I've discovered a new passion. I can't believe I've never tried it before! It happened at my daughter's school camp a few weeks ago and I can't wait to do it again!
In my experience, school camps fall into one of two categories; arduous or awesome. From memory, all of my own camps as a kid were arduous and involved a lot of tramping, swimming in freezing rivers and dish washing. But it seems school camps have come a long way since my day. In fact, the kids weren't even allowed in the kitchen - no cleaning duties for this lot!
Despite feeling nervous at the very thought of spending the best part of a week with 50 kids, minimal sleep and no 'real' coffee within walking distance, I had the time of my life (as did my daughter!). Our camp was on Kawau Island, a very loud 30 minute bus ride followed by an equally loud 30 minute ferry ride. If you've ever been to Kawau Island, you'll know what an amazing place it is. Apparently the entire island was once owned by Governor George Grey in the late 1800's. Now this chap had quite the life. Not only was he a politician and solider, he was also an intrepid traveller and explorer (with the means to go wherever he wanted to!). During his travels he would collect exotic plants and wildlife which he brought back to his island. Today, peacocks, wallabies and kookaburras descended from his collection still roam around the island (very rare for New Zealand!). Apparently the zebras and elephants didn't fare so well.
According to the teachers, the whole idea of school camp is to challenge the kids to "try new activities, expand their skills, push their boundaries and discover newfound confidence". And there were certainly plenty of experiences on offer to achieve all of the above with kayaking, sailing, archery, high ropes, orienteering and fishing. As parent helpers, our role was to supervise, encourage and prevent any blood loss.
I started out on archery. Well, let's just say it was lucky most of the kids had done it before because I couldn't even work out how to get the arrow to fire. It was a challenging experience to say the least! After a few hours of chasing stray arrows and doing my best to prevent the kids using each other as targets, I was able to choose another activity to supervise. And that's when it happened. After much encouragement from other parents and assurances that I had a good chance of staying dry, I stepped foot inside a kayak for the first time ever. And within a few paddles I was hooked! Along with another two parents, we took our little group of eager kids out into the safety of the cove and explored the coastline. It was so tranquil, so beautiful and so much fun!
I overcame my fear of making a complete egg of myself and realised I was actually pretty good at it. It may sound a bit corny, but I was like a kid who'd just been given the best ever toy on Christmas morning. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to really, truly enjoy something like you did as a kid. For the rest of the camp I was out there on the water at every opportunity. I know the camp was about the kids challenging themselves and discovering new confidence, which they all did in abundance, but I didn't expected to tick all those boxes myself!
The kids just loved getting back to nature. No TV, no computers or phones, no technology at all! And of course, they didn't miss it one bit. They played, talked, sung songs, made up games, climbed trees, explored and just enjoyed being kids . All stuff that doesn't cost a cent yet makes for the happiest memories ever!
On the ferry ride home it struck me that as adults, we don't have enough 'fun'. The kind of fun that makes you feel like a kid again! Fun that makes you forget about your worries for a bit and just makes you feel good. We get so wrapped up with work, parenting, house-keeping and just getting through the day that 'fun' often doesn't get a look in. So, this month I'd encourage you to get out there and find something that makes you smile from ear to ear. I'd never have thought kayaking was my thing - I'm not keen on boats and I'm a bit of a scaredy cat. But I just love the peace and quiet of being out there on the water, of seeing the world from an entirely new perspective. Maybe there's something out there you've never done that just might be 'your thing'. And if you ever get the opportunity to go on your child's school camp, I'd thoroughly encourage you to give it a go. Who knows what you might discover?
My quote this month comes from anthropologist Lionel Tiger, I think he's onto something...
"Human beings need pleasure the way they need vitamins."