Advice from a summer camp cousellor

Letter 90

This time last year I had just booked my flight to America. My place at camp was confirmed, visa in the bag and I was eager to set off. Now I want to share a load of advice that I learned from a summer at camp. So if you’re off to camp, or you’re just interested in some tips and anecdotes, please read on. This is all based on my experience – your camp might be different but I’ll try to give varied advice!

I wrote a post about the details of my camp job and how much it cost to get out to the states which you may read here.



Backpacks far surpass suitcases in my opinion. After camp you’re likely to be travelling and will want a backpack for ease of use. At my camp we also had to move rooms pretty much every week which meant packing everything up in the backpack and transporting it between cabins. If you’re lucky and don’t have to do this, it can actually be a good habit to get into. Each week go through your stuff and clear out rubbish, old clothes, discover dirty things down the side of the drawers and make sure you still have all of your stuff.

backpack osprey farpoint 55

I used this Osprey Farpoint 55L and love it!!


You won’t do this, but I’ll tell you anyway. At camp you are most likely going to be wearing the generic tops with the logo on. Every day. So you don’t need a wardrobe of beautiful t-shirts with you. You are also probably going to be shopping in the states, which is very cheap, so leave space in your suitcase for bringing stuff home! I have a couple of posts showing everything I packed:

Travel essentials!  |  Travel essentials: clothing

But here are the basics:

  • A couple of pairs of DURABLE shorts – not those bum-cheek grazers that are highly inappropriate for working with children. Or other humans for that matter.
  • A few basic t-shirts to get you going and to use at weekends. Maybe something nice to wear out, you may have the chance to go somewhere nice.
  • PLENTY of underwear as washing can be few and far between and when you’re running between canoeing, pool time, football and rain storms, you may need more than one per day.
  • Same for socks, your feet will get destroyed.
  • Very comfy shoes for wearing all day every day – trainers seem to do the job well.
  • A fleece and waterproof, depending on where you are in America, because it can rain, a lot.
  • Modest pyjamas – if your camp is like mine, you might have to sleep in with the kids so you’ll want some decent PJs. Even if you don’t have to stay with kids, you might be wondering around camp before bed.

The clothes I took to camp


Take photos, postcards, music, flags, food, and even traditional clothes if you have them. It’s great to surround yourself with memories from familiar home, but that’s not the main reason to do this. The kids find it fascinating learning about you and being able to show them things from home is great. I would show my kids photos of my family and friends or where I live and tell them stories. They LOVE it. I worked at a camp with children and adults with disabilities, and one week I was the supporter for a 25 year old girl who was non-verbal. She couldn’t talk to me and for a day or so I found it difficult to communicate with her. I started showing her photos when she seemed bored and she loved listening to my stories. I told her about everyone in my life. She smiled and nodded along and I knew she could understand what I was telling her, she just couldn’t reply. So take lots of memories to share.


Yes, there are a lot of bugs in America. Yes, you need bug spray. Sometimes the camp provides this for using on the kids (and yourself) but take some just in case. It’s super important when you’re trekking through the wilderness all the time.


The magical daypack solves everything. Before you leave, set this up so that it’s ready straight away when you start your job. Trust me, this is a life saver.

You’ll need:

  • A backpack you don’t particularly mind getting dirty.
  • Durable water bottle (large).
  • Pen/paper, for when the kids get bored and you need a quick game or when you have to keep track of things you need to do.
  • Watch, you’ll need the time to be on time to activities.
  • Sun cream – obvious?
  • Wet wipes – potentially THE most important item. They fix everything: muddy child, food fight, touching bugs, seeing the horses, tears… etc etc.
  • Phone (if you’re allowed) to take lots of photos, entertain your kids, PLAY MUSIC – again a magic trick for solving boredom, and to get in contact with people for emergencies.
  • Sun hat to stay protected from that midday sun and set a good example for your kids.




