Let’s face it. Dating in New York City isn’t easy.
So when I got an email from the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel inviting me to their very first sleepaway camp for singles, I was intrigued.
Instead of conventional dates with forced smiles and small talk, I could be singing along and roasting s’mores on a campfire – and maybe hitting it off with someone. I would also get to fulfil my childhood dream of going to summer camp, which unfortunately wasn’t too big a concept in India, where I grew up.
And then of course, there was an open bar.
But I was as apprehensive. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about whisking myself away to the woods for three whole days with a bunch of random strangers. So I dragged my best friend from college along with me.
Last Thursday, we packed our bags and set off to camp after work with 150 others. Here’s what it was like.
I’d dreamed of going to summer camp ever since I first watched The Parent Trap as a nine year-old back in 2000. Unfortunately, that never happened.
So I decided to attend a three-day adult sleepaway camp instead. The camp was put together by dating app Coffee Meets Bagel and Camp No Counselors, both of which took off on the hit ABC show Shark Tank.
Shortly after we left New York City in a fleet of three buses, the booze was already free-flowing. And someone had assumed the responsibility of being the DJ.
We got to the campsite, Indian Head Camp, nestled in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, shortly after 10 p.m. We were divided up into different co-ed bunks, given bedsheets and pillows and told to be on our way.
My best friend and I were put into the “Green” team, which consisted of the bunks Georgetown, Harvard and Rutgers. There were three other teams consisting of other bunks, also named after well-known American universities.
After settling in, we all gathered around the campfire. There were sticks and s’mores, pizza and of course, a fully-stocked open bar with beer, wine, vodka, whiskey and gin — the perfect ingredients to get people to start mingling.
My bunkmates and I were all up and ready to go by 9 a.m. We headed on over to the dining room, where a spread of bagels, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit and oatmeal was laid out for us. There were also mimosas and rosé, for an early kick if you needed one.
We then signed up for the activities we wanted to participate in throughout the day, from kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding to archery, dodge ball and even arts and crafts. You could win beans across the different activities, which would come in handy later.
After sign-ups, we went on a “Friendship Walk,” getting to know each other as well as the campsite better. It culminated in our first inter-team competition — a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The rules were all over the place, it went super fast and is all a blur, but I made it until the end. And came second!
Feeling beat from all the drinking on the previous night, I proceeded to sneak in a quick nap. After resurfacing at noon, I decided to head to the lake and devote the day to water activities, since it was going to be raining the next day. I started with canoeing.
The temperature was in the 40s, so it wasn’t particularly warm. And the water was even colder. Still, some bravehearts embraced it.
Here’s a bunch that was daring enough to go down a 20 feet-long water slide, throwing them directly into the lake.
… I took the plunge too — literally.
The day flew by quickly, and we were back for yet another Happy Hour session before dinner. This one was replete with beer pong, flip cup and every possible frat game you can recall.
After wrapping up dinner, it was time for “Movie Night,” a costume-themed party where campers were all dressed as movie characters of their choice. Here are four of my amazing, goofy bunkmates in their garb.
The next morning was also free for whatever activities you wanted to do. My best friend and I decided to try our hand at archery. She got a bullseye. Me, not so much.
… And now, it was time for the most epic part of the whole camp experience: the Battle of the Bagels, a competitive relay-style team event spanning all of the camp activities. This was also where all the beans people collected came into use.
The battle consisted of over a dozen mini-games that made up the relay, including a three-legged race, archery and even Slip ‘n’ Slide — while it was pouring.
My team decided to call itself the “Mean Green Bean Team,” a play on coffee, of course. We were most definitely the rowdiest bunch, and most people had been drinking all day. I, on the other hand, have quite the competitive streak, and was perhaps the only sober one trying to lead them to victory.
But alas, I failed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
We may have lost, but we had all won. That’s because we were all going to be treated to a cosy concert put together by Sofar Sounds, a startup that hosts musical gigs in intimate spaces around the world.
The 90-minute showcase features performers including Covey, Rue Brown and Decora, after which Brooklyn-based DJ Mac Joseph also spun records until the wee hours of the morning. And as always, the alcohol was free-flowing.
By this point, sparks were flying all around me. The activities, parties and bunks were all designed for guests to connect with each other as authentically as possible. And I think “Camp Meets Bagel” did a pretty great job at that.
Camp Meets Bagel was literally designed as a universe conspiring to make people fall in love – or at least feel the butterflies.
And it did succeed. By the third day, several singletons had coupled up, while others were pretty close to doing so.
But if love was what not what you came looking for, it still had something for everyone. An awesome, diverse crew of people from all walks of life, an open bar for those so inclined, and plenty of adrenaline for those in it for the outdoors. Most of all, it had community.
I went in with one expectation – to have a great time. And I walked out with a treasure chest of memories, a whole new set of friends, and of course, a hangover.
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