I never thought a Brazilian man named Felipe could change my life. I never thought I would actually look back at NOLS and say “I wish I could go back.” Then again, I never thought I would be crazy enough to go to Wyoming and spend twenty three days in the wilderness. NOLS completely changed my perspective on everything, it taught me to approach tasks with an open mind and to re-evaluate items in my life that were truly “needed.” The relationships built on trail at NOLS are relationships that can prevail through much more than those built while at a leadership conference in the air conditioning. If we can climb mountains, cook food, and live in the same tent together, what is there that we can’t do?
I’m not going to lie, the first few days of NOLS were tough; I missed my home, I missed toilet paper, and, most of all, I missed my family. The first 5 days of the trip were definitely the least enjoyable for me. This period was increased in difficulty with the triple evacuation of Seth, Kaylyn, and Daiana; seeing them go was like losing members of a family. Re-starting our expedition after the unexpected evacuation was not easy, but I feel it honed our leadership skills by forcing us to uplift one another, to “carry on,” so to speak, and to value ISGE (independent student group expedition) more than before. The evacuations were a clear picture of how dependent we were on the instructors and the branch; we knew we had a long way to go until we were truly prepared for ISGE. When the time did come, I was voted designated leader by my peers to be the “instructor” for the remaining three days. The second day of this three day ISGE period was the most fun I had over the course of the entire expedition; there were no trails for miles. Part of the reason I was chosen as DL (designated leader) was due to my navigation skills using the GPS and maps, it was fun for me to be able to travel without trails and only utilize my brain. This second day of ISGE was perfect for this type of travel, we hiked off trail for nearly twelve hours! Day 22 left me with a clear reflection on what it meant to be successful as a Levine Scholar: utilize your brain, don’t let the trails of others misguide you on your journey to success. We were able to utilize our brains to blaze our own trail on day 22, and at the end of the day it was awesome to look back at the map and say “We just did that!”
NOLS is something I will never forget. When I say it changed my life I truly mean it; it changed the way I do all things throughout my daily routine. I can’t thank our instructors (Audrey, Jason, Felipe, and Kate) enough for all that they did for us to make sure we all returned home in one piece. Before we went on NOLS I wondered why Billy would ever want to do it every summer, but now I can see why: it’s the trip of a lifetime every year. Looking back on all that we accomplished in Wyoming, this semester doesn’t seem so difficult, it’s just another mountain.