Without hesitation, I boarded a flight at Glasgow airport and started the trip to Newark. In 2002 Heathrow was reasonable to navigate but still new and exciting, I had my temporary work visa and I was ready for a summer away from university assignments and exams.
This was a summer before Facebook, before iPhones, before 3G. It was a summer requiring camping in the woods, phone cards, cooking on open fires, giant Maglite torches (that I managed to convince myself could knock out a bear) singing throughout the summer and swimming in the lake.
Some moments of clarity remain; helped by the photos I took on disposable cameras, developed each fortnight at Walmart and carefully packed to take home. There was a strong sense of tradition at camp, traditions that had to be respected and maintained. Traditions that were fun, entertaining and above all embarrassing. Creating automatic triggers in my brain for years to come, making it almost impossible not to sing when prompted with certain words or situations.
The 4th of July 2002 was a glimpse into real American life, heading with the locals to watch the fireworks at the park, taking blankets and chatting with new friends, friend that you knew you would need to survive the summer. Eating Dairy Queen with more enthusiasm than I ever thought was possible. This summer sparked a lifelong fascination and love of a country I had visited a handful of times before, but living in the woods will give you more of an attachment that Orlando’s hotels.
Holding hands tightly and rolling down the hill spinning and spinning, it was a summer of disorientation where we did our best to cling on to those we knew would keep up going through that summer and for at least the ten years ahead.