How Ship Life is Like Camp

I never went to summer camp. I never packed away a duffle bag with high hopes of s’mores and canoes. I never wrote hilarious letters home to mom in red crayon complaining about the bugs. Alas, this poor girl spent her summers on the beaches of Daytona. I know, pity me.

My college roommate, The Overactive Blogger, was never a camp go-er either, but as an adult she was a counselor at a summer fat camp. She would tell me the stories of late nights with other counselors and how much she missed it and I would nod along, not totally getting it. As we’ve continued to chat over the years I find her saying, “just like camp!” to many of my ship life stories. So she and I have collaborated on this little list to enjoy with a popsicle by the lake!

No Summer or Contract is the Same

You will never re-create this. Accept it and be ready for the next adventure.
You will never re-create this. Accept it and be ready for the next adventure.

Enjoy that brief period of time, because the next time you return to that ship or that camp, things will be different. They may not be better, they may not be worse, but you’ll never have that exact mix of people, places and things, so cherish it. Also, bear that in mind when you go to your next summer/contract, keep an open mind and don’t expect it to be exactly the same.


I feel ya, brah.
I feel ya, brah.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say ship cabins are a tiny bit smaller than camp cabins, but we still do the whole bunk beds, random roommate, and strategic hiding of the suitcase thing. I hated every minute of living in a tiny cabin, but damn if I’m not super tidy now. As my father used to say, “It builds character.”

Homesickness at First

“The first night, it rained, and I cried like a baby. I was homesick, I think I was still really sad about my ex, and I was sleeping in a twin bed with a plastic mattress.” I think my first month onboard I cried every night with ipod earbuds shoved in my ears. I was hungry, homesick and lost all the time. But as Cheri says, “the next day, and then the day after that, and still the day after that, camp worked its healing magic, and the routine of the day-to-day started to lull me into a bliss.” Camp life? Ship life? Tomato?

Camp Flings

It’s fleeting, it’s flirty, it’s your own little romantic comedy. Ship romances and camp romances have the potential to be adorable or life ruining. Do your best to make them adorable.

Eating Meals Together

Say what you will about the staff mess, but at least everyone can eat together without worrying about having more than 4 to a table. I miss eating with my friends at a big table every night. I actually had a core group at one point that made it a priority to set our table with silverware and have a real “family meal” together. Even if we were all rushing to get back to work, we still managed to get a few laughs. Chowing down in front of Jon Stewart and my cat just doesn’t compare to my family meals.

Rolling Out of Bed for Breakfast

Oh my God. Nuthin’ better than a messy bun, slight hangover, and some rubbed in eyeliner to make that bowl of cereal a little bit of Heaven. Camp and crew don’t care how you look before the day starts.

No Matter How Much You Miss It, Best to Leave it in the Past

Summer camp may have been some of the greatest months of your young life, but imagine what it would be like to go back now? The cabins would feel smaller. The lake wouldn’t sparkle the way it does in your memories. Plus you’d be like 20 years older than everyone. Same is true for ships. I started onboard when I was 22, and guess what? People starting out are still 22. I get a hangover after A margarita now. Best to keep the crew bar, and all it’s secrets, in the past.

Happy Summer, Friends.


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