This past May, I went on an OAC adventure/leadership trip for 24 days through-out the South Island of New Zealand, and the east coast of Australia. During this trip, we did everything from white water rafting, to jetboating, to skydiving and much much more. At the same time, we were also developing our skills as leaders, as well as creating tight bonds between us that will likely last a lifetime.
The biggest thing that I gained from this trip, is definitely a deeper capacity for compassion. I have always considered myself a very compassionate person to begin with, but these trips in particular have a way of really pushing that further than ever before. Being forced to spend every waking minute with the 23 other people on this trip creates a unique level of comfortability between everyone and thus leads to a situation in which you feel more willing to share the more personal parts of your life. In doing so, it has never ceased to fail just how wildly misjudged the people around you can be, and it’s always shocking the level of struggle people are dealing with on a daily basis.
This trip wasn’t my first rodeo. I had been on two previous OAC adventure trips, and had gotten a good taste of the things I could expect on it. The first trip I went on was to Costa Rica for a week long adventure/service trip. The dynamic of being on a trip like this with what starts out as a bunch of strangers was new to me. I didn’t have a clue just how much we would bond from this type of thing. Then towards the end of the trip we had an evening meeting where the conversation turned much deeper and more personal. I got to hear testimonials from my peers about the hardest things going on in their lives at the moment, and that was eye opening to say the least. Having experienced that once, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect going into this particular OAC trip to New Zealand and Australia. I was in for a big surprise however.
After about the first week of the trip we had an evening meeting that was very similar to the meeting I previously mentioned in Costa Rica. Everyone shared some deeper aspects of their lives that brought us all closer together. Some people shared some things that were a little more heavy than others, but regardless it was a chance for everyone to get something out there about their lives that not everyone would see on the surface. It was even moving enough to make our tour guide cry. That being said, it was something that I had been expecting so it didn’t quite have the same effect on me as it may have had on others. That was all soon to change.
After the second week of our trip we were called in for our evening meeting in which we had been warned that it was going to be long, as we had an “activity” that our leader wanted to do. We forewent the typical evening meeting stuff and went right into the activity. The activity was called scars. The way it worked was like this, you share a physical scar that you have somewhere on your body and tell the (hopefully funny or embarrassing) story as to how you got it. Then you share an emotional scar; A traumatic experience from your life that to this day it still hurts to talk about. This activity, in combination with the level of comfort we all felt with each other, went to a new level which I was not prepared for. Obviously, I cannot and will not discuss what was said within that activity, but I will say that those 23 people I was with are all warriors in disguise. It made me fully realize just how blessed I am in general, and how I truly have no grounds to complain about any of my struggles, because every single one of us on this planet is going through one of their own.
This perspective that I gained from this trip is applicable in almost any aspect of life. As I just mentioned, it will help me push through hard times in my life because I know my struggles aren’t as daunting as they can feel. It will also help me live a happier fuller life. With the mindset of true compassion for strangers, there is only room for love, and no room for judgement or hate. With only love to give, there can only be happiness to follow. I’ve already started to notice the difference this new perspective is making. In my current internship I have a fellow coworker who is hard to work with to say the least, and I’ve notice the general feelings towards him from other coworkers is not the best. Regardless, I am embracing him full on where others might avoid him, and making him feel valued and important while still helping him be a more competent worker in general.