Last year Dalia Toth, 11, and her brother Sage, 9, spent their first summer at sleepaway camp. Their mother, Barbara Leff, reviewed more than 20 DVDs and made three site visits before choosing Windsor Mountain International in New Hampshire, which changed its name from Interlocken last summer.
BusinessWeek reporter Jessi Hempel recently asked Dalia to weigh in on the merits of spending summer break without a cell phone and the differences between Windsor Mountain and soccer camp. Following are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: What was Windsor Mountain like?
A: It was really, really fun. I liked the people because they were really friendly. And the camp wasn't a competing camp. You didn't really worry about how you dressed or anything like that.
Q: Were you allowed to bring a Game Boy or cell phone?
A: We're not allowed to bring electronics because it's a good time to interact with nature. We learn about making fires and how to use natural resources wisely. There isn't time to use those things. You're doing so much during the day. Plus, calling someone makes you homesick. I got homesick a little bit during the second day.
Q: What did you like best about camp?
A: I really liked the high ropes course. It was a challenge. The motto was you have to step out of your bubble, your safety zone, and into your risk zone. It was a really big challenge. My favorite part of it was a big ladder. You work with a partner, so it's teamwork. You try to get each other up the ladder, but it's really big and tall, and you aren't allowed to hold on to the sides.
It's hard to get up, so you have to pull each other up and over it. I learned it's really important to use teamwork because it's impossible to do it on your own. You would fall every single time you tried.
Q: Did you know anyone when you first got there?
A: I went with a friend of mine, Allison. It was both of our first years. We live in the same neighborhood across the street from each other at home. I made friends and got their addresses at camp. Sometimes I talk to them online.
Q: Do you spend much time on the computer?
A: Not as much time as I did in the fifth grade. Mostly, when I don't have schoolwork, I "IM" [use instant messaging].
Q: Did you miss computers at camp?
A: I forgot about computers.
Q: Why did you choose Windsor Mountain?
A: The pictures just looked amazing, especially activities like the lake launch. You ride your bike onto this ramp and then fly into the water with your bike. You wear a life jacket. The water is a little bit deeper there, so it isn't dangerous. You also wear a helmet.
Q: Are you part of any clubs or teams at home?
A: Not through school, but I'm on a swim team, tennis team, soccer team, and softball team.
Q: You sound busy! Why did you choose Windsor Mountain instead of a soccer camp or a tennis camp?
A: I went to soccer camp, too. After four weeks of Windsor Mountain, I did two weeks at a soccer camp. It was hard because it was a lot of work, and all you did was soccer. It was just all soccer all day, and you got bored of it.
A typical day was: You got there, warmed up, had a water break, played soccer for three hours, had lunch, played soccer some more, and then went home. It just wasn't as fun. I wanted to go to improve my soccer skills because I don't really score goals.
Q: What are two important things you learned at camp?
A: That's easy: One, to step out of your safety zone and take some risks, and two, treat others the way you want to be treated.
Q: Are you going back?
A: I'm definitely going to Windsor Mountain. I'm also going to a travel camp that's a part of Windsor Mountain. It's the New England travel adventure program, and I can't wait.