Peace and Patience Under the Starlit Skies
Camping has always been an enjoyable activity for me. I enjoy being outdoors, away from technology, and focusing on the company of those that I’m with. From day hikes, to cooking together, to heart-to-heart conversations, to simply enjoying the beauty of Mother Nature—there is a lot of intimacy, patience, and peace involved in camping for me, all of which contribute to the joys of the experience.
Split into two groups of 15, for three days and two nights we went backpacking with a group of Educo Africa staff members, South African social workers, and classmates. Although I have camped many times before, this camping trip was quite different from all the rest. Instead of planning the activities and trip with close friends and family, I was at the mercy of Educo Africa staff members whom I had just met not too long ago, camping with 13 individuals whose names I barely remembered. Being uncomfortable and nervous about what was to come was an understatement. There wouldn’t be much privacy during this trip and I am not one to be so open with individuals who I just met. However, the discomfort and nervousness that I felt at the beginning of the trip led to one incredible experience that taught me a lot about the individuals who were very recently strangers to me, as well as a lot about myself.
Being in a new place, going through a new experience, with new people, and no outside distractions around brought out a lot of emotions within individuals. From hiking over rocky terrain with a 20+lb pack, to camping for the first time, to being surrounded by individuals who we really did not know for 36 hours, patience started wearing thin for some and the emotions came out in words and reactions. Being who I am, some of the words and reactions came off in a really negative, disrespectful, and degrading manner to me; really making it difficult for me to completely be myself and enjoy my time in the group. I had to take some of our solo time to dig deeper into what it was about these words and reactions that were triggering the emotions they were in myself. I had to remind myself that I still don’t really know the individuals who I was with and again, the issue of intent versus impact came up while reflecting on certain incidents. Being able to identify these emotions and triggers in myself, helped to create a bit more self-awareness and reminded me that I am a human being with my own emotions and triggers which will come up throughout my professional and personal life. Understanding where those emotions and triggers stem from can only help me better respond, instead of react.
While the getting to know one another and self-reflection times were great, my absolute, most favorite part of it all has always been the view of the beautiful, endless, starlit night sky. Being in the city, the majority of the stars are overridden and hidden by the congestion of our day-to-day routines. Thanks to the wonders of technology, and our reliance upon it, we are distracted and pulled away from the natural lighting that Mother Nature provides. However, no matter where we are in the world, we see the same night sky, reminding me that we are all connected in more ways than one. During our two nights camping, I awoke several times and each time I did, I was amazed at the brightness that the stars provided, in awe of their endless beauty, and lulled back to sleep by the peacefulness and serenity they provided.