1) There is such a thing as drinking too much wine in one night.
2) You’re never too old to go to camp.
The first lesson was one I’d actually learned many summers ago (and never seem to actually learn from), but the second happened as we crept into September and I headed up north to take part in Two Islands Weekend, an annual camp getaway for adults that included bunkbeds, booze and Beyonce dance classes. Yep, the spirit of Queen Bey was alive and well up north that weekend. Which brings me to my third lesson learned this summer:
3) There’s nothing less sexy than awkwardly dancing to Beyonce on stage in front of 250 strangers…
I was a camp veteran, having spent my summers getting dirty while building forts, telling ghost stories around campfires and diving into rivers to find clay. My friend Meghan, however, was a camp newbie, asking question after question on the ride up: ‘What are the cabins like?’ ‘Are the bathrooms outhouses?’ ‘Where do you eat meals?’ ‘What do people wear?’ ‘Is the water okay to drink?’ She was more curious than anything, never having spent summers bathing in the lake or trudging to the mess hall in PJs for breakfast.
As we pulled up to Camp Timberlane, the secluded property a few hours north of Toronto where we would spend the next two nights, all the nostaligia came flooding back. The energetic counsellors greeting us as we arrived, the fresh scent of cedar and pine, the campers lugging their sleeping gear in garbage bags – it was just like the old days. Only this time, we were welcomed with a stiff drink and a group of eager adults all ready to let loose. YAS.
As Meg and I claimed our bunks in Cabin G9, the rest of our cabinmates started to arrive – women of all ages, from all backgrounds, some in pairs, some arriving solo, all excited to escape reality and live like kids again. We walked together to the welcome drinks before dinner, with awesome brands from across Ontario setting up shop to sponsor our liquid fun for the weekend (shout-out to Sandbanks Winery for all dem refills and Black Fly for getting the party started!).
I’ll admit, there was one thing I was apprehensive about that weekend – the food. Even though they had Ontario chefs come in to cook for us, big batch camp food is usually greasy AF and slightly disgusting. But, yo…. the food was LEGIT. They had dishes to accomodate every diet (vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free) and loads of fruit and veg and tasty bean salads at every meal. For brekkies they even brought in Propeller Coffee and Belmonte Raw juices to keep us energized and hydrated after heavy nights.
So, after a wild first night of scavenger hunts and campfire singalongs (I almost lost my shit when guitar dude started strumming ‘Everlong’), the next morning kicked off with a polar-bear dip at 7:30 a.m., where the crazy few guys and gals (and the hungover many) jumped off the dock into the cool morning water. You’ll never find me in cold water if I don’t need to be, and since the wine from the night before was still circulating in my system (remember lesson #1?), I spent the morning wandering the quiet grounds and taking photos before the camp came to life with the craziness of excited campers.
The activities lined up over the weekend were NEXT LEVEL. I’m talking giant inflatable obstacle course on the lake, zorb soccer, acro yoga, late-night hoser-themed dance party, hiking, archery tag, colour war – all designed to bring us out of our shells and forget any of the stresses we had going on at home. Meg and I opted for a morning paddle-board and game of hoops, then headed to the studio to learn a choreographed dance to Beyonce’s ‘Sorry’. And it was at that point, my dear friends, where I lost my damn mind and agreed to something I never imagined I’d do….
First of all, the Beyonce class was hard. Like, really hard. No only were forty of us trotting around in heels trying to dance like Queen Bey, but none of us were actual dancers. By the time the hour had passed, watching the sexypants instructor Bronwyn lead us through her choreography of ‘Sorry’ step-by-step, our class had whittled down to six. SIX. Five of whom were in my cabin (G9 represent!). Bronwyn took us through the dance for another hour, sweat dripping all over the damn studio as our limbs flailed awakwardly about, then told us she’d like for us to perform it at the talent show that night.
Ummmm… come again?
As the other girls convinced each other to go for it (“YOLO GUYS! YOLOOOOOO!”), I adamantly said hell-to-the-no-you’ll-never-get-me-up-there. At the cabin during chill time, again my answer was a straight hells-naw. At dinner – nope, nope, nope, not gonna do it. Then I had two glasses of wine and, well, those no’s turned into fiiiiiiiiine-I’ll-do-it’s.
So… how did we do?
Well, remember that scene in Old School where Will Ferrell gives an epic speech but blacks out at the end and recalls nothing? Yeah, that was me. All I remember of the (opening!) performance is bright lights, always being one step behind, flinging my hair around non-sexily, aggressively hitting my crotch whilst lipsyncing ‘suck on my balls, I’ve had enough’, then jumping around like maniacs at the end because we had actually done it.
But what I remember more than anything was the massive applause from the 250 strangers in the audience, not just at the end of the dance, but the whole way through. Because that’s what had terrified me the most – the humility of messing up and people laughing at me. It’s the same fear we all have as adults in our work lives, our home lives, our dating lives – the fear of being rejected by our peers.
And letting go of that fear is what Two Islands is all about. It’s a place where adults can go to be silly, non-judgmental and uninhibited. It’s a place that encourages you to step outside of your comfort zone and try things for the first time with the same childlike abandon you did before you grew up and life got in the way.
And it’s a place that understands that sometimes all you need is a little liquid courage to believe that you’re Beyonce.