At our camp, there was one phrase that was drilled into each and every counsellor. ‘Fake it till you make it’. We all lived by it, and secretly, I still do. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired, worn out, missing home, sad or feeling lonely. Whilst you’re at camp you are the most important person in the world to your kids and you have to fake it. Smile through any pain and make everyone believe that you are the happiest person in the world. Most often, it’ll make you feel better too. Smile and your kids will smile and that’s the most important thing. Another counsellor and I had a girl one week who was probably one of the most annoying kids I’ve ever met. We felt miserable for the first couple of days and that in turn made her more annoying. We realised that we just had to fake it. We turned into the bubbliest counsellors you’ve ever seen. She ended up having so much fun with ‘the happiest counsellors at camp’ that she wasn’t even that annoying for the rest of the week. Happy counsellor = happy camper = happy counsellor.

happy cousellor happy camper

Happy counsellor, happy camper


Lose whatever inhibitions you have because at camp, you are a whole new person. This point follows on from the last one. If you have to sing Disney songs at the top of your voice to make a camper happy, do it. If you have to dance to get your group to keep up and move from one activity to the next, do it. If you have to put on a funny voice to get someone to eat their vegetables, do it! You become an actor, an entertainer and a best friend and you’ll enjoy it far more if you throw every cell of your being into your job. It’ll be the most fun you’ve ever had!


I’m kidding. Don’t improve it. It’ll be far funnier if your rubbish. Think it’s a myth that Americans recite the pledgeof allegiance every morning? It’s not. (And by the end of camp you’ll love it). And all of those cheesy camp songs you’ve seen on films? They’re all real, and you’ll sing them all. It’s great fun so embrace the singer inside of you, whether you’re good or not.


Daily flagpole with the anthem 


One of my favourite things to do is go through my photos from camp. I love seeing all of the smiling faces and the things they all got up to. I enjoy watching the singing videos I made with my campers in the cabins. Most importantly, I take a huge amount of happiness from the letters, notes and cards that campers and counsellors gave me. Keep everything you want to remember and capture moments you can’t forget. (At my camp we were allowed to take photos, obviously check the policy on this at yours – I hope you can because camp photos are the best photos.) See some of my favourite memories here…


Camp is loads of fun, like I’ve said, but it can get hard. Sometimes things happen that shock you, upset you or hurt you. Just know that it’s okay, you’ve done your best, and you’ll soon feel better. In the moment, you just have to slap a smile on and carry on. It’ll all be fine in the end.


I strongly believe that as a counsellor, you have a responsibility to be a role model and respected leader. Your kids should learn right and wrong from you. You should encourage manners, sharing and patience, all things kids struggle with. However, sometimes those life lessons can wait. Choose carefully when it’s worth picking up on something with your kids. Sometimes an easy life is preferred but if you are going to pick them up on something, maybe sweeten the deal after. A negative should always be followed with a positive.


Camp food is at best, edible. (My camp food was actually pretty good, but I want be dramatic for this point). You may be inclined to stock up on snacks and goodies to nibble on when you’re starving at 9pm having skipped the majority of dinner. However, be careful because it’s quite common to put on weight at camp. Buy yourself a big bag of grapes or something, instead of a kilogram bag of skittles (ah Walmart how I miss you). I wish I had taken on that advice, but alas, walmart drove me to consume many a bar of Hershey’s cookies and cream, which I dearly miss.




You will meet other counsellors who you’ll want to travel with, hear stories about places you hadn’t considered and need to be flexible about your time after working. You are allowed up to 30 days travel time after working at camp and I would suggest using at least half of this. Book a flight back from either somewhere you are desperate to go to or from a big city popular airport. For example, my camp was in Maryland, near DC, but I booked my flight back from New York. So did most people. If you’re camp is in California, don’t book a flight back from NYC because it’s thousands of miles away, but maybe LA would be a good shout. Be flexible if you can!


