Every summer, when I travel to Chewonki Camp for Girls, I enter a world that is unique. Its natural beauty is astounding—I come from a city built on pavement, so the lakes and mountains and forests always seem to me like something out of a fairy tale. The beautiful yurts that we live in hold something much more special than just our bunks: they contain relationships that are lifelong, relationships where you can trust that someone always has your back, through thick and thin, relationships where you can say “I love you” for no particular reason and mean it. Through new skills and challenges, I learned how to believe in myself and to keep going, even when it didn’t seem possible anymore. I’ve grown up on the shores of Fourth Debsconeag. I started coming to camp when I was a quiet nine-year-old, lacking any knowledge of the outdoors. In those very first 10 days, I learned canoe strokes, how to make a paddle, how to wash clothes by hand, how to find a steady hiking pace, how to make a fire, cook over it, and set up a tent, and how to both be independent and work together with my yurt-mates to overcome challenges. Over the years, as I’ve grown both in stature and confidence, I’ve come to see camp as a place where girls can learn to recognize both nature and themselves. I’ve learned to live with nature: to be mindful and respectful of it, but also to cherish the beauty it has to offer. More often than not, any activity at camp results in the whole yurt rolling on the floor, cracking up. Campfires are always filled with laughter and song and stories, sharing the way we view the world in a silly way that always brings smiles to our faces. The traditional Blueberry Festival is another bonding experience. Together, we travel up the cliffs and fill our bellies and yogurt containers full of delicious blueberries. We then hike back down and, in groups, decide what blueberry-based dessert to make, and how to make it with the ingredients we have. These traditions are fun and relaxed, and they also teach valuable lessons—learning to be a leader and coming up with new ideas and sharing them in a patient and open way, and learning to listen, which is equally important. Another key lesson I’ve learned at Girls Camp is how to recognize my own strengths and weaknesses, both internal and external. I can appreciate the things I’m good at and work to be more confident about the things I’m not. I’ve discovered at camp not to be ashamed of my weaknesses, but to know that everyone has problems, and that my issues don’t just have to be my own; I can rely on others to help me overcome them. When I’m good at something, or at least confident about it, I can try to help those who are having trouble. At camp, we all support each other. This past year, my fifth summer, I learned how to portage, which I think symbolizes camp for me. Although you have to be careful to watch out for roots and it can be challenging at times, determination guides you through if you push yourself hard enough. It’s fun, rewarding, and empowering. It makes you feel as if you have the strength to do anything. There are friends all around you, urging you on step by step with their stories, songs, and encouragement, and there is always someone there to help you if you need it. As I woke up on the last day of camp, I looked out across Fourth Debsconeag Lake—the waves lapping rhythmically at the shore; the loons calling out to the rising sun, its light splayed wide on the ripples; the peak of Katahdin standing tall and mighty over our waters—and I knew that this was a place like no other in the world. This is my home. This is where I can learn to be myself. Bio: Lula O’Donnell lives in Brooklyn, New York, and with her cousin Lily O’Donnell, spent five summers at Girls Camp.