Summer Camp For Grown-Ups
The Odyssey is three days in and I’ve already experienced so much. This is my first time traveling on a TDA Global Cycling tour and only my second(ish) time traveling in Europe. While I’ve been prepping to be the content creator for this trip for months, there is still so much that is new to me now that I’m actually immersed in it. It is a culture all of its own. Talking with seasoned riders, I’m starting to see how each tour offers its own specialties that add to the overall worldwide presence that TDA creates, no matter the continent.
I can’t help but compare TDA to my time at summer camp. I worked four consecutive summers at a camp on an island in the Pacific Northwest of the United States that focused on developing outdoor living skills, co-opting an inclusive and resourceful community, and crafting a thirst for bold adventure within children. And, really, how is TDA any different? Sure, they’re primarily bike-oriented, their participants a tad bit older, and their reach a bit wider than the PNW, but the essentials are the same. The kids at summer camp would usually be quite timid and reluctant to embrace such a drastic departure from their cozy home life but with each passing day they would ease into the reality that they were stuck there for a month – whether they liked it or not. More often than not, even if by a bit of force, each child would slowly start to embrace, even love, camp. The riders are not too different.
I find it incredibly refreshing to meet older folks that voluntarily choose to remove themselves from their comfort zone in order to broaden their personal horizons. Too often, I’ve encountered people who expect life to go a certain way because that’s what they’re used to, and for some youngster like me to hold new perspectives on the world was inconceivable. At 24, I may still be quite young, but even I am beginning to feel small aspects of life as if it were a cage closing in on me – that as my palette expands, as I get promoted, or as I make more extravagant purchases, that the world therefore owes me a certain quality of life.
And in these 3 short days, I’ve begun to revert back to the basics with the group, remembering that we are all just searching for that same flare of life, and more often than not, that is found in the least expected of places. It’s humbling to know that life doesn’t have to be a cage, that humans are capable of retaining their childlike wonder for the foreign, the unexpected, and the adventurous parts of life well past childhood.
The real difference, though, between kids at camp and adults on this ride is their mindfulness. TDA riders seem to understand that we’re all in this together, that everyone is working their hardest, and that no trip ever goes exactly as planned. There are, of course, certain things that are expected of the team, but they are more based on common sense and courtesy than they are on expectations of creature comforts. Whether the coffee is too weak, the wind is too strong, or there’s a freak rainstorm along the highway, they just carry on as if it was entirely meant to be part of the experience all along, and don’t resort to reprimanding the staff for not controlling the weather well enough. I guess it boils down to humility, a trait that many of us tend to lose touch with as we develop and age, but there’s clearly something about these riders that diverts from that mindset.
For the kids, summer camp was all about challenging themselves in every capacity, whether they knew they needed it or not, so they could develop into their best selves. As I watched those kids grow through some of their most pivotal teenage years, the adventurous influence of camp on their spirits was palpable to their character. The trajectory for these kids was so clear – enjoy camp to the fullest as a camper and pass the baton onto them possibly becoming staff. But for me, I guess that’s where the trajectory usually stopped. I never really wondered where these kids and their wild spirits would go as they entered their 30s, 40s and 50s. Now I know – they go to TDA.