Former student Spencer Butts, who did five Adventure Treks trips and is now a freshman at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, shares how his AT experiences have helped shape his life so far. (Spencer will be joining Camp Pinnacle for his first year as a counselor this summer!)
What was your “aha” moment when you realized the impact Adventure Treks has had on your life?
Honestly, my “aha” moment was right after my first trip. The shy, anxious, and angry kid that I was disappeared on that trip. I finally broke out of my shell. I was a whole new person on that trip. When I got back home, I started to go back to my old ways… until it hit me. Why could I not be the same person that I was back on those trails at home? So I stopped caring about what other students thought of me in school and started focusing on the person I wanted to be.
How did AT give you the confidence to step outside your comfort zone?
No matter how confident you are with the outdoors, AT will most definitely push you out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s through all of the amazing activities or being thrown into an entirely new community, something will push you out of your comfort zone. The repeated experiences of meeting entirely new groups of people have certainly helped me with making friends in college. But I think the new experiences of trying all of the crazy cool activities have really made me love not being in my “comfort zone.” In these activities, you have a team supporting you, but you are mostly relying on yourself. This self-reliance has given me the confidence I need to be thrown into new situations. In a way, I am now comfortable with being uncomfortable.
How do you think your AT experience has helped you socially in college?
Adventure Treks has wiped away most of the social anxiety I previously felt with meeting new people. This made it really easy to, you guessed it, meet new people. But in all seriousness, I think Adventure Treks has allowed me to be confident with myself and as long as you have that confidence, you can get to know anybody.
Let’s talk about practical life skills for a minute. In what ways has AT helped you develop independence as a college student?
At Adventure Treks, we were given a lot of time to ourselves to think. Through this free time and support from instructors, I feel that I could look inward and see what I needed to do to improve not only as a community member at AT, but as a person, too. I have held on to this valuable life skill since then and have been applying it to my daily life twenty-four-seven. I have stopped worrying about what others think of me, but rather think of how I view myself. Adventure Treks showed me the importance of being “the best that I can be.” With this thinking, I would like to say I have become a generous and amicable person.
How did AT help you figure out who you are as you entered college?
Adventure Treks helped me figure out who I wanted to be after the first summer session I did. Now at college, I am finally who I want to be. I’m definitely not a rocket scientist, but Adventure Treks has given me the confidence and the drive to work to my own aspirations. For being a freshman in college, I am A-OK with that.
How do you describe your AT experience to your friends in college?
Whenever I talk to my friends about Adventure Treks, I usually start by saying what physical activity I did and where. The response is what you would think: “Why would you ever put yourself through that?… I mean wow, that’s so awesome!” But I always seem to fail to explain what AT really meant to me. Maybe it’s the detail that goes into explaining all of what goes on at Adventure Treks. Or maybe “you had to be there.” All I know is that it usually comes down to something like this: The summers I spent at Adventure Treks were the best summers of my life.
How has AT influenced your chosen major or career path?
Adventure Treks gave me the confidence and independence that I needed to finally take the leap to follow my dreams of being a music major. It took a while until I could say that confidently.
How often do you stay in touch with your Adventure Treks friends?
A lot of my friends actually had a reunion last summer, which sadly I could not attend. But I ended up seeing some friends back in my area, which was really nice. I am also looking forward to working with a bunch of Adventure Treks alumni this upcoming summer at Camp Pinnacle in North Carolina. The friends you make at AT can be for life. Just stay in contact and you never know how or where you might run into them.
What would be your advice to students who are new to AT and nervous about embarking on their first trip?
Try not to have any preconceived notions of what you think it will be like and let yourself be fully immersed in all that is AT. Try to make everyone on the trip feel at home, and you will too!