We’ve been joking since year one that Hanson’s Back to the Island event is basically Hanson Camp for adults. You make friends with strangers, do crafts, and go swimming and kayaking. You stay up all night talking and share a late-night snack around a bonfire. In the end, you hug everyone goodbye, tell them to keep in touch, and hope to see them next year. And with the announcement of a fifth installment for 2017, it feels like now more than ever it is becoming every bit as much of a reunion between friends as it was a nuanced event with Hanson in the beginning. Is it possible that one day soon, the term “camp” in Hanson context will stop drawing to mind sleeping bags and line drama and shift to thoughts of friendship bracelets, postcards, and bittersweet goodbyes? I don’t think we’re there yet, but it’s kind of a nice thought.
I recently saw a link to an adult summer camp called Soul Camp and was so fascinated to find out that adult sleepaway camps exist. I had no idea! The more I read about it, the more I thought “This is basically Back to the Island, but without Hanson.” These people return year after year solely for the fellowship and the fun with no common band to rally around, and it feels like solid evidence that maybe Back to the Island—or following a band in general—is about something bigger than a band. That maybe choosing to spend your hard-earned money to repeat an experience you’ve had multiple times doesn’t necessarily land you in the crazy fangirl groupie category after all, but in some bigger human connection category. People can say what they want (and they will), but choosing to pay a lot for the same experience over and over doesn’t have to be symptomatic of a crazy obsessed fangirl; it’s symptomatic of being a person that enjoys adventure and meaningful experiences and friends. It’s symptomatic of finding something worthwhile and being wise enough not to let it go, despite what anyone else thinks you should do.
I was already a little more aware of the concept of cruises with repeat attendees than adult camps. The Rock Boat would be my prime example, but even regular cruises without a music connection draw repeaters that have built life-long friendships aboard a ship of strangers. I came across an article on Buzzfeed called “I Tried to Become the Most Popular Person on a Cruise,” and while I think a more accurate title might be “I Tried to Become the Most Popular Person on a Cruise So I Could Write a Buzzfeed Article About It,” it struck me yet again that there is this entire subculture of people that return year after year to a specific event, and a large part of the reason is the opportunity to connect with other people. Sure, it’s a multi-faceted experience and a bit dismissive to say the only reason people return to these events is for the friendships, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s more to these experiences than the beautiful beaches, ships, tents, and convention halls that they’re held in.
I’m not sure what my end goal is with this post. I’ve been aware for years that Hanson shows and long-distance friendships go hand-in-hand, and I know I’m not the only one. I’m not trying to argue that any given audience member at a Hanson show is there more for the girl next to her than for Isaac (though is that really such a bad thing?), but I love that you can look at entire groups of people with no connection to Hanson or any band for that matter that exhibit the same behaviors as Hanson fans. We’re definitely part of a subculture of something, and I’m not so sure it always fits neatly in the “music fan” category. The best part is I think it has always been this way; nothing has changed except maybe my perspective. Maybe the thing I've described is adult fangirlism, or simply the result of growing up. I don't know exactly what we are, but the one label I'll claim is "happy."