A number of factors can affect how much money you have at various times in the summer. You may not get paid straight away and need some money to tide you over for the first couple of weeks. If you’re camp is well connected to towns or cities, you may have the chance to go out at weekends, which can cost you. Make sure you take a decent amount of money with you so that you can cover this. In addition, be smart with your wages and make sure you don’t leave yourself struggling for cash at the end of the summer when you want to be enjoying yourself travelling.


Camp will be an amazing experience. You’ll fall in love with the kids and cry when they leave. You’ll make friends for life and promise to keep in contact. You’ll surprise yourself and feel proud of your achievements. You’ll also probably get injured or ill and miss home. You might have people be rude to you and you’ll feel bad. You might get so tired and worn out that you can barely stand up. But trust me, you’ll miss it when you’re home, so enjoy it whilst you’re there.

That’s it from me, I hope this has been useful or at the very least entertaining. Camp was the best experience of my life so far and I cannot wait to go back, hopefully in a couple of years. Barely a day goes by where I don’t think about that wonderful place, the friends I made there or the kids who I absolutely loved. Good luck to those of you heading off to camp this summer!!

camp at night

Favourite place

From Lou (Camp Counsellor 2016)

About Me

PS. Here are links to all of the letters I wrote about summer camp – I love looking back on them so I hope you enjoy them. x

“Don’t make purple”  |  My hectic life, my suffering blog  |  I’ve realised I’m a vegetarian  |  Horse sense  |  Summer of a lifetime  |  After work comes play!  |  3,176 photos later


Cardiff: theatre, shopping, food and parks

Letter 89

Cardiff is the bustling capital of Wales and home to my best friend. To celebrate entering my 20th year of life I took the 7 hour train down from Edinburgh to visit her and have a fun-filled 24 hours in Cardiff. We ate lots of lovely food, went to see a fantastic show, did a spot of shopping and explored some of the parks in this pretty city.


This musical is about an Irish band in 60s Dublin and their rise to fame. It’s funny, enjoyable and contains countless big hits which all of the audience enjoyed singing along to. My friend and I significantly bought the average age down and we were surrounded by a crowd consisting mainly of over 50s. Not that that’s a problem, but it was entertaining. The Millenium Theatre in Cardiff is a really beautiful building and I found it fascinating to walk around.

cardiff millenium theatre

Roath Park

This park is huge. It contains a massive lake where you can do kayaking, paddle boating and fishing in some places and it’s surrounded by greenery , wildlife and botanical gardens. The walk around is about 5km and is very pleasant. The park was teaming with families and dog walkers. It’s such a nice park of Cardiff, not to be missed on a visit there.

cardiff roath park lakecardiff roath park reflectionscardiff roath park watercardiff roath park flowers


Centered between the grand building’s of Cardiff University is this little gem covered in colourful flowers and people exploring the capital.

cardiff alexandra gardenscardiff alexandra gardens rustcardiff alexandra gardens blossom


The shopping in Cardiff is stellar. You couldn’t wish for more shops or a nicer area to spend your time. And your money of course. I did quite well and came away with only a top from the Hollister sale and 3 very fetching nail polishes. Everything is very central and the main shopping centre, St David’s contains a whole area full of restaurants. We stopped in Pizza Express for a bite to eat and it was as tasty as ever.

Cardiff is a lovely little city.

From Lou

About Me

10 Challenges for travellers!

Letter 88

Tips and advice for travellers has been done countless times before, but I still wanted to share some of the things I have learnt from travelling, mainly solo. However, I will be doing this by listing out 10 challenges that I think you should set yourself! Enjoy!

1 Have a conversation with 5 new people per day

If you are travelling solo you have to put yourself out there. It’s possible to meet loads of people and form great friendships whilst on the road, but you have to put some effort in. It’s often hard to be confident with these things, but if you can force yourself to create conversations on a daily basis with this challenge, your confidence will grow and it will become much easier. These 5 conversations could happen with fellow travellers in your dorm or common room, with the local shop keeper, with a tour guide or even someone you randomly come into contact with whilst out and about. Talking to fellow travellers is the best way to meet people because you’re all in the same situation. Ask them their name and where they’re from, what they’re doing today, what’s their favourite thing about the city, or even just the location of the kitchen. By being open and friendly you could create opportunities for yourself or at the least, exchange some casual conversation with someone you wouldn’t normally talk to.

