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Finding Inspiration: The Nature of Community

I was hungry for an adventure and itching to get away from life stressors, so I signed up for the Outdoor Program’s California Coast backpacking trip. All I brought were my clothes and eating utensils – they provided the rest. Backpacking had been on my bucket list for a long time, so I was ecstatic to check it off.

At 7:00 a.m. on the first Saturday of spring break, 10 tired college students, myself included, piled into a 12-passenger van with backpacks stuffed to the brim with camping gear. I was curled up in the back corner next to my roommates and some international students I’d met only once before the trip. We spent the next 12 hours learning about each others’ cultures, asking questions about our lives, telling stories, reading out loud and taking intermittent naps.

The minute we got to our first campground in Jedediah Smith State Park, I felt relief — both from the feeling of getting out of the van and knowing the adventure was about to begin. We all set up our tents and cooked burgers in the dark before going to sleep to the sound of the Smith River rushing past the campground.

The next morning I looked up and saw the sunlight poking through the California Redwoods that surrounded me. I was at peace.

I powered off my phone and recharged my soul.

Learning new things

You really get to know someone when you spend a week camping and hiking with them. There’s something about conversations on the trails that hit different. Whether it was playing a game of 20 questions or learning words in a different language, or even talking about our perceptions of God, the group of strangers became closer every day.

California Redwoods, despite being some of the tallest trees in the world, have shallow roots that are interwoven with the trees next to them. These massive trees support each other so they’re able to stand tall. This reminds me of the importance of community. Having a community of people that support and encourage you through life’s storms and keep you rooted in love helps us grow upward.

I also learned many more nuggets from my knowledge from my hiking buddies that:

  • Ferns are “fractals” which is a pattern that is repeated over and over down to the microscopic level.
  • The “cap” of my 70-liter backpack is called the “brain” which is where you keep the things you want easily accessible.
  • Trekking poles are lifesavers for your shoulders and knees.
  • “The trees are incredible” in French is “les arbres sont incroyables.”

Making connections to life

One of my favorite conversations was with a friend from Japan who always wore a smile and was prompted by curiosity. We sat on the beach drawing elementary maps of our homelands in the sand, and I traced an upward diagonal line with dips along the way to explain how life had been going. Despite a minor language barrier, we were able to connect on shared experiences and learn from each other through pictures.  I learned that no matter where people were are from or what they’ve experienced, there’s always some kind of common ground to be found — that’s where friendship is born.

This backpacking trip was a symbol of what this school year has felt like. I anticipated the journey with anxious excitement but was met with obstacles and grew tired the longer the trail continued. My 40-pound backpack felt heavier and heavier, but I got used to the weight and kept trudging along until I heard the faint roar of the ocean encouraging me that I was almost there. When I broke through the forest, I was surrounded by light and overwhelmed with a sense of relief that I could take my backpack off and run to the water for refreshment.

The moments of reflection and peace on this trip reminded me of the importance of being somewhere or doing something that revitalizes me amidst the demands of life. For me, it’s going outside and exploring, better yet, with friends. As the sun starts showing up again, look for pockets of time to get outside and get a breath of fresh air.

I can’t recommend the Outdoor Program’s outdoor trips enough! If I didn’t sign up, I wouldn’t have made the connections and had the conversations with the adventure seekers I met and now call friends.

That’s the nature of community.

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  • Molly


    Content Writer