Sunscreen, bug bites, campfires. The lucky among us remember those halcyon days of summer camp as children. Full of sunshine and fresh air, they were days filled with fun, adventure, and for many—lasting friendships. For wellness divas and the co-founders of Soul Camp Michelle Goldblum and Ali Leipzig, their friendship began many years ago at a sleepaway camp. Their time there inspired the creation of Soul Camp, a multi-day, multi-location, all-inclusive wellness adult summer camp.
Soul Camp encourages all their campers to leave their worries and iPhones behind to nourish their bodies, minds, and spirits and immerse themselves in a world of mindfulness and adventure. We spoke with Michelle Goldblum to discuss the ethos behind Soul Camp.
Talk to us about Soul Camp.
Goldblum: Soul Camp is an all-inclusive wellness-oriented sleepaway and day camp for adults. We take over actual kids’ camps all over the country—we have camps in Chicago, New Jersey, New York and California. We bring in 30 to 40 incredible speakers, teachers and authors who are experts in all things mind, body and spirit. They’ll lecture and teach on everything from astrology and numerology to intuition workshops, women’s health, men’s health, organic farming, vegan cooking, mindful eating, body image, finding your purpose, burning your story and creating a new one, relationships, intimacy, and so many other things. We also offer all different cardio classes, dance classes and a variety of meditation classes. Then we have a bunch of camp-y things like trampolines and go carts and horseback riding—you name it. So it’s all the camp-y things, yes, but really Soul Camp is an experience that’s intermixed with transformation and healing and a lot of fun. Our purpose in creating camp was really to bring a lightness and a sense of fun and playfulness back into our adult lives within a healing environment.
And community is huge for us: People come to camp really looking for their “tribe”, for like-minded friends. Campers leave with family, no matter what their age. We have people from their mid-20s all the way up to their late 60s. One of Ali’s and my favorite memories is, back in 2014, when some women in their late 50s to early 60s came up to us with tears in their eyes, saying that they can’t believe that they waited until they were 63 to meet their best friends. They couldn’t believe it—the fact that, at age 63, this is where they found them. The essence of Soul Camp at its core is definitely fun and joy and play—but, more than anything, community.
How did you and Soul Camp co-founder, Ali, meet?
Goldblum: Ali and I actually have a really interesting story. For eight weeks every single summer as kids, from ages nine to fifteen or so, we went to the same sleepaway camp—but we didn’t know each other while there! We were in different age groups, and at camp that means that the older girls (the group I was in) didn’t really see the younger girls. And it wasn’t until fifteen years later in New York City that we reconnected. Ali and I both owned wellness branding agencies, and by nature we were always doing different wellness events and healing experiences. One day Ali saw me in a photo on a Facebook post of an intenSati (a mind-body-spirit cardio exercise) flash mob in Washington Square Park, and she thought, “Oh my goodness, is that Michelle Goldblum from camp? What?!” She reached out, and I was like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe another camp person is in this spiritual community!” That’s really how our friendship started, and how we came together as friends.
Soul Camp was an idea that came a bit later. Like I said before, by nature of our businesses, Ali and I were always going to different wellness retreats and immersions, and one weekend we were on a Family Constellation Healing weekend in Cape Cod when the owner of our old sleepaway camp reached out to all camp alumni about an upcoming reunion. He ended up receiving this auto-response from both Ali and I saying something like, “We’re healing our ancestors in Cape Cod!” He then reached out to both of us, saying, “If you ever want to bring a healing yoga retreat or something like that to our camp, we rent out the facility.” Ali and I immediately were like, “Let’s create camp!” In retrospect, we think the camp owner was probably envisioning like a 30-person yoga retreat, but our minds went to a 150-person camp. And that’s really how it started in 2014.
Was there a focus on mindfulness and spirituality at the camp you two attended as children, or was it just something that you found on your own?
Goldblum: Ali and I discovered that on our own. Our camp was a very typical kids camp—soccer, tennis, basketball, discos, and talent shows. In terms of mindfulness and spirituality, Ali and I both came into that in different ways in our own life and our own journeys, and kind of met at the same place years and years later.
You guys must feel so lucky to have each other!
Goldblum: Yeah! We feel like we’re married.
We can’t imagine any one not wanting to go (or go back to) summer camp. What kind of campers attend Soul Camp?
Goldblum: It’s a mixture of both women and men—but definitely more women. I think that’s just by nature of the wellness industry, period. The women who come are varied. We have women come who wondering “Is this it?” in their life. They’re thinking, “I have the job, I have the family, I have this, I have that. I checked a lot of boxes in my life. Why don’t I feel alive? Why isn’t life fun? Where’s all the joy? I did all the stuff. I thought I was supposed to feel joyful now.” And they don’t. So that’s a large portion of the people coming—these people trying to find out what’s missing.