2 Learn to converse in the local language

I don’t mean you have to become fluent in the language of every country you visit, but it is polite to learn some of the basics. Being able to say ‘hello’, ask someone how they are, tell them your name and order your favourite drink will go a long way. Not only will it make your life easier, but you will gain respect and appreciation from the locals by showing that you’ve made a conscious effort to learn their language. I have found that using Duolingo is great for picking up the basics and learning how to pronounce them properly!

3 Live with a local

The best way to get to know a place is through a local. There are now many ways to actually live with a local and it’s well worth doing. The most popular way at the moment is through airbnb. Instead of looking for an ‘entire place’ to rent, go for a room in someone’s house. That way you’ll be sharing their living space, can get to know them and can pick up tips about the place you’re staying in. You can also try couch surfing which has the benefit of being free, and typically the people that offer out their couch are travellers. (I’ve never tried it though.) Workaway is another way you can stay for free, but in exchange for a few hours of work per day. This is the best way to stay with locals for a longer period of time and often become part of a family. Challenge yourself to spend some time living with a local!

live with a local

4 Make a positive impact everywhere you go

This is a lasting challenge that I think every traveller should be conscious of. I think that as travellers we have a responsibility to have a positive impact on the places we visit, and concentrate on reducing any negative impact we may have. By helping the community in some way, or even just a tiny part of the community, you will be leaving a tiny legacy. It could be as simple as offering help to someone, or volunteering with a project. It could be disposing of your rubbish properly, or having a conversation with someone who is lonely. It’s a good feeling to know that you’ve done something with a positive impact. Don’t just be a ‘traveller’, be someone who makes a difference.


5 Write down 5 memorable things each day

This challenge could be interpreted in many ways, from simply keeping a few notes each day of things you want to remember, to keeping a full-blown journal or writing a blog. At it’s simplest I think it’s a nice thing to note down 5 things that you want to remember. Not things like ‘I went to the Colosseum’ or ‘I bought this scarf’, but little personal things that you are likely to forget. Things like ‘I had a conversation with the Greek carriage driver’ or ‘I had drinks with a group of people from around the world’ or ‘I found the best ice cream shop!’. Looking back through this can be far more valuable and fun than a lengthy diary.

6 Don’t plan

This challenge is the easiest one. Go with the flow! There’s no need to book everything way in advance and plan each day out. A few days in advance is more than enough to book a bed in a decent hostel and a quick google search or browse in the guidebook is enough to have an idea of what you want to do. Allow yourself to be guided by what people say or the pictures on a map. Let yourself get lost and discover things that no-one advertises. Say yes to people when they suggest doing something fun! You’ll enjoy it far more.

7 Turn off your wifi

It’s actually not as necessary as you might feel it is and going without it for a while will do you the world of good. For example, go and sit in the common room, turn off your wifi and talk to people. Or head out for the day with only a map and find your way around without having to use data or stop for wifi. For once, don’t search for a restaurant ahead of time and instead head for somewhere that attracts you because of lovely smells and a room full of happy locals. Wifi is not always needed!


8 Try a day without spending money

This can be a big challenge but if you’re in the right place then it’s totally possible! It can force you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to entertain yourself without paying for attractions or tours. If you have a hostel with a free breakfast, fill up on this in the morning. Often that can last me until mid afternoon. Food for the rest of the day can often be found in the free food box in your hostel – one of the most useful things to know about! If you’re somewhere with an abundance of fruit trees then go and pick some fresh fruit for a snack. At the end of the day it might even be possible to get some free bread from bakeries. Be creative and see what you can get your hands on! You may even be able to eat with people in the hostel and take turns cooking over a few days so you could get a free meal or two. As for what to spend your day doing? Read, walk, sunbathe, photograph, paint, go to free museums or attractions. The list is endless!

