Welcome to Atlanta

Jane Sanborn
January 2016

Although we as camp professionals are fully aware of the joy of camp and get to experience it with those campers and staff members we serve, we're never completely free to truly experience camp for ourselves. We are always sidetracked by the cook who didn't show up for work, the staff member who is underperforming, the concerned (possibly helicopter) parent, or the camper who thinks that slugging someone else is an acceptable method of conflict resolution.

Where, then, can we totally experience the magic of camp for ourselves? At the ACA National Conference, of course! You know how it works at camp. On opening day, returning campers joyfully greet old friends, and then as they get settled in, they reach out to make new friends who they meet in the cabin or while fishing or hiking together. A community is formed. The same is true at the National Conference — innumerable friendships are created and deepened in the breakout sessions, the restaurants, and in the halls of the hotel as we find common ground and share our passion for the work we do. Our community forms and we make connections that will help sustain us for years to come.

For one happy week, we don't have to worry about the nitty-gritty of camp. If the plumbing breaks, it is not our problem; if the cook doesn't show up, we do not have to flip the pancakes; and campers without conflict-resolution skills can become a distant memory or perhaps a humorous story shared with a sympathetic colleague. Instead we can focus on the fun stuff like learning about innovative programs, new concepts for staff training, or new ways to market our programs. Even the serious topics like risk management seem less daunting when we realize that we are all in it together.

And the food! From chicken and waffles, to fresh seafood, Atlanta has it all. If you long for a change from camp fare (and who doesn't?), you can find anything your taste buds desire in this amazing city. Thai, Korean, Mexican, Mediterranean, sushi, steak, barbeque, Ethiopian, vegetarian, Italian, and fish, and, of course, Southern specialties are all on the menu somewhere. And eating this amazing food with good camp friends makes it even better. As an added bonus, it is highly unlikely that you'll need to clear your own plate or wash your dishes.

If you have the time and would like a short field trip, exciting options abound. You can visit the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center, the Children's Museum of Atlanta, or the new interactive Center for Civil and Human Rights — all within a few blocks of the hotel. And you won't have to meet any of the standards in the TR section of the Accreditation Process Guide (who came up with that name anyway?). You also won't need to submit your Trip Leader Qualifications as in PT.1, establish Supervision Rations as in PT.4, or even evaluate yourselves as in PT. 3. You can just walk out the door or Uber over to these nearby sights.

If you want to roam further, you'll fall in love with Atlanta's citywide rail system, MARTA. Not only will MARTA provide a cheap ride directly from the airport to the Peachtree Center about a block from the hotel, but it also can whisk you to the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Design Atlanta, the Center for Puppetry Arts, the Atlanta History Center, or the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, among other sights around the city. Just be aware when you exit the MARTA that most of Atlanta's streets are named "Peachtree" something.

When you are not out on the town, there will plenty going on at the Hilton Atlanta. In addition to outstanding keynotes and more than 150 educational sessions, there will be loads of fun events. The Exhibit Hall will open on Wednesday night and always features great vendors and some really good swag and freebies, as well as food and drink. And Thursday night's Camp Moves Me — Celebrate the Olympics Event will remind us how much we love to play.

Then, just as on the closing day of camp, the end of the week will be bittersweet. We will be sad that such a wonderful time together has come to a close, but we will leave Atlanta with a fresh perspective, renewed inspiration for our important work, many ideas, and new friends. Just like camp! 

Jane Sanborn is executive director of Sanborn Western Camps in Colorado and program chair for this year's ACA National Conference. She can be reached at Jane@sanbornwesterncamps.com.