Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Lessons of Silver Lake Camp

If you've been following along for any length of time, you know that I love to give out helpful advice on my blog. I mean, in the last year alone I've taught you how to avoid ski trips, how to torture yourself when stuck at home, and how not to act natural at bus stops. It's been a veritable encyclopedia of helpfulness, but today I'm going to add one more very important piece of advice to the knowledge that you've accumulated from reading this blog...Never, ever be married to a staff member at your kids school.

You see, when schools need volunteers, and let's face it schools are always looking for volunteers, most people can just kind of lay low and wait for somebody else to step up and take care of what needs to be done. When you're married to a staff member however, your name gets tossed out very early in the proceedings and since you're not there to object, you find yourself signed up for things that in no shape or form would be considered a good fit for the skill set that you bring to the table. This is how I found myself returning for the second year in a row to Silver Lake, to supervise the annual grade six camping trip.

Peachland YMCA camp

Now last year was my first time at camp, and I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I learned while there. Now I'm a grizzled veteran of the camp scene so instead of being confused by apparently "normal" camp conversations, this year I was able to take pleasure in watching my daughter learn skills and concepts that I would have never thought to teach her. In fact, camp turned out to be a very educational experience for both of us. It just seems that we learned very different lessons...

canoe peachland camp activity

What my daughter learned: Canoeing is easier if you paddle evenly and use long, steady strokes.

What I learned: If you're in the front of the canoe, look around once in a while and see if your partner is actually helping out with any of the rowing.

Silver Lake Peachland survival skills

What my daughter learned: If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, building a shelter and starting a fire are your top priorities.

What I learned: Assuming of course that you're stranded in an area with no cell service and there happens to be pre-cut branches, a tarp and rope lying all over the place.

Peachland Silver Lake camp activities

What my daughter learned: Throwing an axe requires dexterity and coordination.

What I learned: Watching my daughter throw an axe requires quick reflexes and a complete suit of protective gear.

Peachland Silver Lake activity camp

What my daughter learned: When using a two person saw, it's important to keep a steady pace and not try to saw too fast.

What I learned: When being a camp counselor it's important to dance in the background of pictures while waving one hand in the air. 

Finally, my daughter learned that sometimes it's nice to just turn off all the electronic devices and really enjoy some time out in nature...

Peachland lake camp

While I learned the one spot in the entire camp where you could get really good wi-fi reception...

Silver Lake Camp

Written by Steve Pratt

Monday, 3 June 2013

5 Things I Learned From TBEX (Without Actually Going to TBEX)

travel bloggers exchange logoThis weekend in Toronto was the annual Travel Bloggers Exchange conference, or TBEX as it's more commonly known. Thousands of travel bloggers gathered at the Metro Convention Center to learn, listen, and be inspired by some of the most successful writers in the industry. It was, by all accounts, one of the most motivational events of the year in the blogging world, leading people to rethink and reimagine their entire concept of what a website should be, almost guaranteeing that great things will come from the participants in this weekends exchange.

I stayed home. Not that I didn't want to attend, I most certainly did, but the last couple weeks of the school year are never a great time for me to get away (I've got Grade 6 camp coming up again this week) so I missed out. That doesn't mean I couldn't follow along though. If there's one thing travel bloggers are good at, it's spreading information. Simply following the hashtag #TBEX on Twitter this weekend brought plenty of new information to light, and although I probably didn't get the full scope of the conference, I definitely learned a few things from the comfort of my own bed.  Here's five of the most important things I took away from following the TBEX crowd this weekend:

There can't be any alcohol left in Toronto

Seriously. I haven't done the math, but I'm pretty sure if I added up the value of the drinks tweeted about this weekend that we'd have enough money to bail out the entire European Union. Or pay off my credit cards. Either or. 

alcohol drinks round of glass
Photo by Rick A.

Travel bloggers can find their way around new cities blindfolded, but they can't find each other in the same room

A sample string of Tweets that I followed this weekend:

Blogger A: @Blogger B, Where are you?
Blogger B: I'm in the North Hall. Where are you? 
Blogger A: I'm in the South Hall. How do I get to you?
Blogger B: Walk North.
Blogger A: Which way is North?
Blogger B: I don't know. It's up on a map.
Blogger A: I'll walk towards you and you walk towards me. We'll meet in the middle OK?
Blogger B: OK

time passes....

Blogger A: @Blogger B, Where are you?
Blogger B: I'm in the South Hall. Where are you?
Blogger A: I'm in the North Hall.

I really hope these two eventually found each other, but if there's anybody still left in Toronto maybe someone should do a sweep of the North and South halls, just to be safe.

There is no conceivable angle that the CN Tower has not been photographed from

Kind of by definition, travel bloggers take a lot of pictures. Put a large group of them in a city with one major landmark that's visible from almost anywhere and you'll end up with thousands upon thousands of photographs, each of them being tweeted out as they're taken. My favorite was the guy who kept labeling his pictures as the "CB Tower". Maybe he was trying to attract some truckers to his Twitter following.

Toronto Ontario skyscraper
Photo by Wladyslaw

Attending a blogging conference is a highly competitive event

If all you needed from the conference was the key points then you had no need to actually be at TBEX. Any time a major point was made, the race was on to see who would be the first to tweet it out. Even more so should the speaker happen to say something funny. I have visions of the keynote speaker standing in front of their audience, concentrating very hard on their speech, when suddenly, just after making their main point, the room would light up with the electronic light from hundreds of cell phones being pulled out to retweet the speaker's last comment. I suppose blogging speakers get used to that sort of thing, but it would throw me for a loop. The first thing I'd think of is "Oh no, I've had a wardrobe malfunction!"

The Four Seasons Toronto was way, way over capacity this weekend

I don't know how many people were sharing, but the Four Seasons Toronto only has 259 rooms yet there were at least a thousand people raving about what a fantastic room they had there. It's hard to keep exact track with all the retweeting going on, but I'm pretty sure there was at least one room that had enough bloggers crashing in it to bring each person's nightly share down into the single digits. Which really just explains where all the money for alcohol came from doesn't it? 

Written by Steve Pratt