Camp Quarantine

by Anna Gimilaro

Like several of our program’s trip leaders, my passion for outdoor leadership comes from the summers I spent growing up at sleepaway camp, both as a camper and counselor. When I began college, I sought out an outdoors program as a source of friends because camp had ingrained in me that there’s something uniquely powerful about the relationships you build while isolated from the rest of the world.

There’s a certain anxiety that visits each year when your parents drop you off at summer camp, in that first moment after losing cell service upon entering the backcountry, or when you realize you’re confined to your house for an indefinite amount of time. It’s a fear of loneliness. But if summer camp and outdoor adventures trips have taught me anything, it’s that once that initial fear melts, isolation provides an invaluable opportunity to get to know the people immediately in front of you on a deep level. Talking to friends across the country on Zoom or binge-watching a Netflix series only provide temporary respite from this sense of alienation. Let’s turn away from our screens and toward each other. Here are some activities to help you bond with your co-quarantanites:

Play a goofy game/icebreaker

Laughing is my favorite way to get closer with people–it’s simple and foolproof. There’s probably not much ice to be broken with the people you’re in quarantine with, but I’m sure there’s reason to get laughing. Here are instructions for my all-time favorite, G’day Bruce:

  1. Get in a circle with your group (works best with 4+ people and an outrageous Australian accent)
  2. Everyone’s name is Bruce
  3. Someone begins by turning to the Bruce to their right and says, “G’day Bruce”
  4. This Bruce responds by saying “G’day Bruce” back to the first Bruce
  5. The first Bruce responds by telling the second Bruce to say G’day to the third Bruce by saying “Say G’day to Bruce, Bruce”
  6. The second Bruce complies and begins this dialogue with the next Bruce by turning to the Bruce to their right and saying “G’day Bruce”
  7. The dialogue continues. The point of the game is that no one messes up the following phrases
    1. G’day Bruce
    2. G’day Bruce
    3. Say G’day to Bruce, Bruce
  8. If someone does mess up, their name becomes Sheila and everyone else in the game has to remember that they are now a Sheila. Once Sheila messes up, they become Chad. After Chad messes up that person is out.
  9. Last one standing wins!
  10. If you are still confused, watch the video hyperlinked above.

Make friendship bracelets

The camp-people are really onto something with this one. Wearing the same accessory as someone increases camaraderie–so does creating together. After the governor of Louisiana issued a Stay At Home Order, my roommates and I made ankle bracelets that say “Q-GRLS” to symbolize that we are in it together. We all wear them on our right ankles!

Five minute life stories

This one is pretty self-explanatory but very effective at beginning vulnerable conversations. Spend ten minutes thinking and jotting down bullet points of influential moments in your life (positive and negative) and how they’ve affected you. Everyone gets five minutes to share while the rest of the group gives their undivided attention. I prefer to do this activity around a fire, but in quarantine you could try sitting by the kitchen stove.

Make a group decision

This is less of an activity and more of a necessity. It’s bound to happen, it’s bound to be stressful, and it’s bound to be productive. On a camping trip, groups have to make several decisions like when to stop hiking for the day and where to set up camp. Similarly, last week my roommates and I decided to hash out our quarantine rules about when we could leave the house, whether we could interact with other friends, and what grocery shopping would look like. This was uncomfortable and tense at times because we all had slightly different needs and none of us are public health experts. We were all thinking under fear and uncertainty, but we eventually arrived at a set of guidelines we could all agree too. To solidify our plan, I brought in a strategy that I learned at Jewish summer camp. We wrote our rules as a “B’rit Kehillah” which is Hebrew for “community contract”, and we all signed it. At camp, each bunk would make a set of cabin guidelines on the first night to follow for the rest of the summer. Before Outdoor Adventures trips, leaders host a pre-trip meeting which serves a similar purpose.

Use the five-finger check-in

This is a simple way to see how everyone in your group is doing. I recommend doing a weekly check-in. Go through each finger on your hand and say what’s up in various sectors of your life:

Thumb=something good happening

Index finger=something you’re looking forward to

Middle finger=an annoyance

Ring finger=how your relationships are going

Pinky finger=a commitment/promise you’re making

About the Author
Anna Gimilaro

Year in School: Senior
Major: Political Economy
Hometown: Westborough, Massachusets
Favorite Outdoor Activity: Backpacking
Favorite Camp Food: Personal Pizzas
Ideal Outdoor Adventure Trip Destination: Iceland
If you were stranded on a desert island, what/who would you bring with you: my mom, my best friend Sam, and some paracord