I won’t lie, getting to Balkan Camp can be a financial challenge. My own decades-long journey with camp is a testament to that. I’ve paid full-ride, been rejected for scholarships, received scholarships, and done hours of work exchange. There have been years when I could pay the whole fee upfront, and years when payment plans were a godsend. But no matter what, Balkan Camp is a nonnegotiable fixture on my calendar, and it can be for you, too.
No matter which way you look at it, these workshops are an excellent investment of your time and energy. You’re always going to learn something new, connect with someone you wouldn’t otherwise know, and leave better than you started (albeit a little sleep deprived). If I’m going to take a whole week off of work, I want to go somewhere that fills me with warm fuzzies and forces me to stretch and evolve in ways I didn’t know were possible. Camp does that. Every time, I get major return on my investment.
Here’s the truth: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ve seen campers who make peanuts attend consistently for years without complaint, and I’ve seen well-off campers come and go, because they “can’t afford it.” Rather than focusing on the challenges of saving for camp, let’s focus on strategies you can implement TODAY to start making your camp dreams come true.
- Try the Emily Cohen Method. Emily has been known to give out coffee cans for folks to stow away money throughout the year as their camp fund. Personally, I used an old mason jar, but the effect was the same. I threw in my tips from gigs, tucked the jar away somewhere I wouldn’t see it all the time, and slowly but surely, things began to add up. This is one of the most popular and successful means of saving for camp.
- Apply for a scholarship. Scholarship information will be updated early 2019, so go ahead put a reminder in your calendar now to check back at our website then. I had to apply more than once to get my first scholarship, so don’t be discouraged if you didn’t receive one before. Be sure to read through ALL the details and the rubric. If you struggle with writing, maybe ask a friend to help you with editing in exchange for coffee or a foot rub. Take your time, dot your i’s and cross your t’s, and see what happens.
- Request a work exchange position. After registration opens, you can request a work exchange position by emailing the site managers. If you plan to join us on the West Coast, you need to contact the site manager by May 1st. East Coasters have until May 31st. Having “something to do” at camp can can be a huge relief and help you meet new people (I’m talking to you, introverts). Also, if you do the job well, you’re likely to get it again. I was able to maintain my work exchange position for a couple of years while I was finishing college, which was enormously helpful.
- Try a money saving app. There are numerous apps available to help you strategically and painlessly squirrel away money. My favorite is Digit, which analyzes my spending and sneaks money into savings. I don’t have to think about or put any effort into it, but the result is the same.
- Draw up a budget. I know that doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but I’ll tell you what helps—dangling a really delicious carrot at the end of a stick to spur you on. Let camp be that delicious carrot! Put on some of your favorite Balkan tunes, set out some olives and feta for snacks, and get to work. Websites like Mint and YNAB can be very helpful for structuring your approach. You get bonus points for this one, because it’s helpful for life in general!
For many of us struggling artist types, there’s also the reality of lost income while we’re at camp. Depending on your trade, you might consider tailoring you camp stay to accommodate weekend or weeknight gigs. Don’t let FOMO prevent you from being flexible with your stay. But if you MUST work remotely during camp, I’d recommend driving off site (you’ll need to at Mendocino) for better Wi-Fi and cell service. It’ll also help you break away mentally, so you’ll work more efficiently with a clearer head and fewer interruptions. Many campers end up enjoying these breaks from the hubbub of camp, and sometimes journey offsite even when they don’t have work to do just to relax in a different environment.
Remember, there’s no wrong way to make your camp dreams come true. While I wouldn’t recommend robbing a bank (our community is hardcore, but not that hardcore), find the way that works for you, hustle hard, and then, cherish every moment of camp all the more, because you made it happen!
By Jenna Shear