My STEP experience was a leadership intensive trip with the OAC (Outdoor Adventure Center) to the Grand Canyon this past May. Our team backpacked through the canyon and got to know each other while working together to accomplish various activities to make the backpacking trip successful and enjoyable. We all took turns in charge of a variety of tasks ranging from group leader, map/compass guide, cooking crews, and so on. This way we received a holistic approach to backpacking through the canyon and maximized our experience.
The most crucial thing that I learned from my trip is that most things are a team effort rather than an individual effort. I think that’s something everyone acknowledges but not something everyone necessarily understands. I’m used to being fairly independent and taking responsibility for my actions and sometimes the actions of others. I subscribe to the philosophy that “if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself”. There are definitely instances where that view is valid, but I’m reaching a point in my life where I am beginning to engage in larger group efforts and projects that need cooperation and team unity rather than individual work. The backpacking trip was a great lesson about how more complex activities cannot be an individual effort.
There were a few key moments in the canyon that helped me learn why many activities are better executed when done as a team effort. The first night we were in the canyon we made a dinner of jambalaya and rice. I’ve been camping before, but we always made camp before the sun went down. We got into our campsite late because we had to make to this stream for water, which also meant we had to make dinner in darkness. It was pretty difficult and one person could not have done it alone. One personneeded to hold a light while other people could cut and prepare food. The dinner was satisfying and we all felt accomplished that we made dinner in the dark.
The next morning we started our morning with breakfast and broke camp. We were camping a few miles that day to the next water source, and needed to consult the map and compass to get there. I can use a map pretty adeptly but I don’t really know how to use a compass. Our team leader did however and we took turns learning how to use the compass and map to navigate our way through the canyon. This made me realize that one person is almost never going to know all the necessary components to completing a task.
Lastly, a day or two later we were hiking to our final campsite before we left the canyon. It was the hottest day we experienced while in the canyon. Our OAC group leader said the temperature was about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. This time, there was no special task accomplished. It hiking was strenuous, but just the simple fact that I had other people who were there that were going through the same thing helped me realize that this was really a team effort. We ate and made camp together, which were successes, but we also had to suffer a little bit as well together. This built camaraderie in the group. Some people also got annoyed with each other along the way, but at least for me I actually felt more connected to the rest of the group.
Having learned that group efforts are both more enjoyable and productive than individual efforts, I feel more prepared for my professional career as well as set up for success in my personal life. It’s not that I feel like less of an individual, but rather I think that I am better situated for group tasks and efforts. This well definitely help me in my career. I plan to go into business, where group interaction and group projects are critical for success. As for my personal life, group gatherings will be more fun and enjoyable. I’m very grateful I had the opportunity to participate in STEP. I have a greater appreciation for travel and the outdoors, I met many friends through the program, and I learned valuable lessons I will carry with me and utilize.