My STEP project was an independent domestic travel project in which I traveled to and hiked the Grand Canyon individually. I used the funds to cover the cost of a guided hike so I could learn how to hike on my own, plan for long trips, pack properly and experience the Grand Canyon with an experienced guide.
This STEP project required that I plan and execute a whole trip on my own. That was the first time that I had ever been 100% responsible for the logistics and costs of a trip. Next, I had to figure out how to budget the whole trip to be nearly all covered by the STEP grant so that I could afford it. The project itself showed me how much I am interested in continued independent travel as well as adventurous outdoor activities. I learned how easy it is to do something I’ve never done before, seeing as I had never gone hiking before. I learned that my body can do more than I normally make it do, thus I can and should be more active in my everyday life. In addition, I also learned that, although I would like to continue my travel with adventures abroad, that the United States has many destinations here that should be added to my list.
This trip came at a time in my personal life where I was just getting past some stressful times and also anticipating more stressful times that I knew were going to begin in the coming semester. While I have typically had efficient coping mechanisms for stress, I felt as though I was beginning to be overwhelmed by my life and my grades, personal relationships, and mental health was suffering. That’s why I thought I needed a trip that was mostly on my own, because I needed to get myself away from everything and have a small check in where I could regroup and move forward. The trip was a success in that sense because I had more than enough time to work through all my thoughts and an environment, created by both the scenery and the company, that facilitated this. Being in the Canyon all day every day put the size of my problems in perspective while the other hikers on the trip, mostly older adults, told me about their lives and lessons they had learned. However, on this trip I did learn that I like more fast-paced physical activity than just hiking, so in the future I am going to incorporate more dynamic experienced and activities to remain engaged.
Among the hikers were father/son pairs, empty nesters, solo hikers like me and, of course, the guides. Ages ranged from youngest, 21 (me) to oldest in their late 50’s. Because I was the youngest, I got to benefit from the maturity of those around me. When we were hiking there wasn’t a lot of goofing around so we could all keep to our thoughts, and when we made camp at night, I got to listen to the stories of their lives. Some of them were traveling while their kids are at college. I got to ask them questions and receive some insight into their mentality, which, probably, is similar to that of my parents in regard to me. There was also the father/son pair from Canada who were completing a bucket list trip. As I saw them interact, I was reminded of the importance of family and how I normally use that to deal with stress in my life. I used that as a reminder, and it helped me move past some of the stress I had.
The activity of physically hiking all day and being outside for a week really helped to clear my mind of any of the negative energy that was lingering with me from the previous year. We hiked down 7 miles on the first day. Then, the next hikes were 2day hikes, then a 3 mile to Indian Garden and finally a 4 mile back to the South Rim on the last day. The first 7 mile left everyone’s legs sorer than they had ever been before. Still, the incline on the final mile of the exiting hike was one of the hardest for me. Despite being tired from the hike, and sad that my little adventure was about to end, I had to push myself to finish the last portion of the hike. It made getting to the top even better.
Together, getting to experience the Grand Canyon with people with a different view on life than I currently have offered me a lot of ways to contextualize what I was experiencing prior to my trip. Further, the physical activity helped to clear my negative energy by allowing me to work out my stress and focus my mind.
After the trip, I was able to more clearly identify the stressors of the previous semester and the ways in which I had failed to deal with them. The information I learned on the trip helped me to prioritize certain things in my life and tackle the small hill of responsibilities I had waiting for me back home. I hope to keep employing these lessons and perspectives that I developed on the trip in my everyday life to prevent stress build-ups like those prior to my STEP trip.