My Third Nature Adult Summer Camp Experience: Three Days of True Fun
This Memorial Day weekend, I attended an adult summer camp run by Third Nature at Pocono Springs Camp in Pennsylvania. My experience was a full immersion in true fun, with a perfect mix of playfulness, connection with others and nature, and feeling fully present.
What is Third Nature Summer Camp?
Third Nature Summer Camp is advertised as the “best weekend of the year.” It’s a three day getaway designed to attract people who are entrepreneurial-minded, want to connect deeply with others, and want to positively impact the world.
More specifically, the weekend consists of workshops, facilitated discussions, as well as lots of fun activities like paddleboarding and kayaking in a lake, sports, s’mores by the campfire, karaoke, an exciting relay race, and much more. This year’s camp was the largest yet, with 70 people in attendance!
Why I Wanted to Go
The top two reasons why I wanted to go were:
1) To connect in-person with values-aligned and like-minded people
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly leads to meaningful connections between people. Such relationships have significantly improved the quality of my own life, and I strive to continue to foster such relationships in my post-grad life. What I’ve come to realize so far is that some of the more foundational components to a quality connection are: values alignment, similar interests, and an intentional environment/setting for authentic connection. Third Nature seemed like it would be a great combination of all three of these components.
2) To lean more into child-like playfulness and fun
As I grew up, the presence of child-like play and fun in my life eventually started to decrease as school incentivized conformity and rule-following. I also personally chose to focus on academics and suppressed many elements of play that I deemed not as relevant to this chosen emphasis. Eventually, this focus on academics shifted to focus on career during college.
Since graduating college, I’ve been looking for more ways to reignite that child-like play. I also learned some things about the benefits of play in our lives that I wasn’t fully aware of initially, such as its role in increasing creativity, trust, innovation, connection, and decreasing stress. As a result, signing up for Third Nature symbolized a step in the right direction in leaning more into rediscovering child-like play.
Aside from these two main reasons, I also hoped the camp would help me continue to grow to become a better person through reflection and deep conversations. I had gotten a taste of these deep conversations through attending some free virtual Conscious Conversations run by Third Nature, where many other people resonated with the feeling I’ve had that I’ve often felt a bit out of place socially for being more interested in talking about deeper topics rather than surface level ones.
Overall, the camp definitely lived up to my sky-high expectations of what the “best weekend of the year” would look like.
I was able to connect in-person with so many people, and have fulfilling conversations with people I had just met where I found myself sharing things that I hadn’t really shared or processed with anyone else before. The amount of meaningful connections and level of vulnerability through both the intentional activities in workshops and serendipitous conversations moved me to tears on multiple occasions. The sense of togetherness I felt increased as the weekend went on with no sign of plateauing in sight, and we started to develop our own inside jokes too as if we had all known each other for a long time.
In terms of tapping into play, I did a number of activities that reminded me of child-like joy, and tried some new activities too. I made s’mores by the campfire for the first time since 1st grade, felt a sense of adrenaline I hadn’t felt in a while when we did an exciting relay that reminded me of Field Day in elementary school, and got to play some of my favorite sports in basketball and ping pong. I also got to do yoga (which I recently started trying), enjoyed paddleboarding on a lake for the first time, sang karaoke in front of a group, and did some stargazing — something I’ve been meaning to try for the past few months.
From a personal growth standpoint, I feel like the camp served as a massive acceleration in helping me move towards my goals of cultivating self-kindness over self-criticism, having more fun and play in my life, and connecting with more like-minded people. I could maybe have gotten to the same place in a world where I didn’t go to this camp, but it would likely have taken way longer and have been a lot harder.
In the book The Power of Fun, author Catherine Price defines “True Fun” as a combination of three things: playfulness (being carefree, not caring about an outcome), connection (with others or with something like nature), and flow (feeling fully present). All in all, my camp experience was the perfect embodiment of experiencing all of these elements of ‘true fun’.
What I Learned
There were several key learnings I personally took away from camp through immersing myself in the experience and having many meaningful conversations with people.
- I’m not alone when it comes to challenges I’m working through around overthinking and discounting the positives.
I often end up convincing myself that I’m the only one who struggles with overthinking and focusing on the negative over the positive. Seeing others get vulnerable about similar challenges they’ve gone through made me realize that I’m not alone, and that we are all humans trying to figure it out.
- There are people out there who see the positives and value I bring as a human being, even if I don’t hear it from them directly.
Towards the end of the camp, I started to go around to tell different people I met about the amazing things I admired about them and am inspired by. What came as a surprise to me was the number of people that felt the exact same way about me, which is not something my brain typically considers is a possibility. What made this even more special is that most people who said these things didn’t even know what I did professionally, which made me feel loved and accepted purely as a human being. I’ve struggled with attaching my self-worth too much to my career, so hearing real testimony that supports the notion that I’m more than my career was meaningful to me.
So instead of spending most of my energy on the self-criticism side wondering if people don’t like me for something I did that I hadn’t realized, what if I spent more of my energy on self-kindness, affirming to myself that there are people out there who think I’m amazing that I hadn’t realized?
- Being without my phone and technology is less of a problem than I think it is.
I chose to be without my phone for the weekend to be present and immerse myself, which allowed me to realize first-hand that the amount of times I truly need my phone is a lot less than I think it is. I was partly inspired to do this because I realized through a conversation with the Third Nature CEO (Brian) that while email and social media can help satisfy my instinct to want to stay on top of things, I want to intentionally make more time to get to the bottom of things.
I also realized that there are a lot more feelings and emotions that come up for me that I’m aware of. Usually having my phone with me likely numbs my feelings since I can always reach for it to distract myself. Moving forward, I hope to continue to see where I can minimize technology use, and take the time to acknowledge and make space for any of my feelings and emotions that do come up at any given moment. I’d make that space for any of my friends, so why shouldn’t I do that for myself?
- Psychological safety is possible with a group of people you just met.
I’ve been thinking a good amount about the concept of psychological safety (feeling safe to take risks in front of others) after finding out that a Google study found that it’s the most important factor to making an effective team. At this camp, I learned that the highest levels of psychological safety are possible with people you just met if given the right purpose and setting of gathering intentionally.
- Even though there are a lot of challenges out there in the world, there are genuinely good people out there trying to do good in the world.
I’m not exaggerating by saying that I heard multiple people say that this camp restored their faith in humanity.
In life, there are a lot of things in which I feel could be improved and innovated upon. On the other hand, what’s rarer is when I find something that works so much better than expected that I have to pause and wonder how it’s so good at fulfilling what it’s meant to do. My Third Nature Summer Camp experience was definitely in the latter, rarer group, and I can’t wait to continue to learn from and strengthen my relationships with the people I met, apply what I learned to my life, and attend camp next year!