When I was 15 years old, in my last year as a camper at summer camp, I went on a week long canoe trip in Atikokan, Ontario, Canada, not far from the Boundary Waters. The trip started with a black bear sighting, and a thunderstorm after only about an hour of our full day of canoeing. In the seven days that followed I worked harder and laughed more than I ever had in my life and as we paddled on our last day of the trip, when the pickup spot was first visible on the horizon, I lifted my paddle over my head, yelled with excitement, and cried, because I had made it through a trip that challenged me in countless ways. I learned that I was capable of so much more than I thought and I first recognized my strength as an individual.
Since that Canadian canoe trip, I have only grown as a person, using the foundation of strength to work through whatever difficulties came my way. Deep down, I always knew that I could do it because I made it through that trip. A key piece of what makes me the person that I am was solidified during that one week. I have taken steps way outside my comfort zone, tried new things, and moved to new cities, because I knew I could do it.
Four summers after that trip, I took my next step outside my comfort zone when I spent a summer in London, working as a Fundraising Intern at a small organization. The foundation of strength established in Canada, expanded to a passion and self-confidence that completely changed my life. I left London a better version of myself because of the terrifying and exciting experiences I had. I have seen first hand how outdoor and travel experiences can change someone’s life. My experiences changed mine. I can say with complete confidence that I would not be who I am without those experiences. I wouldn’t be confident in myself, I wouldn’t have the same career aspirations, I wouldn’t have the same motivations or drive to make a difference. Instead of fighting through and becoming stronger when facing adversity, I could have crumbled, struggling to carry the weight of those personal difficulties. I am a stronger and better person because of the experiences I had and given the chance, I will always do what I can to help others find themselves through their experiences. So when I first learned about Zugunruhe, I immediately knew I had to get involved and support an organization that provides outdoor and travel experiences similar to mine to underserved youth.