To many, the thought of escaping a state of comfort can act as a barrier to their inner desires. We all yearn for adventure and a sense of something new, yet why do so many of us fail to act upon such urges? I suppose it's difficult to answer. Though that might be the case, I think it's rather surreal the things you can see when you decide to switch off from the outside world, even for a moment. We recognise the small details. We see the fine print. I find that, in today's world, though technology and social media host a plethora of opportunity and goodness, it can also at times disassociates us with what's truly happening. I know, an odd remark even alien to me, considering a platform designed for connectivity can ponder to disconnect us from one another. Though one might argue for it's benefits - something I'm not against - it remains, we shouldn't be glued. To that extent, I wanted to experience life without social media and mobile phones, even if just for a short period. So, I decided to do just that.
Coming from a metropolitan background, a layer of familiarity I've always known, the sentiment of travelling and living elsewhere for a period of time, particularly in an isolated and small area, seemed uneasy. In early 2018 I had applied to work at a summer camp, with the aspirations to teach photography and be a filmmaker. It was during this time that Chris, the man in charge of recruitment, contacted me.
"Dear Max, would you be interested in a Skype call sometime this week?"
I have to press here, I had my doubts about the whole thing. Moving away, teaching, my abilities. The whole prospect remained daunting. I had never done anything like this before.
For context, I have always pondered on the feeling of discomfort. I remember, at the age of 17, I travelled on my own for the first time. I boarded a plane in early September of 2016 and went to Berlin. My mother wasn't happy about it, for obvious reasons, but it was something I wanted to do. It's said by many a scholars and wise-folk alike that exiting your comfort zone, even if just for a moment, changes you. It adheres to a new level of perspective, and allows you to perhaps expose yourself to a new place or experience, that prior seemed all that alien. Going to Berlin, I had never been exposed to such artistry before, on a city-wide scale. Street walls were painted in all kinds of dystopian and flared artwork, it was a graffiti mecca of urban art. It was a movement that protracted it's darker past and history, from war and subjugation, to fracture and isolation of the East and the West, and eventually a celebration of re-unification. It remains an element of the cities signature. It's home to renown artists such as 'Linda's Ex', 'XOOOOX' and 'Alias'. It was elements like these that truly attracted me to the city in the first place, and what left me wanting to return. It was a trip that cemented my urge to continue to travel, and to trust my gut.
On the 13th June 2018, I landed in New York City. The big apple as some like to call it. The city where dreams are made; the concrete jungle; the city that never sleeps; and less humbly, the centre of the universe. It was everything I had pictured. A little taller than I had imagined. The flood of busy taxis, the booming artistry, and the busy people zooming around like the world was ending. After a nights stay in a questionable hostel, I took a 6 hour train journey up-state, and arrived in a small town named Ticonderoga.
I was nervous to say the least.
"What if I've made the wrong choice in coming here?"
I said to myself endlessly on repeat, as the train came to a stop. I picked up my bags, exited the carriage and was welcomed to an almost desolate station surrounded by dirt. It was bleak to say the least, hard to imagine such a beautiful place could be so close to what seemed like a desert. It was a short drive, yet it felt like an eternity - no doubt due to the nerves. As we pulled up down the camp road and arrived, I was amazed. Like any normal person, I was simply blown away by how beautiful the camp was. I squinted my eyes, and gazed upon the beauty that was Adirondack Camp, situated on a small peninsula on Lake George that had been running since 1904. I was going to be living here for a total of 3 months.
"This is heaven", I thought.
For the following months, I would go on to experience and achieve things I had never done before. I would teach a class of children from the ages of 7 - 17 in photography, and live like a parent of 13 in a cabin of young teens. I would produce films, and present them to an audience of over 300 people. Not only that, I would develop real relationships. Bonds that would last a lifetime. I would constantly be on my feet, from eight in the morning for breakfast, to two in the morning when a kid got scared and needed company. I would live the American fantasy of weekly house parties in ski-resorts, large cabins and even a church (yes, even a church), and spend the weekends chilling by rivers and small lakes in Vermont, desperately clinging to my hydro-flask filled with lukewarm water, hoping for the hangover to lift. I'd spend most nights watching the artistry of stars in a night sky where air pollution was a myth, and to which you could see more stars than the grains of sand on a beach. Yes, that sand part might be an overstatement, but the point stands....you get what I'm trying to picture - right?
Beyond friendship bracelets, campfires, and canoeing, being a camp counsellor has been one of, if not the most, rewarding jobs I have ever done. Beyond the fast-paced and unpredictable environments, lies an opportunity of forming real relationships, and is a place which bolsters you to adopt one hundred percent authenticity, and doesn't suppress the very best version of yourself. It is here where I learned to truly overcome aspects of self-doubt and self-deprivation. It's a peninsula to which exposed me to countless cultures, and individuals from all over the world.
Even now, as I finish writing this post in the Eagle-I shed (where I do my editing here at camp), a year later in August 2019. I still feel a strong love and respect for this place. It's August 16th 2019, and I leave this place tomorrow. Though this brings me great sadness, it's a place that I can truly call home, and an event in my life which has created the very best moments.