The main activities of my STEP project included several days of service at a Native American historical site, backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and white water rafting down the Colorado river.
I had never really gone camping before this trip. This was a two-week long camping trip with 15 essential strangers in a pretty harsh environment. I learned a lot of skills from filtering water to efficiently setting up and tearing down campsites.
Another transformative aspect was being without service or internet for so long. It may be strange, but throughout my adult life I have always been connected to people through my cell phone. When going on this trip that connection was lost and it was a really new experience not having that accessibility for communication.
Well, the nature of the trip forced the transformations. When evaluating what I wanted to do with my STEP money and looking at programs, I knew that this one would push me in these ways due to its structure. A camping trip would expose me to living outside for an extended period of time which I had never done before. Being in Arizona, the climate would be much different than I have experienced living in Ohio my whole life.
Going into the trip I knew I would be forced to learn how to cook meals in back country with limited water and having to carry all our supplies with us. This meant learning how to cook, pack efficiently, hike with a backpack, and rationing/purifying water which were all new skills to me. Throughout the course of the trip, everyone was given alternating roles such as cook, cleaner, water chief, leader, scribe, etc to have us develop these skills individually.
A large transformation that was not foreseen really was the loss of cellular data and its effects. I did not use my phone for several days for anything and not having that constant connection to the world was really mentally clearing. Since coming back to Ohio, I have made it a point to put time limits on my phone usage to try and limit that dependence.
Another transformation comes from the service. We volunteered for five days at the Palatki Heritage site. We were able to reinforce the base of the ancient native american site and extend it’s lifespan an estimated 10-15 years from our work. The volunteers and staff explained to us several times the effect of what we were doing. Our work also saved their park thousands of dollars worth of labor costs. Being able to contribute something like this that is so meaningful to the locals was something I will never forget.
I was able to form strong interpersonal connections with 15 former strangers/peers and share an experience that will last my lifetime. The head trip leader mentioned something that struck a chord with me. He said that once we get out of the Canyon, nobody will understand what this trip was like, except each other. This is an experience that is truly only fully understood by these other members. Words cannot really give justice to the size and scope of the adventure we had. I made several great friends on the trip and we have group messages to stay in touch.
From this trip I feel more in touch with my nature side. I am much more confident in my ability to survive outside of technology and appreciate the great outdoors. I want to thank STEP for this opportunity as I really do feel like this was a transformative experience and I never would have been able to have it without this program.