Others come looking for their tribe, their community. They’ve been getting really interested in intuitive eating or in Kale.Life, for instance! They’ve been discovering all these new things, and they want to find like-minded people to start this next phase of their life with. That support and courage for the life that they’re creating. I can speak from my own experience—I created a whole life when I had my reawakening into a more healthier, happier lifestyle. I needed to change people, places, and things around me. A lot of people come to Soul Camp looking for new people, places, and things. We have a lot of people who are in transition, who are looking for what’s next. Their kids went off to college or they’re just at a certain point in their life. They just turned thirty, or fifty, or sixty, and wondering, “Okay, what’s next? Am I living my purpose? Am I living my passion? Am I fully expressed?”. If the answer is no, they know that Soul Camp is the place where they can come and either reawaken that or discover it to begin with.
Lastly, a lot of people come just to have fun. For an adventure, an awesome weekend at camp. You can come to Soul Camp, and not necessarily take all of the meditation classes and find your past life regression. People can come and jump on the trampoline or take mindful archery or we have mermaid swimming at one of our camps and go-carts and horseback riding. So, it’s really for so many different types of people, but at its core it’s for people who want to live happier, healthier, more fulfilled lives that are full of joy.
What activities are at the top of your camp to-do list this summer?
Goldblum: The Tibetan bowl healing class, taught by a master named Kathy Hamer, is always really amazing. I also love intenSati, my personal favorite; the creator of the intenSati method Patricia Moreno was my first teacher. We have Terri Cole, who is an incredible relationship expert. Julie Santiago—we call her the Soul Camp Shaman—does fear burning at all of our camps. Old Acupuncture has a whole acupuncture gazebo where people can just go throughout the day, and get acupuncture whenever they want. (All of this is included in ticket price, by the way.) One of the new things we’re doing this year is mindful archery: It’s such a powerful moment to put that bow in the arrow and get it into the bullseye or near the bullseye, and to do that with mindfulness and meditation is super cool. We have a whole new track this year all about social impact and social activism, and have activists coming to teach people how to bring this type of education and knowledge and learning not just into their hearts but into their community as well.
What’s the most meaningful activity you’ve taken at Soul Camp to date?
Goldblum: The biggest thing I’ve taken that kind of woke me up, period, is going to Anthony Robbins’ workshops. He’s been an amazing teacher of mine. At our camps I’ve gone down the road of oneness meditation, and really just awakening to the oneness in all of us. Awakening to the oneness within and in all of us is a game-changer, because you really start to just look at every single person that you encounter—strangers, and family, and anyone that you meet—as no different than yourself. And, in doing so, you just feel so much more connected and part of everyone. Being connected to everyone and everything just makes life much more fun and less lonely, just more interconnected.
Soul Camp aims to encourage “grown ups” to “reawaken…the power we all had as kids.” Why do you think connecting with our inner child is so important?
Goldblum: That concept of play. As kids, play was built into our life; it wasn’t like, “Oh, I get to go play now.” When I grew up, recess was a guaranteed component of your day, and it wasn’t just to go outside and play, but it was to release energy, to come back together in group. To explore and create, to have adventures to imagine. That whole part of life is so important—just ongoing creation in everything that you do. I think that as we get older so much of that is lost or stepped over. It’s viewed as no longer important because as adults we want to succeed or we want to do and we want to cross the things off our list, and we forget that even creating those things for our list comes from those moments of imagination, come from those moments of creation. It’s a necessary component. And, yeah, I think tapping into that play and that fun, letting your mind loose, creates so many important things for us as adults. I think we don’t do that enough.
What do Soul Camp-ers love most about the experience?
Goldblum: Without question: The community. When you have people who support you and encourage you and hold you to the vision that you create for yourself—especially the vision that you create for yourself at camp—it’s a life-changer. We have people who come to camp and wake up to what’s possible for them, because they have twelve other people being like, “YES! Don’t forget! This is possible for you! Don’t forget what you said. I’m holding you accountable to that.” That is such a such a different situation than just going to a retreat by yourself, leaving by yourself, writing something in a journal, and then maybe revisiting it on New Year’s Eve to see if this is your New Year’s Resolution. To create a vision and then to have people see you in that, as that, and then follow up with you after and be there with you. It’s like this is your new community, this is your new friend, and they saw you as that. They saw you as that vision [of yourself]. I think that’s the biggest component of change for people. We’ve had people come to camp and within a year-and-a-half lose 170 pounds, or leave their jobs, or create new relationships, starting companies. Amazing transformations, and I really, really believe so much of that is possible because of the community component. Because community is just so important. Especially when you’re choosing to make big changes like people are doing at Soul Camp.
We’re still in awe hearing that someone lost 170 pounds in a year and a half.
Goldblum: Oh, she’s amazing. She’s one of our staff members now and she’s back in school, going to school to help people with eating disorders. It’s amazing. Her transformation is one of our most prized.
Interested in attending Soul Camp? (We know: Who wouldn’t be?!) Visit their site to learn more about upcoming sleepaway and day camps in New York, Chicago, and California.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
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