Every year around this time, we start getting phone calls in the office from worried parents asking why it is their child seems to have fallen into a post-summer “funk.” “All they talk about is camp,” is what I hear, or “They’re already planning for next summer.” Most people think it’s safe to assume their child will have moved on come October, that the start of the school year and the turning of the leaves will indicate that it’s time to forget about all that summer fun and start focusing on the old routine. These families, however, have never experienced a summer with The Road Less Traveled.
Back when I was in high school, and had recently completed my first RLT trip to Costa Rica: El Sendero, it took me months to recover. This was not an unfamiliar emotional roller-coaster for me – as a child who grew up going to summer camp, I was used to the ups-and-downs of coming home after another incredible summer spent outside, amongst my friends, exploring the world and discovering the wonders of my youth. I absolutely loved my summers spent away from home (sorry Mom and Dad, nothing against you guys at all!). I grew in ways I never dreamed possible while I was at camp, and as much as it hurt to come back down to earth, I never once regretted the transformation process.
Later on in life, when I was in college and headed off to Madrid to live and study for 6 months, I was warned by my professors about a phenomenon called the “W curve.” After every high comes a low, and after every low comes another high. This pattern of emotional stages is predictable, it’s manageable, and most importantly, we have to remember that there is no high without the low. I was reminded of all those fall seasons in high school spent agonizing over the nostalgia of summer camp.
These summer experiences are intimate, they’re deeply emotional, and they tend to open a child’s eyes to everything that is possible and beautiful in the world. While it can be hard to recuperate from something like that, the real question we have to ask ourselves is this: what would be better, to never have the kind of experience that makes us crave more, or to love something so much that it hurts like hell to say goodbye?
I think anyone lucky enough to have that kind of ache is blessed indeed. Never fear, parents, your child will recover and they will be all the stronger and better-adjusted afterwards. They will have learned something far more subtle than any skills developed while they were at camp – they will have learned that to live is to go out into the world, take risks, and seek out joy no matter the consequences. And as for next summer….well there’s plenty more adventure to be had!