Lessons from the Backcountry - My Family Travels

The day had finally arrived. After months upon months of planning, I was finally packing my bags, going over checklists, and running to the store to purchase even more unnecessary items. My bags were heavy (because, of course, I couldn’t leave anything behind) as I passed them to the baggage handler.

But as I boarded the plane, saying good-bye to my parents was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. When I entered the Colorado airport, I became increasingly nervous as I looked around and saw no one there to greet me. That fear was unjustifiable however, because at the top of the escalator was a tall, graying and robust woman, as bold as a pine tree in the middle of a field.

She was holding a large sign. After she lectured me about the importance of wearing my Girl Scout uniform, she pointed me in the right direction, baggage claim, and then waited for her next victim to mortify. The part of the trip that I was dreading the most was approaching: getting to know complete strangers.

I sat down, expecting to see a completely self-assured mountain-climbing machine next to me, but instead saw a mirror of myself: a girl, fidgeting and looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings. To my complete surprise, I found myself introducing myself to her. ‘Hi, my name’s Cori, I’m from Massachusetts.

Where are you from?’ ‘Pennsylvania. I’m Caia,’ she smiled and her fidgeting ceased. Over the next twelve days, I became much more outgoing than I ever was at school.

I battled rampant cold, waking up every morning to the frigid Colorado mountain air. I encountered tiredness — we rose early and stayed up late. Hiking with thirteen hormonal women in the backcountry made me irritable at times, so I had to fight not to lose it.

Hunger plagued us. Being a picky person, my diet at home consisted of cereal, pizza and milk. This isn’t accomplishable in the outdoors, so I tried foods I would have gagged at the sight of back home: burritos, hummus, and mushrooms were just a few of the many foods I sampled.

The worst was homesickness. Having never spent more than two days away from my family, I was constantly remembering and wanting them throughout the trip. I talked about my younger siblings and food more than anything else; I’m sure I drove everyone crazy. But when the trip came to an end, I realized I wasn’t ready.

After spending twenty-four hours a day with these girls for twelve days, they knew more about me than many of my school friends. We became very close, and still remain in contact. When I returned home, I arrived with a new sense of pride. I discovered that I can climb rocks. I can get stung by a wasp without any tears. I can make friends with complete strangers. I can survive homesickness. Whatever the occasion, I can rise up to it and accomplish anything.

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