Grown-Ups Go Back to Summer Camp

A million moms and dads toast marshmallows, row boats, and sing Kumbaya, for real

Remember all those summer nights you spent as a kid singing camp songs, toasting marshmallows, and playing crazy yard games with your very best bunk buddies?

Whatever your own particular version of that story was — summer camp is back big-time. Except now it’s for grown-ups, too. As summer camps for the mature individual become trendy, camps are popping up all over as adults try to relive their precious childhood adventures. About a million adults a year are attending camp right now, Tom Holland of the American Camp Association told Fortune.

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One of the more well-known camps is Camp No Counselors, begun by Canadian Adam Tichauer — he wanted to recreate his childhood experience. Thinking it would be fun to rent out a summer camp for a weekend, he invited a bunch of close friends — and his fun idea quickly turned into a lucrative business opportunity that was featured on Shark Tank. Now the camp has sites in Toronto and nine U.S. cities, including Boston, New York, and Chicago.

Many camps include traditional activities such as dodgeball, slip ‘n’ slide, and tug of war. There are also giant mess halls and dorms with rickety wooden bunk beds. Some also include alcohol, which can certainly liven things up in the evening. Each camp seems to have its own take on the phenomenon of adult camping — there’s the more spiritual Soul Camp, the technology-free Camp Grounded, and the bluntly self-explanatory Wine Camp.

A number of these camps have integrated a no-tech policy to help adults campers unplug and disconnect from job stress, toxic relationships, and the never-ending pressure to interact with professional acquaintances and connections at all hours of the day and night. The psychological benefits of powering off the cell phone are, of course, widely known — so this kind of experience is far different than heading to a resort or hotel.

These folks want to toast marshmallows and chase fireflies by the lake while someone else cleans their house and looks after their kids.

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“Camp is a learning environment rather than a vacation destination,” noted the American Camp Association.

Although most camps in the ACA, naturally, are for kids, the group believes everyone can have a positive experience at camp. The ACA currently accredits some 200 family and adult camps.

Dr. Patrick Kilcarr, a psychologist and professor at Georgetown University, commented on the positive impact of these summer camps. “It’s not a quest to regain lost youth,” he told LifeZette. “I think there is a real place for this.”

People attending these camps are likely trying to gain a fresh perspective they’ve lost, said Kilcarr.

This idea of hypothetically returning to one’s childhood has taken some hits, however — some do see this as regression instead of a mind-clearing and beneficial activity. A group of 200 middle-aged adults going off for a weekend of all-inclusive drinking and co-ed bunk rooms — and leaving behind all their mature responsibilities (and presumably their kids) — sounds like a recipe for a disaster.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2015 famously said the U.S. needed adult camps to fix the “fun deficit” in America, according to The Daily Caller. Seems she forgot about the billions piling up in real deficits.

“There is something profoundly wrong with a camp for grown-ups just as there would be with a university for toddlers. Everything has its time, place, and season,” John Horvat II, a writer for The Wall Street Journal, said in an article for TheBlaze.

But that won’t stop the folks who want to toast marshmallows and chase fireflies by the lake while someone else cleans their house, looks after their kids, and otherwise takes care of their adult responsibilities. Pass the bug juice!

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