The journey of a lifetime. The breathtaking scene of the rocky mountains painting jagged peaks across the horizon. Experiencing John Denver’s “rocky mountain high” for the first time. This was not a vacation; it was a week-long journey at the J. Kyle Braid Leadership Ranch in Villa Grove, Colorado. Here I discovered a feeling of connection that I lacked the past sixteen years of my life and passions bigger than I thought my little five-foot-four body was capable of. These emotions were aroused through an array of demanding physical activities and frequent bonding time.
The ranch is a leadership opportunity unlike any other and Colorado is its perfect location. It provides a beautiful environment to inspire and challenge young leaders physically and mentally. Everything we learned was reinforced with hands-on activities that forced you to use new concepts and think in new ways in order to succeed. White water rafting enforced a high concentration of teamwork and precision in order to keep the raft from flipping on the class four rapids. Challenges on the ropes course taught us how to cooperate with each other, be proactive and creative in our thinking, and always keep an open mind. Multiple hour treks on horseback helped us gain respect for the beautiful animals and environment around and forced us to be resourceful and efficient.
Along with the physical and mental benefits of these activities, the emotional benefit was very profound. Personally, spending time alone in the depths of nature made me feel more at home than ever. It is a place where I belong, a feeling that no city or group of people can give. Our connection to nature and the environment has long faded, and this feeling is something that everyone should experience in their lifetime. We as one people should be living as a part of the earth, not as an owner of it. Places like Colorado, places that have not been disturbed by the treks of man, offer a sense of harmony that will be lost forever should we destroy what has helped us come so far. Nature is brutal, but it is beautiful; it is unpredictable, but it is accepting. Its deepest use has not yet been discovered by the majority of people- the ability to inspire, to awaken, to revitalize, and to make one feel more connected in its most untamed places than any niche found in the comforts of society.
The valuable skills and knowledge with which I returned have influenced everything from my values to my life goals. The thrills, the opportunities, the challenges, the songs of the scenic wilderness… all have filled me with a feeling of satisfaction I have never taken from any other trip. Now, I do not travel to get away, rather I travel to come home.
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