I knew I was anxious about the next ten days when our plane’s engine didn’t start in New York and I was actually relieved, quietly wishing that our flight would be cancelled, and thus the whole adventure. To my dismay, the engine finally started, 4 hours later, and we were off for a ten-day expedition in Patagonia. Fifteen hours of flying and an hour’s bus ride later, we had arrived at our destination: Coyhaique, Chile, albeit short three students and several pieces of luggage.
One day later we were reunited with our classmates and belongings, finally ready for our adventure to begin. Our NOLS instructors divided the 25 CBS students into two teams and we spent the rest of the day getting set up with gear, eating, learning how to set up our tents, pack and navigate, eating some more, and finally discussing our personal goals for the next several days.
Before we knew it, we put on our 50-60lb backpacks and set off for the mountains, overwhelmed with the thought of walking hours on end with so much weight on our backs. We crossed our first river (very carefully and slowly), bushwhacked (timidly and slowly), cooked our first dinner (rather poorly and again, slowly), and set up our tents (you guessed it, slowly).
Exhausted from all the travel and anticipation, I excitedly jumped in to my tent, and suddenly it dawned on me that I’d be sleeping shoulder to shoulder with three others for the next 9 nights, with no opportunity to shower or change our clothes.
The next days were filled with rough and varied terrain, playing in the snow, strained backs, breathtaking views, blisters, revealing feedback sessions, cold fingers, glacier lakes, knot-tying lessons, sore knees, and (almost) always, lots of laughter.
Our breakfasts progressed from indigestible porridge to pancakes with dulce de leche. Meanwhile, our lunches degraded from trail mix and chocolate bars to spoonfuls of peanut butter as rationing proved too difficult for MBAs from New York accustomed to Seamless. We acquired a taste for mate, and got used to putting on wet socks and boots every morning. I even almost managed to get used to the smell of the socks and boots of my tent-mates (mine smelled brand-new to the end).
I expected to be self-sufficient, but didn’t expect to literally spend half of my time packing, unpacking, fetching water, boiling that water, cooking and adjusting my layers to keep myself warm. I expected day after day of rain, but was pleasantly surprised to be greeted with sunshine nearly every morning.
I expected long, strenuous days, but didn’t expect that sometimes these days would end at a location that was un-campable, forcing us to gather the energy to push on until we could find a location that was.
I expected our instructors to be experts in the outdoors, but didn’t expect them to also be experts in communication, leadership and personal development. All of these surprises enriched my experience and made this a trip and class that I will never forget.
Nearly 40 miles (it felt like 100), and 8,500 feet in elevation later, we reached our destination. It’s amazing to see how much changed in only nine days. We were much tougher mentally, stronger physically, and more efficient with our time. Not to mention the transformation in our culinary skills. More importantly though, we gained insight into our strengths and weaknesses and our preferred leadership and communication styles. And perhaps most impressively, we survived more than a week without our iPhones.
Post submitted by: Jennifer Dyck-Sprout ’14