When you can wake up on a piece-of-junk cot on a beach with a beetle the size of your palm crawling up your arm and do nothing but scrunch your nose, shake it off and roll back over and sleep again – that’s when you know you’ve had a long day. That moment when you realize you just “showered” in the same river you peed in twenty minutes ago, and are now washing your dish that you’ve used all week in it too, well, that’s pretty much disgusting. But when my family and my Uncle’s family went on a Colorado River-rafting trip, we realized what really was important in life.
â–º honorable mention 2012 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Day 1. I’m pretty sure the tour guides on the trip dub this day as the “awkward 24 hours where everyone makes small talk to get to know the other 40 people who thought it’d be a good idea to live on a river for five days.” Five days doesn’t really seem too long really, but when your restroom is called the “The Groover” that’s a portable toilet wedged behind some rocks; it’s a long time. So after pushing off from our starting point in Moab, UT, there was no turning back to the land of cell phone service, Facebook, and, well, civilization. As the day goes on, people begin to laugh with each other, find coincidences between distant relations, find out where everyone’s from, etc. By dinner time, everyone has their own private tents set up, sheets on their own cots, and are back with the individual parties they came with.
On this particular river trip, they’re nice enough to ease into the rapids slowly. So that means it’s day three before they break up the main raft into the smaller ones. These are the rafts that really let you feel the river. This is the time that you get slammed around by all the water tossing and hurling at you, and you wonder if your new-found buds have what it takes. Because you have to be in smaller groups and are in a semi-dangerous situation, this is kind of the day you really get close to people and find out who you can rely on. For me it was the large tattooed, beer-bellied secret-softies, because I knew they weren’t gonna let anything happen to 12-year-old mini me. But in real life and before this trip, I would’ve never stopped and given them the time of day. I watched my mom put her safety into my dad with her death-grip hand on his, and as I went down the river, I realized everyone became more vulnerable. It might’ve been because everyone was too exhausted, but no one bothered to put up a tent on day three. After dinner no one retreated to their own personal, private, tent. We all slept outside under the most beautiful star-speckled sky I’d ever seen. It was day three the fake laughs went away and you got the joy of hearing who snorted and who had the contagious laughs. It was day three I discovered it wasn’t going to be “civilization” I’d want to return to. Day three was the day we all looked around the bonfire and realized this is what life is about – loving who your with, enjoying the moment, and slowing down long enough to see the beauty of what a typical passerby overlooks.
So at the end of this extremely unusual “vacation” I walked away with an understanding I didn’t get on any of the other exotic trips my family had taken. As much as I missed my bed and plumbing, I knew I had experienced something better than those together. My uncle wasn’t that guy I just shared distant blood with anymore. My two older cousins became my actual cousins versus those awkward people I had to talk to at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Most importantly, the river changed the way my family looked at each other. We left our ending spot at Lake Powell the closest we’d ever been, and understood one another on a whole new level.
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