A View of Camping, 1914

Below is an excerpt from Edward Cave's The Boy's Camp Book, written in 1914. It echoes many of the ideas forwarded by camping professionals today. 

Best of all is camp life, for the reason that in camp you get the maximum of outdoor play, live most healthfully, have the least restraint, and — do not annoy your elders. So no matter what others may say to you about wasting your time in such an "uncivilized" pursuit, feed the fires of your ambition with all the camping out you can get. It will do much to furnish you with the energy and reserve power you must have to get up in the world. Beside, it is mighty good fun.

But do not forget your tether of Caution; let it be your guide to steer you clear of the several ways by which you may be deprived of your precious liberty. Just think of what happens to the colt that tries to gallop through a barbed-wire fence! You cannot afford to cultivate habits in camp that may handicap you elsewhere, hence your liberty is fenced off here and there. Not being a silly colt, you can understand the value those fences are to you — the fences of discipline which encircle and intersect every properly conducted boys' camp.

The Spirit of the Camp. Camp life, especially at a permanent camp, such as we are discussing in this book, is by no means entirely dependent upon location, equipment, and management for its success, although these things constitute the foundation of whatever success there is. The spirit of the camp is the big outstanding thing that counts.

I dare say most boys who take up this book will expect to find it devoted entirely to tents and how to pitch them, sanitation, cooking, and in general the work of the camp. But think a minute. Is that all there is to camping? And now, to go a step further, if we must plan the work carefully, make all preparations — what about the rest? Is it logical to expect that the real pleasures of the camp will just naturally crop up overnight like mushrooms? Hardly. And in preparing for fun, and lots of it, is it not wise to at the same time provide that the location of the camp, the equipment, the arrangement of the work, the camp discipline, and regular scouting activities will dovetail nicely with this program of fun? It certainly is.

New Print Edition Now Available

We are pleased to announce that a new, revised print edition of the Summer Camp Handbook is now available for order from our partners at Everything Summer Camp. Just click here.

Time Outs as Treats by Dr. Christopher Thurber

 Take time to enjoy the beauty of the everyday...

Take time to enjoy the beauty of the everyday...

Solitary time is missing from our daily schedules. Those restorative, reflective moments when we can appreciate, take stock, problem-solve, meditate, or pray have been eclipsed by smart phones, shared calendars (that others shoehorn appointments into for us) and a general feeling that time must be filled to be functional.

But let’s not be trite. “Time is money” is so 1980s. So Michael Douglas in Wall Street.

Today, time is no longer compared to money or even precious metals. (Silence, however, may still be golden.) Today, time is “our most precious resource.” Not because there is less of it, but because most of us over-commit.

We corner ourselves with so many tasks that we begin to say inane things like, “I can’t afford to take a break.” Impressive, right?

Dr. Herb Benson of Harvard University was one of the first researchers to scientifically document the benefits of the relaxation response, the physiologically and emotionally calming result of closing one’s eyes, breathing slowly from the abdomen, and gently releasing muscle tension.

The relaxation response is the common substrate in all meditative traditions. It lowers blood pressure, increases feelings of wellness, and prolongs life.

Research on the relaxation response suggests, somewhat ironically, that those people who are really interested in having more time–on the order of years, not just minutes–should not saturate their diaries. Instead, they should take a daily 10-minute time-out.

We all should. Heck, we’d live longer.

For all of its rustic roots aimed at removing young people from the hustle and bustle of urban life, we camp folk have wandered from our bucolic baseline. These days, camp promo videos make it abundantly clear that life in the woods resembles a rock concert more than a tranquil retreat.

Have we unwittingly substituted one brand of hustle and bustle for another?

We all love our special brand of excitement, and I applaud camp program directors who create thrilling activities. However, I cringe when rest hour involves no rest, unstructured play is eschewed, and campers are dashed from place to place without a moment to themselves.

We have Six Flags to turn to for rave-level frenzy. Why not temper the pace of camp life?

Why indeed. What would parents say if they saw “free time” on the daily schedule? How would staff and campers respond if we insisted that they spend rest hour in total silence? If either of these questions makes you wince, it may reveal your prejudice against solitude. The fact is, a bit of down time does a body good.

This summer, consider leveraging the natural beauty of a leafy canopy, a starry sky, a breezy field, or a glistening waterfront by asking your staff to protect a few quiet moments each day with their campers.

Pack the rest of the day with exciting programs, but keep rest hour sacrosanct and give your staff permission to let each of their campers sit in solitude at least one other time per day. I guarantee that the contrast will make the rest of the day seem even more exciting.

And as an added bonus, directors who protect daily quiet time will see a decrease in camper impulsivity and staff burnout. What’s not to love about that plan?

All it takes is the courage to recognize that a fully packed daily schedule leaves no room for reflection and growth.

So, do you have what it takes to do nothing?

- Dr. Christopher Thurber

Chris Thurber on Fox 25 Boston

Dr. Chris Thurber's interview on Fox25 Boston (2013) discussing homesickness and adjustment in college freshmen and first-year students at boarding school. Dr. Thurber is the psychologist at Phillips Exeter Academy and the CEO of CampSpirit, LLC.