Expectations vs. Reality for a First-Year Camp Counselor

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As a first-year counselor, I did not know what I was getting into coming to Camp Voyageur, but CV’s amazing community and knack for tripping exceeded all of my expectations. Here is a list of my top-five expectations that were eventually met with reality.

Expectation #1

There is no power, running water, or working bathrooms at Camp Voyageur.

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Reality #1

This expectation was quickly broken when another first-year counselor and I were brushing our teeth outside, only to be told there is a bathroom (the Powerhead) next to us with running water and lights.

Expectation #2

Trips would only go into the Boundary Waters.

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Reality #2

To my delight, during pre-camp I was told we do trips all around the area including the Superior National Forest, Isle Royale, Apostle Islands, Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park, and of course the BWCAW.

Expectation #3

In-camp consists of only nature and sports-based programs.

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Reality #3

Not only does camp promote these activities, but also at night we have an amazing evening program where counselors and campers get to put on shows, play games, and tell stories.

Expectation #4

The trips would be short, and the kids would not be able to carry much weight on portages.

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Reality #4

On my first trip, I was shocked to find that kids half my weight were able to carry packs almost the size of themselves and paddle for hours on end. Before camp, I imagined doing portages multiple times and needing to motivate these campers routinely, but a lot of the time they jumped out of the canoe and requested the heaviest pack. Being in the wilderness motivated these kids and helped them grow as people faster than I ever imagined.

Expectation #5

Trips would be easy and go perfectly.

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Reality #5

This is a common misconception for many people who have never been on the trail. When I first arrived, the BWCAW was painted to be this perfect wilderness full of sunshine. In reality, storms can sneak up on even the most experienced counselors and drench everyone’s gear, the days can be long and hard, and portages can push campers (and counselors!) to their breaking point. Although these are tough challenges, this can also be the most rewarding part of the trip. Hardships come with the trail, and this is where people begin to grow and find themselves. This was one of my favorite realities because I never imagined how a few days in the wilderness had the ability to impact a person so quickly and see themselves in a new light after a tough day.

I guess you could say I learned a lot this summer!