- This project consisted of a 21 day, once in a lifetime adventuring trip across Australia and New Zealand during which each participant had to perform a leadership role at least every other day. These varied from leading and navigating the hikes to cooking meals for the group and everything in between. The activities included lots of hiking, sky diving, surfing, kayaking, bungee jumping, jet boating, swimming in the great barrier reef, and exploring the cities.
- My understanding of myself changed the most. The physical and situational environments I was in were very new to me and forced me to grow as a person. For as long as I can remember I have never been in such a carefree position. It was sensationally liberating and my mental health improved drastically. I came back a much more positive and thoughtful person probably because I was able to take some time and introspect for once. I learned how to let go a little bit and not feel the burning need to micromanage, an improvement to my leadership abilities which is what the STEP side of this project was all about. And I learned that it’s beneficial to take a break from the hyperconnected society we have built around the internet in favor of making real connections with people.
My view of the world also changed quite a bit. I had only recently become interested in travelling and was hoping this trip would be able to confirm whether I actually enjoyed it or not. It’s funny because it not only reinforced that suspicion but it instilled a burning desire to explore the world more. All I can think about since I got back is where I should go next. All the activities we did there, the people we met, the sights we saw, all of it was invigorating and I just want to experience it again and again.
- A lot of this growth came about through the activities and interactions I had with my fellow project participants. We were without internet for 3 weeks which meant I had no easy escape from socializing. This forced me to get to know these new people I was travelling with which helped me evaluate and improve the way I interact with others. That was especially cool because I came into the trip not knowing a single person but I left having made a connection with every single one of them, something I didn’t think would happen in such a short period of time. I’m very grateful for this since it was really the people that made this trip so spectacular. We also had random reflection moments where we would take 10 minutes alone on a hike or the beach or something to think about what we were doing there and how we were using this trip to become better people.
On the leadership side of things, we were given assignments every other day that ranged from preparing the meals, to leading hikes and activities. At the end of the day we were given an evaluation of how we did. It was interesting to see the improvements that were made to our leadership skills over such a short time. The feedback was immensely helpful and the fact that we got to do multiple rounds meant we could focus on getting better and then see if we had succeeded. It was a unique experience because we got to learn by performing rather than just watching or listening. And since we were trading off roles, the days we had off we had no responsibilities and could enjoy being on such an amazing trip without any kind of stress or deadline looming over our heads. It was a much needed break from the real world and gave me a better attitude for approaching life.
Regarding the change in my view of the world, it was definitely the result of all the cool stuff we saw/ did and the people we interacted with. We swam in the great barrier reef, hiked through rainforests and canyons and over mountains, kayaked in mountain ringed lakes, explored cities and did some extreme sports (skydiving, bungee jumping, jet boating, etc.). It was incredible to have so many new experiences and to see such pristine wilderness that some other countries have preserved so much better than ours has. My appreciation for Australia and New Zealand has increased ten-fold and that desire to see more is what has brought about my elevated interest in travel. It was really cool that there was nothing but encouragement from the people I met too. No one said anything like, “oh that looks scary, you shouldn’t do it,” they all said, “that looks exciting, you should go for it!” This is exactly why I found the courage to do so many cool things I thought I’d never do and it is something I will be forever grateful for.
- These changes I have undergone are all very important to me. As a student and soon to be graduate, I have learned new techniques for leadership that will be applicable in my studies and future career. As an individual I have learned how to be more positive and encouraging, as well as how to best interact with others. This has already been a tremendous help as I can see my relationships with people here improving every day since I got back. In terms of future plans, this trip has opened my eyes to so many possibilities. I actually made a list of things on the trip that I want to do over the next few years and even came up with some life goals, but that list is nowhere near complete and I look forward to adding to it. I have discovered a passion for something outside of my career and that is fantastic because I now have a much better idea of who I am. I can much better define myself in terms of something other than what I do/ will do for a living and a few hobbies. It feels good.