9 Treat yourself

This is kind of the opposite to the previous challenge, and is less of a challenge. Sometimes, even as a budget traveller, it’s important to indulge a bit. This could be as simple as a nice coffee in a posh cafe or as lavish as a special activity that you’ve always wanted to do like a skydive. If you’re needing some alone time or a comfy bed, treat yourself to a single room with a balcony once in a while. Don’t always live on a strict budget, it’s important to do things that make you really happy.

10 Wake up for sunrise

My personal favourite challenge. Everywhere you go, make an effort to be awake before everyone else. I don’t mean every day, but at least once. You’ll get a different perspective on the place you’re in, some striking photos and you’ll have a nice long day ahead to enjoy. I do this very often when travelling as I believe it’s the best time of day.


So there you go. 10 challenges to try when you’re travelling. You may not agree with all of them, but I think your trip will be just a little bit better by trying at least one. Good luck! Let me know if you have any other challenges in mind.

From Lou

About Me

A trip to Fife: flowers, beaches and castles

Letter 87

I turned 20 this week. I hit the next decade of my life, and to celebrate, I spent the weekend exploring a new part of Scotland. Every time I visit a different part of Scotland I realise how wonderful and diverse the country really is. So today, in letter 87, I would like to introduce to to the little seaside town of Kirkcaldy.


fife coastal path

I’m using this map of the Fife Coastal Path which I will tell you about later. The highlighted area points out Kirkcaldy, where we spent the day. It was on impulse that we decided to stop off here because the weather was so beautiful. From Edinburgh it’s an easy trip across the striking red iron Forth Bridge to get to Fife’s coast.

Forth Bridge

The first stop we made in Kirkcaldy was Beveridge Park, a large area of green, water and flowers. There were some areas covered in families, dogs and ice cream and others that were left covered only in daffodils, peace and few footprints. We took a walk around the whole park and stopped to enjoy it and the sun basking down on us.

Kirkcaldy Beveridge ParkKirkcaldy Beveridge Park 2Kirkcaldy Beveridge Park 3Kirkcaldy Beveridge Park 4

The beach was calling us, so we headed over to the sea and the golden sands of this beautiful part of Scotland. It took us a while to make it to the beach, but the walk was beautiful. I was surprised at how lovely and almost foreign the beach felt. It was also lovely to have the whole stretch almost to ourselves. A spot of sunbathing, a walk and a paddle later and we felt fully relaxed and very summery.

Kirkcaldy beachKirkcaldy beach 3Kirkcaldy beach 2

Finally we headed up above the beach to Ravenscraig Castle, or what remains of it. These ruins are left largely untouched, with only a few boards to describe them. Unparalleled views span out from this tiny hill all the way out towards Edinburgh. It’s a lovely spot and finished off our day in Kirkcaldy beautifully.

Ravenscraig Castle 2Ravenscraig Castle beachRavenscraig Castle view towards edinburghRavenscraig CastleRavenscraig Castle view


At most of the stops on the train I kept seeing ‘Alight for the Fife Coastal Path’ which I had never heard of. Of course, I was curious so I did some searching. I found out it was a walking route around the coast of Fife (kind of self-explanatory). Then on the beach in Kirkcaldy I picked up a leaflet about it which showed the map that I placed at the top of this letter. It’s a 117 mile route from the Firth of Forth in the south up to the Firth of Tay in the north. It allows walkers to discover the towns, beaches and countryside of the area whilst walking the path. It really captured my imagination and it’s something I would love to do! I think it’s a wonderful was of seeing a pocket of Scotland which I plan to do sometime in the near future.

You can learn more about it on the website:


1 year

I had a wonderful birthday and a much needed break from work. I also quietly celebrated 1 year of ‘A Letter From Lou’! I had wanted to have 100 letters for this occasion, but alas this wasn’t possible. Instead I give you 87 – close enough right? Thank you for reading and I hope you are enjoying my letters – I certainly enjoy writing them. Here’s to many more in the future!

