While I was attending Camp Yoga, I was able to sneak a few minutes with the founder of Camp Yoga, Chesley Long. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting this down-to-earth yogi, you’ll likely be able to hear his personality come through as he took the time to answer my questions about Camp Yoga, life on the road and following your dreams.
Well TO Do: Please introduce yourself and Camp Yoga to the Well TO Do readers.
Chesley Long: Hi, Well TO Do readers, my name is Chesley Long and I guess my title is Founder of Camp Yoga. It still seems weird to say this as I simply started something that turned out to be amazing in my life and now have this title.
WTD: What is Camp Yoga?
CL: Camp Yoga is about community. Calling it Camp Yoga for the first year was just an instinct, but the vision was different than the name. Camp Yoga is way more about coming together to eat at the same table and to sleep under the same roof. I find when those things happen, barriers are broken down. I feel that you don’t need to separate play from yoga and fitness, so here it’s everything from archery, a rock climbing wall, yoga, meditation, kettle-bells, Olympic weight-lifting, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, raves, drinks, to early mornings and late nights.
WTD: How long were you envisioning or manifesting Camp Yoga before it came to fruition?
CL: I would say less than six months. Lululemon is such a strong supporter of me and the way they support their ambassadors, you feel that you can do anything with their support, they’re like family. Three years ago they sent me to Wanderlust in Mont Tremblant. Wanderlust is great and I love it, but it is expensive to go to. I love connecting with people, so I booked an Airbnb with room for eight people, told them I had the space available, and 24 hours later it was booked with people that I didn’t know. I went to Wanderlust and had the most amazing weekend.
Wanderlust provided a great format, but what was even better was what I created with the hostel and bringing people together. I say this over and over, but literally something happens when you push tables together. You sit down and say hello. We ate our meals together and would sit at the end of a day full of activities and enjoy a beer.
With Camp Yoga, I wanted to recreate the experience of yoga, activities, and coming together, put it under one roof, and offer it to a large group of people. It came together so quickly – I called up Camp Manitou (I used to sell them forklifts and heavy equipment) and asked if they rented it out to adults and they said “sure”. I made a website, asked Lulu to gather ambassadors to teach at it, got bold with my requests, and made it happen!
photo courtesy of jay crews photography
WTD: Who or what do you attribute your success of making your dream a reality?
CL: My family. Fear is what would stop anybody from doing anything. Is this idea unique? It’s not like this hasn’t been thought about this before. There are other yoga camps that exist, maybe on a smaller, local scale. I just think big and I know that risks are ok. My family has always been there to support me, whether what I did was a success or a failure. Ultimately, if I risk everything and lose everything doing Camp Yoga, my family still loves me. That’s what made it so easy to do this, because at the end of the day, I still have their love.
WTD: In your founder note, you mention that you “bring together life ambassadors.” What does that mean to you and why is it important?
CL: For me, Life Ambassadors are people who want to live and step outside of stereotypes. People come to camp and are so calculated leading up to it. Our lives are so scheduled, you can buy everything and someone will do it for you. At Camp Yoga, we don’t necessarily give out a lot of information beforehand because then people get tied to the plan. It’s how we run things at camp; you can come and go as you please from class, change your mind about your schedule, and you will be fed (as well as have any allergies accommodated) and taken care of, but you don’t have to know each and every detail beforehand. A life ambassador is a person who breaks down the barriers, lives their life, and is big and bold here during the weekend.
WTD: Speaking of not being able to plan, as we chat, it is pouring rain outside. How do you roll with the punches as each Camp Yoga unfolds?
CL: How do I roll with the punches? I think it’s just in my nature. I am from the east coast and in Nova Scotia, it don’t matter. If I am calm and not making a big deal, then others will look at me and feel the same. One of my biggest fears for Camp Yoga was the weather. What if it rained? At Camp Yoga in BC, there were torrential downpours for most of the event. And while BC residents are always ready for rain, I wasn’t sure how they’d react. To make the best of it, I sent my staff to town to grab plastic tarps and soap, threw it all down in the rain, made a giant slip n’ slide, and people went out and played in the rain! Every event has a back up plan should it rain, so that makes it pretty easy.
WTD: Some may not know this about you, but you live in a camper so you have the opportunity to travel as you need for Camp Yoga. Can you explain more about why you’ve chosen this lifestyle?
CL: Yep, I live in a trailer that I tow behind my truck and it’s been phenomenal. It has no power, no heat and it’s kind of crazy. Coming from a small town, this isn’t such a stretch, but after 13 years of living in Toronto and getting attached to things and stuff, power, hot water, accessibility to everything, this is a change. I am so committed to the goal of what Camp Yoga is, that the lifestyle of being in a trailer so I can save money works for me. And I absolutely love it. And I don’t need things! I am able to move around, and the trailer life gives me that flexibility. I get to work out and do yoga everyday. I also get to live near the Rocky Mountains if I choose and go climbing, biking, snowboarding, anything that I want.
WTD: Can you share one of your most memorable moments of life on the road?
CL: It came early on: If I make a decision to do something, I am doing it. If I am doing it, I am all in, no fear. I quit my job, bought a trailer and set off to make it happen. As I set out and crossed the border from Novia Scotia to Maine, I spent several hours being grilled by customs agents. It was then that I thought maybe I made the wrong decision. Who knew if it would be successful, I still don’t know. It is an amazing event but will it be able to provide a living for the staff that I have? I spent about three months traveling across the states by myself. Being addicted to human interaction, (I could actually be around people 24/7 and it fills my cup), I realized I was so used to having my support system around me. I spent a lot of long, cold, lonely nights staring at a wall and wondering if this was a good idea. But this is a great memory to have and a reminder to stay with it, keep focused on the end goal. Everything is going to go wrong, and it’s always fixable.
WTD: What’s next for Camp Yoga?
CL: I’ve been doing a lot of site visits over the past year, driving around, checking out places. Camp Yoga will happen each year, at the same location and on the same weekend. Next year, we hope to add Colorado, New York, California, and another Canadian city, just outside of Montreal. And then from there, keep going. People love it, I love it and maybe I find out that kids camps exist all over the world and I can just keep adding cities. Why not, man?
WTD: What’s exciting you most about the Canadian wellness scene right now?
CL: The most exciting thing right now would be collaboration. When I got into this four years ago – and this was probably my own experience – I felt like it was quite segregated. If you did yoga, you did yoga. If you did CrossFit, you did CrossFit. Seeing wellness centres now offer multi-facilities and teachers offer many disciplines is exciting. Like here, I can take a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class and learn how to choke someone out and then go to a yin class and chill. I think this exists in a lot of places and even more people are coming around to it and that’s what I like to see.