
This Cali girl has been in the ocean more times than I could count but I’ve never dipped a toe in a real live lake. Even just thinking about the murky waters and the slimy bottom conjures visions of horror movies staring mysterious sea creatures and man-eating fish. When my fellow campers ran with abandon to jump in the lake I proceeded cautiously, fearing the unknown in it’s depths. The Camp Towanda lake is pretty damn beautiful. The sun was shining, glinting on the surface, the temperature pleasingly cool. It coaxed me to dare to dip my tippy toes into the water the first day. I watched with envy as the other campers squealed and shrieked with joy grabbing canoes, stand-up paddle boards, and slithering down the slide floating in the middle of said lake. I could never, I thought. Cut to the very next day and in true Soul Camp spirit decided to say “fuck it” and face my fear of the lake. Turns out the lake swimming is amazing and I even dared myself to try SUP and actually stood up! Things you learn at camp aren’t just arts and crafts or funny songs, but also how to be the fiercest version of you with band of loyal supporters raring to have your back.
Feel Good Food
I got wind of some of the foodie goodness that was on tap for camp-life, before I had even set my bag on my bunk. Gluten free and vegan fare to abound. Great! I love healthy food, but will it be tasty? Man, I had NO IDEA! The gals from Healthy Cooking Camp, Robyn Youkillis and the fancy farmer Quinn Asteak skillfully crafted a special Soul Camp menu and killed it!!!!! Meals consisted of dishes like French Lentils, THE BEST cauliflower mash of my life, and herbed quinoa. There was a heavenly salad bar with all the fix-ins ready at will. Breakfasts had gluten free french toast, baked eggs with swiss chard, and the ever present yogurt bar. The deserts were enough to make you cry: the gluten-free Blondies, pumpkin chocolate bars, peanut and jelly Chia pudding. The final day’s brunch was an ultra cool take on Israeli eggs, homemade hummus, and vegan bacon. Don’t fret if you’re a carnivore, there was even real bacon, burgers, and chicken, but I will say the other food was SO good you don’t even miss the beef!
What would camp be without evening activities? The first night was the epic bonfire. Still mostly strangers, we sat around the blaze in the dark writing out what we wanted to release and what we wished to embody. After listening to a trance-like poem, we chanted and threw our issues away to burn in the fire. S’mores followed: torched in the flames by actual sticks, camp-style with (of course) gluten-free graham crackers available. The next night was the Soulymics which included soul-erized camp games like kombucha and coconut water (in lieu of coke and pepsi). Later that night DJ Tasha Blank brought some get-down to the camp ground with her sick beats and we danced until we were drenched and grinning from ear to ear. The talent show, complete with an actual stage and sets, made us laugh, cry, and scream with excitement. Final night ceremonies included a giant hug fest and the red thread ceremony. By placing the red thread around our wrists we are all still connected long after we leave camp. If we ever forget or feel lost we simply pull on the thread and know our Soul peeps are there. The next morning we said goodbye reluctantly releasing hands and already jonesin’ for next year. Is it time for camp yet?
Soul Camp 2015 registration is already open! Join me next year for all this goodness and more!