The first year my parents sent me off to summer camp, I remember sitting in my bed just before it was time to leave, clutching my favorite teddy bear and staring at the wall. I didn’t want to leave my mom. I didn’t want to leave my bed. I didn’t want to leave my best friends. And I didn’t want to leave my dog to go hang out with a whole bunch of strange kids (I didn’t even know them! They were probably mean! And worst of all, probably better than me at kickball). Summer camp would be fun, they told me — “There’s a zip line! Horseback riding! S’Mores!”
You know what else is fun? NOT BEING FORCED TO SLEEP IN THE SAME ROOM AS A BUNCH OF SCARY WEIRDOS.
After a few too many hours of watching midwest cornfields blur past in the backseat, we got to camp. Our first activity after checking in was something called Blobbing: a giant pillow on a lake, and a two story ledge to jump off. Kids flinging themselves into the air to catapult their fellow campers into the lake, rinse, repeat. Describing this now, I think it might be the most mid-western thing I had growing up. Move over casserole, Blobbing is now king of midwestern culture.
Now, to my thrill-seeking 8-year-old self, the Blob was the single coolest thing in human history. Within hours of getting to dreaded camp, I was backflipping with a group of new friends cheering me on from the shore. The very same kids I was SURE would be putting razor blades in my apples and stealing my candy money.
Here’s the thing — we midwestern boys are all cut from a similar cloth. We like lakes. We like campfires. We like BMX bikes. It doesn’t take much to make us high five within minutes of meeting each other.
We get a lot of questions from potential Feasters like “Am I going to be the oldest person on the trip?” or “Do you get any solo travelers or is it all couples?” And then my favorite version — “What if these strangers are scary weirdos?”
I’ll tell you this… When we first put Moveable Feast together, we didn’t say “we want a group of urban men and women aged 24-36 who make $X per year and are currently homeowners.” Bleh. We realized quickly that the demographic game wasn’t going to work for us. Instead, we wanted people who were into the things WE’RE INTO (it’s our party, we can invite who we want to): people who live for great food, heavy pours of bomb wine, deep conversation, and share a desire to understand the depth and beauty of cultures around the world. We want you all at a big long table with a beautiful thought in your head. On our very first trip to France a 20 year old makeup artist and a 60 year old travel queen bonded over their duck cassoulet, and a London-dwelling entrepreneur shared cigarettes with a corporate-America powerhouse.
They all showed up alone, ready for whatever that year’s Blob would be. And left with the MFR equivalent of midwestern summer camp friends. All you have to do is trust that leaving your safe bedroom at home will be worth it.
As one feaster from our trip to Provence put it, “I arrived at a train station to be picked up by a group of attractive, hilarious, kindly souls who felt like old friends. Once we arrived to the chateau, I was greeted with the freshest damn oysters and crisp champers- I basically felt like I had been transported to the Provence of the 1920s- it was all very Woody Allen and Midnight in Paris. My soul nearly burst.”
I suppose there’s a lesson in there somewhere, that if you show up ready and willing, the world will be there to greet you with open arms. At each Moveable Feast Retreat, we’ve shared a table with people who are quick to be kind, snort at a dad joke, to refill a glass, excited to stare up at the stars overhead, and stand together in awe of the magical imperfection of this wide world.
We still have a few more seats at the table for this year’s Moveable Feast: Chiang Mai. Traveling solo? With a friend? With a boo? However you arrive, we’ll be there to greet you. The drinks are poured.