By Josh Goldbach, associate and regional director:
Greetings from the Northwest!
Our opening day began a bit early, when I picked up our first student Ariane from Belgium the evening before. Even though she was a bit jet-lagged, she was excited for the trip to begin. As a regional director, airport day is one of my favorite days. As instructors, we are nervous and excited to meet our students, and all the students are nervous and excited to meet everyone.
I was pleased to see how easily everyone interacted with each other early on. As we waited for the rest of the students to arrive, we all played Uno in the airport. Once we had a critical mass of students, I took the early arriving group to a park to play games and have some fun.
Even though it was raining, we had a lot of fun playing games in a covered space. Once everyone else arrived from the airport, we all greeted each other and sat down to eat some pizza. After lunch, I shared some insights about how to create a successful community and highlighted some expectations for the trip. I introduced their instructors, and their trip leader Dennis gave everyone a vision for the trip.
After lunch, everyone loaded up in the vans and headed out to their first campsite at Lake Sylvia State Park, where we scored a beautiful campsite on the edge of the water. One of the instructors, Michael, had stayed behind to set up the first campsite and cook Yahoo dinner: steak, chicken, fruit salad, and potatoes. It’s our way of saying welcome to AT, and it helps ease any food anxieties (we eat a lot here!). We let everyone go to sleep early, as we had some jet-lagged east-coasters.
Today, they’ll be learning how to cook at Adventure Treks, going for a day hike, and preparing for their first backpack on the Olympic Peninsula. I’m excited for this group, and all the students seem happy to be here. I’ll be spending a good bit of time with this group—approximately 8 days total. I’ll see them after their first backpack when I meet them in Bend for rock climbing and mountain biking. Thanks for sending us great students!
And now some words from Dock…
Today began with more “icebreaker” games, as we challenge students to learn everyone’s names before lunch. This is usually an easy task, as students know each other from the activities in the park and in the van from day 1. Students broke up into small group cooking classes at breakfast (where they learned to cook French toast) to help build a connection with instructors and feel comfortable in a small group setting, all while learning essential trip cooking skills. Preparing food together and sharing a meal is a great way to form a foundation for new friendships.
After breakfast, the three small groups went on a day hike to continue getting to know each other. These small groups, combined with an electronic-free environment, are key to building an intentional community.
It’s easy to build a community when you are isolated from the outside world. With no social media or school pressure and strong, kind leadership from our instructor team, we are able to share the values that promote being a contributing and valued member of a community. It takes everyone’s energy and commitment to complete the many tasks needed for the success of an Adventure Treks expedition (cooking, cleaning, setting up tents, sorting food, packing the trailer, inspecting vehicles, setting up stoves, collecting drinking water, keeping the site clean, etc.).
Before the first backpack starts tomorrow, we teach the proper way to do many of these tasks. We try to build a level of basic competency so students will feel comfortable enough to eventually see what needs to be done and take initiative to voluntarily help the group. Viewing the big picture is just one of the skills that we hope stays with our students long beyond the adventure. When covering new skills, we begin by teaching and modeling, and we follow with practice. Students gain understanding as our instructors pull back, coach, and delegate. It’s all about helping students gain maturity, responsibility, and leadership.
The students have now entered a world completely different from home. No running water, sleeping in a tent with two other people they just met, constant immersion in a community of teenagers, and (probably the biggest difference) no internet or phones. We hope you agree that this new environment forms the basis for an unforgettable growth experience.
Adaptation to this new way of life can be stressful at times, but please know that we emphasize fun. We play a ton of games, and the social aspect of the trip is paramount. We know our true competition is digital media, so we know we have to make AT as fun as video games to hold our students’ attention. The games we play are all face-to-face, but like they do when they play a video game, our students have entered a new world—one where they can choose to be a slightly different person than home, aka their best self. Because our instructors are “cooler” than parents, we hope our students will rise to other challenges more easily than at home!