Evan Prillhart, Guest Contributor • firstname.lastname@example.org
We left campus around 3 p.m. on the Friday before spring break. Our stuff was packed and we were ready to go to Florida. However, this wasn’t your stereotypical college spring break trip to Florida; this was the 2018 Emory & Henry Outdoor Program spring break expedition trip.
Every year the Outdoor Program takes a large trip like this, and this year it was kayaking through the Florida Everglades. 15 participants went on the trip, 14 students and one staff member, all with varying amounts of outdoor experience. The trip was a weeklong immersion in the natural beauty of the Everglades and a great trip for both experienced and beginner outdoor enthusiasts alike.
We drove all the way to the southernmost tip of Florida, to the Everglades National Park. There we split into out two paddle groups of 7 and 8 people respectively and got our individual and group gear together in order to head out into the 10,000 Islands area of the park. we got out of the van and on the water, the trip really began.
The trip was truly an immersive experience as we had almost no contact with the world outside out our own paddle group. Since the trip involves many opportunities for things to get wet, some of us (myself included) simply left our cell phones in the van for the week. It was therapeutic being cut off from technology for a while. There was no stress of checking emails. There was no worrying about what was going on in the news. It was just us paddling and becoming closer with the other members of our paddle group.
Alex Versen, the Assistant Director of the E&H College Outdoor Program, said, “It takes more than one day in the woods to allow yourself to disconnect from the world that we live in. We’re so used to being constantly engaged with school, with friends, with technology, that it takes a while to allow yourself to disconnect from that.” Ryan Anderson, a first-year E&H student and member of my paddle group shared this sentiment too. He said that the trip was a good length to really disconnect from everything and to “experience all the wild had to offer.”
This is the first trip of this scale that Anderson has been on, in the Outdoor Program or otherwise. He said it was the first time that he had been out in the wilderness for an extended period of time and said that “[he] thought it was awesome.” Anderson described it as a challenging experience, but also as a trip that he would do again and would definitely recommend.
The trip was very challenging, but it also was a lot of fun and a unique opportunity to become closer with the people in your paddle group than one might outside of a trip like this. We worked hard paddling for many hours each day, but even during the toughest parts you could hear people having conversations about books or movies and constantly making jokes and just generally enjoying each other’s company.
The trip also created strong bonds between paddle group members. We all went through the same struggles and triumphs together and we bonded over it all. We all got to know each other better as we worked together during the trip. We relied on each other get through personal and group struggles and we celebrated personal and group successes. We gave each other nicknames and had running jokes throughout the trip.
This all made the trip a much more enjoyable experience than it might have been otherwise. As Versen put it, “Typically these are experiences that push people well out of their comfort zones, so it’s a time where it’s really important that you have people you can lean on and be supported by.”