Kids in balloon.jpg

I want to take a brief hiatus from travel reporting to share something that brought me joy, something for the Thanksgiving season.


As you know, Susie and I love what we do. We are huge believers in summer camp and care deeply about the campers and counselors who come into our lives. We especially appreciate the wonderful team that has made this family bonding process possible.


But today I want to talk about camp and our own children.


It might seem obvious that the children of camp directors would love camp, but I have seen enough families to know that it is foolish to believe that your children will love something simply because you do. I know many adults who love art only to find children who are indifferent to it. I our own home, I am an excessively enthusiastic sports fan and our children are essentially indifferent to sports.


While there are times I wish we had a room stuffed with family members watching bowls games or the World Series, I would trade nothing for our kids’ love of camp.


When we walk around Tokyo or Bagan or Singapore or Bali, the kids talk about their camp friends and experiences.


Since you are not here, I want to help you understand what camp topics our kids talk about. They do not talk about the Pirate Ship or water toys. Those are the joys of the younger campers. Instead, they talk about their friends and their counselors (or co-counselors in the case of the older Baskin children).


As we walk, the conversations that naturally bubble up seem to always drift toward camp friendships. This trend is consistent between all our children. Virginia shares tales of her counselors and fellow Senior Campers while the oldest trio talk about co-counselors all the time.


To make the point more clearly, I should share how the oldest campers will spend their post-travel time.


Liam plans to travel for 2 months in England, Scotland, Ireland and Amsterdam. The reason he has chosen these locations is because he will be visiting co-counselors in each place. The people are more important than the locations.


Wiley will be working at an outdoor education instructor this spring, but before he starts, he has asked to leave South America a week earlier than the rest of us so that he can spend a week in the UK with a group of counselors as well. He loves us, but he made it clear that meeting his friends is an absolutely a priority.


Terrill’s story is a little different. She explained to us the she was a little nervous about skipping a year to at attend the University of Texas. The ways that she has dealt with this concern was simple. This summer, she went to the women at camp who are a year younger than she and opened up to them, “I will be a Freshman at UT in 2017 rather than 2016 and I want a Champions camper to be my roommate.” She is talking with several women to find the best arrangement. She shared this, “I have heard stories about roommates that party too much or disrespect their roommates, but I know that would never happen with a Champions woman – they know about Respect.”


While younger, Virginia also relishes her camp friends. When we have Internet access, she is Instagramming and Snapchatting with a group of people that are over 80% fellow campers. These are the people she most cherishes.


They all want to re-connect with the people that they bonded with this summers.


Susie and I have thought a lot about why the camp bond is so important. We have decided that it stems from several components. The first three points apply mostly to our oldest trio. The last two apply to all of them.

  • The no-alcohol environment forces the counselors to bond in real and non-altered ways.
  • People see each other at their best. By “at their best”, I mean “giving back to others and putting them first”. Camp is a place where community is more important than individual desires. Here is an article I wrote in Africa that talks about the same thing.
  • The people who choose to be part of our community must go through a very extensive sorting process. As a result, we have a very cool group of people who join us each summer. Think about the people you most enjoyed in college. They are our counselors (except without drinking).
  • The denial of technology during camp virtually all of the time (counselors get some internet access during time-off, campers get none).  This means that screen-to-screen time becomes face-to-face time.
  • When at school , children are often reluctant to put their “true” selves out there to be judged. It is easier to “wear a mask” and strive to blend in. At camp, almost no one can wear a mask for 14-21 16-hour days - it requires too much efforts. In the end, you expose your true self. But then something amazing happens. Your cabinmates not only accept you, but they embrace and celebrate you - even if your feet smell bad or your laugh is loud. This experience is powerful regardless of your age.


Nevertheless, we were ready to have at least one child “rebel” and hate camp. We were fools to think that. Instead, we have children that not only love camp, but are made better for it.


A parent could not ask for anything else.


Steve Sir