It’s 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night, and we’re in mother fucking nature.
I’m in a sea of sixty or so young(ish) women dressed primarily in jeans and t-shirts and athleisure wear. They’re swilling rosé and pink cocktails and, in a few cases, bottles of Flower Power IPA. Everyone’s a little sweaty and a little drunk and more than a little excited to be singing The Little Mermaid classic “Part of Your World” at the top of their lungs during a rousing karaoke session. The song is so appropriate, and I have to admit, I want to be part of this world.
I’m spending the weekend with 500 women, five hours north of New York City, in the semi-wilds of the Adirondacks for The Wing’s first-ever Camp No Man’s Land. It’s a bougie, immaculately-curated, millennial pink, men-free fantasy land where a diverse group of successful women have gathered to let loose and have fun. The whole thing could be ripe for parody (the camp ran out of avocados!), and yet there’s substance to this stylish weekend. It’s more than just an Instagram photo opp. But it’s also one hell of an Instagram photo opp (just search #CAMPNOMANSLAND).
Nearly every single detail of this weekend has been thoughtfully planned, from the embroidered pillowcases, to a living flower wall in the main gathering space, to the luxe, swag-filled gift bags (hello, $100 Saks gift card). The mix of programming has a little something for everyone, whether you want to spend the weekend exercising, crafting, hiking, or raging (and then recovering from said raging). The camp is a chance for well-off grown women to live out their best camp fantasy, whether they dreamed of roughing it like Hayley Mills in Parent Trap or glamping like Jenny Lewis in Troop Beverly Hills. Scratch that: This is better. Because unlike those classic films, there’s no mean girls at Camp No Man’s Land. These women are nice.
And that’s worth noting because The Wing has a bit of a reputation for being an exclusive (and somewhat expensive) club for the New York City cool girls. I was a little intimidated to pack an overnight bag (what do I wear?) and head off for roughly 72 hours of female bonding. It seemed like a lot. I went to Girl Scout camp a few times as a preteen, and I didn’t love it. (I hated communal showers and desperately missed my family.) When I told my mom I was going to Camp No Man’s Land, she actually laughed at me — she’s the first to point out I’m no outdoorswoman. And while I was pretty sure that The Wing would provide plenty of creature comforts, I was nervous about how I would navigate three days at camp with a bunch of perfect (and potentially Instagram perfect) strangers.
Audrey Gelman, The Wing’s cofounder, tried to assuage my introvert fears when we chatted on the phone ahead of camp: The Wing’s “camp counselors” would be there to help anyone who was feeling a little out of their element. In the No Man’s Land Camp program, there was a paragraph welcoming campers: “Leave your city woes behind and get ready to go wild — literally. Join us for some quality time in the woods to reset, hug nature, hang with your fellow sistren, and indulge in the weekend of your campiest dreams.”
So that’s just what I did. I decided pretty early on that if I was going to have a good weekend, I was going to have to let go of some of my shyness and just do it. I threw on my Tevas (they’re stylish now, right?) and my Everlane jean shorts (also on-brand) and I wholeheartedly embraced camp. Okay, I embraced certain parts of camp — I slept through both the sunrise yoga and mindful meditation sessions, and opted to nurse a cup of coffee instead of sweating it out in a HIIT class. While I wanted to push myself to try new things, I also wasn’t going to get mad at myself for not going full Alpha at the camp’s offerings. That turned out to be the perfect attitude since so much of the discussion at Camp No Man’s Land was about something all modern women think about: forgiving ourselves.
In that vein, I didn’t get cranky when my the seat of my jeans got soaked while sitting on damp logs during a conversation between Taryn Toomey (founder of the cultish workout program The Class) and Doree Shafrir (writer and podcaster). Because everyone’s butts were wet, and what did it matter anyway? There wasn’t really anyone there to impress. And Toomey was fascinating. She was so vulnerable talking about her relationship with her mother, the career unhappiness that lead her to start The Class, and her own struggle with body dysmorphia. But the highlight of the session was when she led campers through one of the exercises she does in her classes. We closed our eyes, focused on our breathing, waved our arms in the air, grunted, and ultimately said a little silent apology to ourselves. Women are their own worst critics, and Toomey gets that.
The theme of forgiveness continued during Aminatou Sow’s session on harnessing your ambition. She almost immediately opened up the conversation to the room, giving women a chance to voice their thoughts on the topic. Women from all different backgrounds shared personal stories of their complicated relationships with money, and there were more than a few who expressed feeling guilty for spending money on themselves. “How do I push back against my friends who give me shit for having a Wing membership?” one woman asked. “Why do I feel bad that I earn more than my parents ever did, and how do I manage that guilt?” asked another, talking about trying to reconcile her own money journey with that of her immigrant parents. Sow pushed the crowd to embrace their ambition, demand fair pay, and to stop feeling bad about it. “I don’t work for exposure,” she said. “People literally die from exposure.”
Sow and the audience were also eager to talk about privilege, and it was a topic that came up again and again over the weekend. Later in the afternoon, Shafrir sat down with her Forever35 podcast co-host, Kate Spencer, to talk about self care. It’s a topic that’s everywhere right now, and at times feels a bit overindulgent and expensive (after all, this is an industry that’s thriving thanks in part to Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop). Shafrir and Spencer tried to argue otherwise — that yes, self care can involve an elaborate skin care routine, but it might also involve paying your credit card bill on time each month.
Of course the weekend wasn’t just about deep conversations on ambition and privilege and guilt and money. It was grown-up camp, afterall. I had a facial. I went swimming in a mountain lake and slid down a giant inflatable slide. I got fitted for a hot pink Nike sports bra. I ate s’mores at a campfire and danced to “Mama Mia” at the Camp’s prom. I attempted to make a friendship bracelet. And I met a ton of really interesting, smart, funny, self-aware, and kind women — women working in tech and crisis PR, at the World Bank and for a huge financial firm, lawyers and engineers and architects and the woman who is a two-time world memory champion.
Saturday night, the all-girl band The Aces performed. The four-piece are super young (early twenties) and super cute, and their energy was infectious. “I’ve never felt more confident than I do right now, standing on this stage, playing before all you awesome women,” the lead singer Cristal Ramirez said with so much enthusiasm my heart burst a little. I was also a little jealous. Where were these women when I was 22?
The good news: I found them at 37. Yes, you might argue, this exclusive sistren comes at a high cost that inevitably excludes some people. But these women are aware of their privilege, and so many I met are actively trying to use that privilege to help others, stretching out a hand to help the women following behind them. These women are going to change the world whether you like it or not — and that’s something undeniably cool.
The Wing paid for travel and accommodations as part of a press trip the writer of this story attended. However, The Wing did not approve or review this story.