Here at The Journey Wilderness Experience, our clients are given the opportunity to earn “Journey Notes” – rewards for the good things that they do. These Journey Notes can then be used to purchase various items at “The Journey Store”. This includes a variety of things – some that may be considered frivolous and others that are more functional.
Winter camping provides an opportunity to watch these kids evaluate the value of these items in a new light. This past week we watched a young man wrestle with a decision between a bag of Skittles and a new water bottle that could be used with hot water at night to provide warmth in his sleeping bag. Clearly the Skittles were a prize that he desperately wanted, and he could have enough left over to get some other treats. However, the functional side of the “hottie” proved even more compelling and though it used up all his Journey Notes, he chose the functional side and went away with a commitment to doing whatever it takes to earn more notes to get the Skittles next week.
It’s great to see the growth in these young men and women. Perhaps for the first time in his life this young man chose to delay something he craved for something logical. Maturity comes in many ways throughout our lives and sometimes the small victories provide invaluable lessons for life.
Many of our clients come in shy, timid, out of shape and lacking self-confidence. We have the privilege of watching them blossom into very strong, capable people. It’s incredibly rewarding to watch this transformation, both physically and mentally, as they go through the Journey Wilderness Experience.
One particular client has discovered a determination and perseverance that will guide the rest of their life. There have been a lot of tears along the way but those have typically been met with hard work and a desire to push through. We have seen progress from begging for someone to do it for them, to simple requests for help to the recognition of strength that they no longer need help. Now, when help is offered, the response is “No, I’ve got this”. Now instead of struggling to drag a piece of firewood back to camp, this person is doing squats with the wood on their shoulders.
Doing hard things is a point of pride. What once was difficult, maybe even impossible is now routine and the results show in broad smiles and maybe a little embarrassment at the attention that it garners. Where in the past this person would have shut down and quit with feelings of uselessness, there is now a desire to be involved and the mantra “never be ashamed to ask” to be a part of things.
At The Journey Wilderness Experience, we love to see this growth, this discovery of untapped potential and particularly the knowledge that each one of us are capable of accomplishing hard things; that we are stronger than the day to day challenges we face. Growth comes from being pushed, frequently beyond what we thought we were capable of but with the right attitude and support, each one of us can say with confidence “I got this”.
What is it like to be a wilderness guide for at risk youths and adults? This was a question I was asked many times as I told my friends, family, and co-workers that I would leave my office job to live and work most of my time outside. I told them the basics because at that time that’s all I knew. I would say Ill be hiking every day for 8 days at a time, I’ll be changing lives of children and adults. I would be teaching skills for independence, I would be their chance to change and their chance to grow as better people, live greater lives like I knew they could. However, what I didn’t know is how they would change my heart, my desire to grow, and teach me humility that I thought I had already learned.
I had avoided the bedroll like the black plague, a bedroll is just what it sounds like, you fold your tarp or canvas hotdog style on the ground and place your sleeping bag on top of that, then you start to place your food bag, hygiene kit, food cup, jacket, underwear, second pair of socks, and whatever else you might think you’ll need when backpacking for six days in the dessert of Delta, Utah. At last, you start to roll this pack like pigs in a blanket. Once it’s all rolled up you tie it off and you better do it tightly. As for straps to carry it, you use your scarf they give you when you first arrive at The Journey. So… you can see why this was absolutely not at the top of my list of things I wanted to do.
So what’s the significance about doing a bedroll? Why then would you put yourself through that kind of misery? There are a couple of answers I could give, like maybe it was because my boss would hint from time to time that he would want me to experience it, or to become a lead guide you have to bedroll, but I think the most important answer would be because my students start their first two weeks with this contraption as part of the program. And If I want to be a better guide then I was going to need to walk in their shoes. By the end of my bedroll hike I knew that I had some big shoes to fill.
Every student goes through a honeymoon stage for his or her first week at the Journey. The student will do what you ask, keep their camp clean, smile, be respectful, and basically act as if this program is nothing. Clearly, they are tougher than this program and this experience, like some they have been through will not change them. However,… Read more →
The weather this week provided some interesting challenges and opportunities. After a hard week of cutting and stacking firewood for base camp the group decided to reward themselves with a hike up a nearby mountain. They arose early the next day to a snowstorm that showed no signs of easing up. To their credit, they decided that circumstances didn’t need to dictate their actions and chose to continue with their plan.
The hike proved challenging as they couldn’t clearly see where they were going or where the summit was but they pushed on and continued climbing. When they finally reached a spot that they thought was the top it was a complete white-out blizzard. Visibility was about 20 feet. After 10 minutes of rest, they determined it was time to get out of the storm and were about ready to return to camp when they saw a sliver of blue sky open up giving them hope.
10 minutes later, the storm had abated, the clouds cleared and they found an incredible 360 view. The mountains and valleys all around them were blanketed in white and beautiful sunshine provided an incredible view.
Life can often be like this for many of our clients who have lived much of their lives in a fog – in circumstances (often of their own choice) that have prevented them from seeing and appreciating what was all around them. Wilderness therapy provides an opportunity to step away from those “challenges” and clear their minds so that they can see the beauties of life that are right there, just waiting to be explored as they discover their true potential to become who they really are.