I went on the Second Year Outdoor Leadership Experience with the Outdoor Adventure Center. We backpacked for two weeks through Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and the John Muir Trail. For the first 8 days on the trail, each participant had the chance to be leader of the day. This consisted of deciding the route, how many miles we would hike that day, when we would fill up on water, when we would stop for lunch, how often we would take breaks, etc. Each leader of the day also had a leadership topic and an outdoor specific skill that we taught to the group. Then at the end of the day, we would reflect around the campfire and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the leader of the day.
Once leader of the day was over, we had to work together as a group of leaders to decided how the day would go. It was very interesting to watch the dynamic change in the group. Some people had more dominant personalities when it came to stepping up at leaders, while others didn’t mind being “participants” and just doing what the group wanted to do.
This trip ended up being a trip of a lifetime. Something that I will never forget, and for many reasons. It was nice to get away from “real life” and all the responsibilities that came with it; to put our electronics away, and just soak up nature in its rawest form. This trip was not only one of the most beautiful trips of my life, but by far the most intense experience of my life. Mentally, physically, and emotionally, this trip broke everyone down and taught us all something about ourselves that we never expected. This trip made me realize that backpacking, being in nature, and having that time to reflect is the best way to revitalize and cleanse your soul (I know, its cheesy, but true).
I have always felt uncomfortable being a leader, and I came to realize on this trip that it was because I hated the attention that comes with leadership. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t agree with what you’re doing, so no matter what, you’ll be ridiculed. I didn’t really notice this until it came up as a discussion topic one night. I told the group that I would rather sit back and let someone else be the leader and would only step up if no one else did. It surprised me when another participant told me that she thought I did a great job as a leader, especially leading by example. Hearing someone tell me that they noticed my hard work, or the fact that I went the extra mile helped changed my opinion of what a leader is. I think this trip taught me that leadership is not a cookie cutter discipline. There is no right or wrong. There are so many different ways to lead, and one leadership practice for one person might not be the most beneficial practice for the next.
The trip also taught me a lot about myself. I don’t share my feeling with many people, but being able to open up to this group helped me come to terms with a lot of what was going on in my head (I’m not crazy. I swear lol). It made me more confident in who I am as a person, who I want to be, and made me feel like I was enough (although I have to remind myself that now and again).
I don’t think that this trip changed how I am as a leader, but it made me more aware of my leadership. I never noticed that I lead by example, but I find that I ask myself more often whether I should step up and take on a more prominent leadership role, or whether it is best suited for someone else.
I think that this experience has helped me grow, and change as a person. I feel that it has made me realize what is important in life, and what I should learn to let go of. I also learned that standing up for what I believe in is never something I should be criticized or ridiculed for. This is all important because no matter where we go in life, we will all be in some sort of leadership role. We need to be able to realize what’s important, what’s best for the group, and what’s worth standing up for.