This past summer, I spent 2 months in Winter Park, Colorado with H2O Church, a campus ministry, to develop leadership skills and to engage with the gospel in new ways. While we were there, we also worked for 40 hours a week at the YMCA.
The main thing that was transformed in me during this trip was a love of nature and an appreciation for the natural world. Colorado, and specifically the Rocky Mountains, is one of the most beautiful places in our country. This is mainly due to the alpine conditions, and the amazing lushness of the mountains underneath. Luckily, during this summer, I was able to experience nature like never before, due to the weekly hikes I went on in my time off. Although I liked hiking before I went, it was not until this summer that I found peace in hiking. Now, I see it as a useful way to unwind after a long week, and a great way to center myself before a new week. This appreciation for nature has also given me a new fire for doing my best for the environment.
As mentioned above, it was the frequent hiking that most changed my life. Most important was hiking Long’s Peak, which is a mountain that is over 14,000 feet high. To summit it, my group left at 2 in the morning, and it took us at least 7 hours. During the hike, there was a 7,000 feet elevation gain, and in total we hiked 14 miles that day. Hiking something as challenging as this gave me many more skills than just my outdoor skills.
It taught me to rely on other people. The group I hiked with was one of many different skill levels and preparation levels, but all 20 of us summited that morning. There were some very tricky parts of the trail and times that you needed others to help you climb up. This is similar to everyday life. There are tricky parts, and there are going to be other people with more experience or a different perspective that can help you.
I also learned that I am stronger than I think, and that endurance is just as mental as it is physical. On the way back down the mountain, I was very very tired, but I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. This perseverence has obvious applications to everyday life, particularly in college, when assignments can feel overwhelming. Spending time in the intersection of motivation and perseverence was truly transformational, because it showed me that even tasks that seem impossible can be conquered one step at a time. This is something that I was previously lacking.
This change is important to my life because I have found that gaining a love and appreciation for nature, along with learning to ask for help and increasing my endurance has given me a better idea of who I want to be. It has also taught me how I want to handle problems. Spending time in nature, as well as excercising, are both shown to have a significant impact on reducing anxiety. Anxiety is something that I struggle with and I have no doubt will continue to be a problem as I move through various stages of life. Therefore, learning to control it in such a positive way is very important. Additionally, skills like learning to ask for help and perseverence are valued in the work force and will help me greatly.