“I am in this world to change the world.” – Muriel Rukeyser
These are the words plastered on the shirt I received in the mail from Claremont Graduate University after traveling to California and deciding to accept their offer of admission. No, I didn’t visit Claremont, California in my trip (where the school is located). Instead I took a camping journey that lead me away from my corporate cubicle, constantly buzzing cell phone, and overbooked schedule. I went to Joshua Tree National Park to camp for two nights, followed by a direct stay at the Channel Islands National Park, and a last night camp on the Point Mogu Beach. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this escape into nature was exactly what I needed to be able to make up my mind about graduate school.
My good friend Kate and I left on Thursday morning. The journey started in Saint Louis, Missouri when we had to walk our bags, camping gear, and last minute honey lattes from a local coffee shop to the metro station – approximately half of a mile. Our anticipation mounted as we sat on the half hour train ride, five hours of flights, and trip to the car rental station.
My first lesson on this trip was to learn to trust myself. Kate and I had a misunderstanding about the car rental situation. We showed up on Thursday unable to find an economy car and at the age 24 instead of 25: the age at which they negate to charge an extra $27 a day for the car rental. In short, I was over budget at hour one. As we started our three hour drive to Joshua Tree National Park I had to accept the serenity I forced upon myself that everything was going to be ok even though we had a rough start. It became easier to be calm as we started to see mountain peaks and smell the fresh, elevated air of the San Jacinto Mountain. I had accepted it. I accepted my circumstances and decided to trust that no matter what this trip was going to be freeing, relaxing, and I wouldn’t remember my pesky little budget problem in five years anyway. I will remember that I made it to the park in a rental car of adequate ability.
My second lesson on this trip was to be open-minded. Upon our arrival at 11pm (1am in my Central Standard Time) the no-reserve campsite was full at our decided “Jumbo Rock” site. I had to make the decision of camping in an unofficial site to catch up on sleep or driving to get to the next site, approximately thirty miles away. I decided to find an available spot in nature, even though not available in campsite and set up tent. We could explain our dilemma to the park rangers in the morning.
Our temporary tent set up was a raging success. We got some sleep, left, and re-entered the park in order to pay the admittance fee. The next two days were spent hiking Ryan Mountain and Lost Horse Mine Trail, climbing in the Wonderland of Rocks, and jogging down the Willow Hole Trail. After two very full days in Joshua Tree it was time to head to Ventura and catch a boat to the Channel Islands.
Travel by this point was on cruise control. GPS in the car and good execution with our schedule made for a smooth transition to the next camp ground. Except once the boat dropped us off on the side of the island where no other passengers disembarked, “Prisoner’s Harbor” we received three messages from the captain.
1. Don’t fall off a cliff.
2. Don’t burn anything down.
3. Don’t touch the rat poop.
This message, although unexpected, was not the exception to our smooth transition from Joshua Tree. The biggest challenge was hauling 35 pounds of camping gear, water, and food to our camp site through four miles of hilly terrain.
This terrain made the challenge I had to push through in order to come to my third lesson. My third lesson was that I could do anything I set my mind to. Taking time to reflect made me realize that I get caught up in day-to-day life so easily. I become task and short-term goal oriented. Although it is a big step to leave a stable job in the corporate world, it is a step that needs to be taken in order to achieve the next level of my dreams.
My camping trip was more than I ever could have sought in an outdoor adventure. I survived five nights of camping and made a decision that will help me thrive for the rest of my life.
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