Remember camp? I do. I remember calling my parents from a pay phone to pick me up because it was hot and the food tasted bad. Stewart Wedge probably didn’t go to band camp in 1995, though. He obviously has different ideas about camp. The 32-year-old San Antonio native did a semester abroad in New Zealand and didn’t come home until he ran out of money. He finished his degree and kept traveling, loving being untethered to a phone or social media.
After launching his own successful consulting firm he found himself behind a computer 12 to 14 hours a day. He sneezed one day and his entire left arm went numb. He herniated his C6 and C7 vertebrae for no reason other than bad posture from sitting behind a desk for such extended periods of time.
“So that sucked,” Wedge says. “I decided to shift my focus and balance life over work. I began structuring the consulting practice to be virtual, where I can work anywhere for the most part, and I sold off many of my smaller clients to only focus on a select few and work way less hours.”
That became the impetus for “Camp Our Way,” Wedge’s passion project, which launched this summer across several Texas cities and has its first Dallas session August 11 to 14 at Lake Livingston, about three and a half hours southeast. “Camp” in this case is a long weekend retreat for adults, with activities ranging from water skiing to Crossfit to archery. Evenings end with dance parties and talent shows. And lots of alcohol. It’s arguably closer to spring break for adults, or maybe an MTV reality show, than it is to what most of us know as camp.
Young professionals are increasingly finding new ways to connect with each other, utilizing the ever-changing models of social media and marketing themselves as a brand in ways that previously never existed. A night out with colleagues can blur the lines between friendship and work when each outing involves pictures on social media, check-ins and hashtags. Camp Our Way seems to be capitalizing on something very appealing to younger professionals in this regard: a way to connect professionally under the umbrella of recreation.
After two test camps in Austin and San Antonio — with most of the campers consisting of friends, bloggers and Yelpers — the results have been positive. Wedge calls it a huge hit. Such a hit, in fact that Yelp has hired him to throw their summer event, Yelp Hot American Summer, which takes place in Trinity at the end of September.
In the style of the 2001 cult-classic comedy, Wet Hot American Summer, Camp Our Way channels the fantasy-camp adults dream about: The dangerous excitement of sneaking from cabin to cabin after lights out; making out in the woods with the hot counselor; maybe even passing some contraband booze between the bunks.
Camp Our Way allows all of that, at least implicitly. Camps are tailored for young emerging professionals, mostly mid-20s to mid-30s, with the intent of helping them to “disconnect from the routine and stresses of the office,” Wedge says, adding that campers are a mix of married and single and that many people walk away with new friends or work contacts. Attendance is capped at 200 campers per session.
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“The model is meant to be completely stress-free and all-inclusive,” he says. “Once someone registers, that's the end of their responsibility ... aside from picking out theme party costumes.” The camp provides round-trip transportation in party buses to and from the summer camp. All meals, top shelf drinks and activities are included. Each night features live music or a DJ, bonfires and a theme party.
With five camps on the agenda for 2016, including the August camp for Dallasites, Camp Our Way seems to be picking up speed. Technological advancements have drastically increased the pressure on young professionals to stay connected and get work done at all hours of the day, and the need to disconnect is paramount.
Wedge says their effort to “revive creative juices” has also drawn in a lot of corporate parties for team building retreats, but also solo travelers new to the city. With coed cabins we can only guess what form these new connections might take.
Camp Our Way's all-inclusive retreat on Lake Livingston takes place August 11 to 14 and costs $419 to $459. To register and find more information, visit campourway.com.