When I was nine years old I spent my first two weeks away from home. Eagerly, I arrived at horsemanship camp, where I would enjoy the peak of summer. Naturally, I was afraid to be separated from my parents and my life at home. What I discovered was the deep bonds of friendships, a second home, a place of peace and a new sense of independence.
I have spent every summer at camp ever since. Each July I am reunited with some of my closest friends whom I have kept in touch with during the school year — friends from all over the United States and Europe, some of whom I talk to on a weekly basis. I love learning how different their worlds are from mine and how strong the feelings we share are for the place where our friendships began.
I look back on those memories and am profoundly thankful for every trip to the lake, every trail ride and every bonfire that created the bonds I have with my friends and counselors.
My time at camp instilled and solidified many of the values I hold closest. Camp taught me how important it is to respect one another, to be kind, to always lend a helping hand, and how to communicate healthily. Without the pressure and distraction of social media or technology (no cell phones were allowed) I was able to be entirely present and absorb the beauty of my surroundings. I find the act of being present something that slips away from us too easily today.
Whenever I find myself stressed, sad or having a bad day, I look at my photos from those summers, and I am reminded of all the love and positivity cultivated in that camp environment. I do my best to spread that love wherever I go. The homesickness I experienced made me appreciate the family and support I had waiting for me. I gained confidence and trust in myself and my peers.
For me, going to camp has been more than summer fun, it has become a home away from home, a place where I become my best self and a source of pure happiness.
This past summer I was lucky enough to work as a counselor at camp for the first time. It was a full-circle moment. Over the years I have been in awe of the beauty of my counselors. They have been some of the most hardworking, compassionate and empowering women I know. It was an honor to view myself as someone my campers looked up to in the way that I once had to my counselors.
Over the years, I have grown and changed significantly from the nine-year-old girl that I was when I arrived at camp for the first time. What hasn’t changed is my veneration for the relationships, values and experiences that have influenced, fortified and shaped my life.
Hannah Herbert is a freshman at the University of Vermont. She spent nine happy summers as a camper at Road’s End farm in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. Her aunt and uncle, Karen and Mike Frost, live in Charlotte.