Much love,

From Lou

About Me


First flight booked!

Letter 86

Finally I can visualize a time when I’m not drowning in deadlines and instead drowning in the rush of warm air as I step off the plane. I can finally feel summer creeping up on me, with 4 months of freedom stretching far ahead into September. I’ve written my ‘study’ timetable, I’ve planned out the next 6 weeks including celebrating birthdays, seeing family, catching up with friends, packing up my room, (hopefully) training for a summer job and completing my second year courses. Then the fun will begin.

A couple of days ago I booked the first flight. FINALLY.

Everything has been up in the air recently and I haven’t been able to cement my plans and book a flight. I’ve finally organised my summer enough that I could plan the first couple of weeks. Now I want to tell all of you about it!


In less than 6 weeks I will be leaving Edinburgh, only to return after more than 3 months. To celebrate the end of second year my boyfriend and I are going to spend a week sunning ourselves in the south of Spain and relax until our bodies forget the strain of the year. Luckily, I have a lovely auntie who has allowed us to stay in her beautiful apartment in the charming town of Nerja. I’ve been once before and I loved it.

After that week, the world is my oyster.

Well, not quite.


The next part of my summer that is planned is a holiday with my mum. We are going to be staying in Porto, in Northern Portugal, for a week which I can’t wait for. It’ll be great to spend some time together after barely seeing each other for the last couple of years! Porto looks like a lovely area and it will be great to get back to Portugal.


However, there is a gap between these two holidays. A 2 week gap actually, meaning I have the opportunity to explore even more of Spain and Portugal. I know that I will be visiting Lagos, in southern Portugal and Lisbon on the way up to Porto, but I could still squeeze in another place. I am currently considering Seville, as it’s in the middle of Malaga and Faro, where I’m likely to stop before Lagos. I also thought about detouring up to Cordoba which intrigues me no end! If anyone has any suggestions of where to spend 2 weeks between Malaga and Porto – let me know!

Malaga to Porto map


From Porto I am planning to take the trip back down to Lisbon, where I can fly out of. I will be flying to Budapest where I’m meeting loads of friends and heading down to Zagreb together. Unfortunately, due to the timing of a festival in Zagreb, I’ll only have a couple of days in Budapest, so I won’t even scrape the surface. In Zagreb, my friends will be camping at a festival for a few days, while I chill in the city centre exploring the area. This highlights the differences between me and my friends. I think it will be great! After the festival, the majority of us are heading across to Pula in northern Croatia. It will be a very busy few weeks from Porto to Pula.

Budapest to Pula map


The 25th of June is when my solo trip of 2017 really starts. Almost 6 weeks after I leave Edinburgh for Spain, I will be in Pula with the next 4 weeks free to explore a couple of new countries. I am aiming to travel down the coast of Croatia, with no specific plans in mind, eventually ending up in Dubrovnik, on the cusp of Montenegro.

Pula to Dubrovnik map


I have no idea how much time I will spend travelling through Croatia or how much time I will have left to stay in Montenegro, but I’m hoping for at least a week. This tiny country fascinates me and I hope to get a little taster of it’s culture on this trip. I’ll be flying back from the capital, so I will at least spend a few nights there! Really, it’s the Bay of Kotor that I really want to explore.

Dubrovnik to Podgorica map

So there it is. 10 weeks of my summer roughly planned out for you all to see. I will not be booking much beforehand, only flights and accommodation for when I won’t be on my own. Although I have thought about the places I’d like to visit, I am open to changes and I will go with the flow and see where it takes me. I am dreadfully excited for my summer to begin, I just need to get the small task of second year finished first.

Summer is now in my sights! I hope you are as excited as I am!

From Lou

PS. Again, apologies for the lack of letters. I truly am snowed under in work but hopefully, if I’m organised enough, it will get better soon. Or worse. Who knows. Thanks for reading!

About Me