Since coming back from the Patagonia Global Immersion trek I’ve been asked a lot about the trip and have found it difficult to express the details of the trip with words alone. Describing natural beauty is hard. Describing life-changing experiences is perhaps harder.
To help make sharing the experience a little easier, I created this short video shot over 8 days, during moments of physical challenge, personal reflection, and joy.
26 CBS students split into 3 separate groups recently made their way through the backcountry of the Patagonia wilderness over 8 days of hiking. Each group was led by two instructors from NOLS who taught us essential backpacking and navigation skills while instilling in us an appreciation for the power and beauty of the wilderness. Each day, the groups split up into hiking teams led by a Designated Leader from the team, responsible for delegating roles and leading their team to that evening’s destination. Each night at camp, the hiking teams would sit down to reflect, debrief, give feedback, and set plans for the following day.
Despite these structural guidelines for the trek, there was plenty of uncertainty and ambiguity to manage. Routes planned the night before were often revealed in reality to be impossible to traverse, requiring significant backpedaling or consideration of more difficult terrain. Beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine would be blown away before our eyes, replaced with strong gusts of wind and rain which forced us to scramble to put up tarps to keep dry. Aches and pains in our backs and legs would make us question whether we had the physical strength and fortitude to put on our 60-pound bags the following day for another full day of hiking.
MBA students are natural planners, and leading teams under this adversity and ambiguity was a challenge for many. Luckily, MBA students are also adaptable and quick to learn, and by the last few days we had the technical competency to navigate through the uncertainties of the wilderness with little guidance from our instructors. Instead of fearing the remaining adversity and uncertainty that no level of skill or experience could overcome, we learned to tolerate and at times even welcome it (an ability that we all hope to bring back into our “frontcountry” lives).
As business school students in New York City, our minds are always one phone buzz, ping, reminder, or alarm away from being pulled into a world of coffee chats, interview preparation, and social media interactions. Removed from those distractions in Chilean Patagonia, we experienced a level of flow and focus on the present that is almost impossible to capture in our daily lives. The expedition allowed us to press pause on the constant stream of information, responsibilities, and deadlines that run through our days, offering us the opportunity to reflect on personal goals, to appreciate the privilege that allowed us to experience such beautiful landscapes, and to center ourselves before facing head-on the last semester of business school.
Ever since I signed up for the GIP Patagonia excursion this past summer, I’ve been trying to imagine the upcoming expedition. Through reading previous year’s blogposts and looking at photographs of past treks, I have a vague idea of what to expect from the Patagonian landscape – magnificent scenery, starry night skies, and volatile weather that can swing from downpour to sunshine within an hour. However, I’ve found it almost impossible to imagine the emotions and feelings I will experience, from the full-body fatigue after grueling daylong hikes with a 60-pound bag to the euphoria of conquering a particularly challenging climb or river crossing.
As someone who likes to plan ahead, the ambiguity and uncertainty of how I will handle a 10-day hike is admittedly a bit nerve-wracking. To offset the anxiety, I’ve spent the past few months mentally and physically preparing myself, including a daylong hike in the Catskills with the Leadership Lab and carrying a 40-pound backpack (full of weights and textbooks) around Brooklyn and Central Park. Of course, New York City is not Patagonia. Similar to practicing for a competition, performance, or presentation, it’s impossible to simulate the conditions of the actual event, but hopefully the practice (no matter how artificial) has prepared me to better deal with the unexpected.
My classmates and I will be flying to Chile in less than a week, and I think all of us are walking the fine line between excitement and anxiety for what’s to come. Outside of individual preparation like mine, as a class we’ve spent the last semester discussing decision-making under pressure, learning about trekking gear and equipment, and practicing wilderness techniques like administering first aid and reading topographical maps. I think we’re as ready as we’ll ever be for the expedition, and I’m looking forward to finally stop anticipating and start experiencing.