Recently I had the honor to be chosen as one of the counselors for the Exploring New Horizons program at Camp Loma Mar, where I would be in charge of and living with eight to ten sixth graders for five days in a beautiful place out in the natural wilderness called Pescadero. You could imagine the tender nostalgia I felt when I stepped onto the soft soil and looked around to a place where I was so familiar with five years ago when I was a sixth grader.
Let’s just say outdoor school was awe-inspiring. Just five days made me feel so different. I’ve never gotten first-hand experience with nature, dealing with kids, or being a leader but those several days have really found a place in my heart. The week I went had weather opposite of sunny and clear. There was non-stop, pouring rain and cold wind throughout the week, which, naturally, had its downs. There were times when I silently thought to myself, “I can’t wait until I can shower in my own shower and sleep in my own bed,” or “Oh, my Gosh, it’s so wet and I can’t feel my hands and my clothing is drenched and my backpack is soaking.” Let me tell you, it was definitely tough feeling my soaking socks cling to my numb feet that squished in my muddy hiking shoes with every step I took while simultaneously having to cheer up sixth graders who would refuse to see past the dreary weather.
Now, as I sit in front of the computer typing my feelings out, I want that feeling again. What I experienced was something deeper than just the pleasure of chatting with friends on Facebook and texting on my phone. I hope this feeling lasts because I really do need to be more aware of the outside world than just sitting in front of the computer all day.
As a sixth grader, I wasn’t aware of all the beauty and I didn’t really care, and I didn’t take a chance and open myself up to this new world. And honestly, I couldn’t understand. As a person so young, just out of elementary school, it’s hard to. But now, as I came back as a junior with a faded memory of outdoor school, I was able to relive the joys of being away from home and into a great experience of bonding and the outdoors.
People add people on Facebook and say that’s a “friendship.” But within five days, the people I have never even seen in my life before and never talked to until that week, became closest to me than some people I’m friends with on Facebook. As technology advances, it still cannot deny the power of bonding through real connections in real life. Come to think about it, I’ve bonded more with some of the people I just had met more than the people who I would say I’m close to!
Furthermore, being exposed to what the naturalists do for a living really asserted the point that you don’t have to be a successful man or woman making a lot of money to be happy. The pure joy of teaching youth about nature through songs or hikes reflected off their shining faces every single time. And you know it’s genuine when you realize they’ve been doing this for years and they don’t get tired of it. The gorgeous thing about them was that they all possessed talent, wisdom, depth and confidence that I admired greatly.
Hopefully, I will be returning to Camp Loma Mar again as a counselor next year. To whomever reading this: definitely apply to be a counselor at this magical place because of the fun experience and perspective you will get out of it. It’s pretty rad.