In today’s world, there is no doubt that transport is infinitely easier than at any other previous point in time. Getting from place to place, crossing oceans, countries, continents and everything in between is a comparatively seamless process. This summer I travelled to the U.S. to work at a summer-camp, and from all the experience this brought, two outstanding thoughts were the notions that distance means nothing and everything at the same time. The camp employed people from all over the world; coming from New Zealand, across the globe, or Pittsburg, just a few hours’ drive away. The benefits of the ease of travel now become evident.
This blend of people meant there was an incredible diversity of talent, knowledge and culture. The distances that we had all travelled set a precedent for adventure, the notion that we all came from different places with blind expectations gave the counsellors a feeling of overwhelming excitement and surprise. After just one week together, friendships had been made that would last for the whole summer, and more. In this sense the best thing from this experience was the people. Living with strangers, who we knew were just in exactly the same position as we were, brought everyone out of their own independent bubble. No wonder the main motto for the summer was ‘disconnect to connect’, because distance also meant everything. We were all ‘away’ from somewhere, whether first-timers or returners, we all had somewhere we were coming from and none of us had the comfort of calling camp home.
But it did become home, and for eight weeks there was little distraction from the outside world and disconnecting opened a whole new set of doors, and that’s a side effect of distance. Where there is comfort, there tends to be a whole set of services available, from wifi, to Netflix to swiping in Candy Crush endlessly in some zombie-cycle limbo state. Instead, when there were evenings off there was sports, or trips after a frenetic scramble to find someone willing to lend their car for the night. It was exciting, refreshing and thrilling to lead a life where spontaneity led the way instead of settling for less. The job itself was the most engaging activity I have ever carried out, and I call it an activity because of the sheer non-stop nature of it. Being placed in an environment constantly surrounded by campers, campers who live for these two months out of the year comes to show how unique and empowering it is to unite a group of people coming from everywhere. The bonds created transcend beyond camp and these campers remain best friends throughout the year and most likely throughout their lives.
In my case, this experience has been one of those words-can’t-describe-it ones as a whole, but the distance to it, the fact that it was a whole new place, was the best change I could want. Summer is the time to travel, to leave home behind and take a break from routines, because the truth is that nowadays, distance is outdated.