It’s OK to be a Beginner!

Cara Nisbet08 Nov, 2018
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For many students, a Bold Earth trip is filled with a lot of firsts. First time traveling outside the country, first time flying alone, and for most, first time meeting a big group of people you don’t know. Stepping out of your comfort zone when traveling in a group for the first time can be challenging and intimidating. There are a lot of factors to consider, especially if you are new to adventure camps. But it doesn’t have to be scary!

We’re all beginners at some point. But when we first try something new, sometimes thoughts of failure or embarrassment creep up within us—that is totally natural. Growing up, my family would spend go on extended camping and hiking trips in the summer, so as a young teenager I felt I was a “master of the outdoors.” It wasn’t until my first summer working at a camp that those thoughts of being a master quickly turned into thoughts of being a beginner. I was suddenly surrounded by peers who had traveled to so many new countries, spoke different languages, or had rock climbed their whole lives. Going into my first summer with an adventurous camp, I felt a lot of the same fears and emotions Bold Earth students do prior to their trip: I was afraid of not excelling at an activity or making a fool of myself trying.

Throughout that summer I was faced with so many of my own firsts: My first real backpack, my first time whitewater rafting, and my first time living in a close community of people I’d never met previously. During that summer I quickly found and came to love the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The more time I spent telling myself I wasn’t the best at something, the less time I actually spent enjoying what I was learning and doing. I loved learning new tricks from fellow instructors (and even students!), but I stopped comparing myself to other people (the “masters”). It took time to make the mindset switch, but when I did I was able to enjoy these new skills and activities and have a smile on my face, even if I was flailing madly. I have since come to realize that being the best at something, or at the very least surpassing “beginner status,” is not the reason to go out and try something, but it is the only way to receive the benefit of accomplishments.

If I could give one piece of advice to Bold Earth students, it would be to not let fear of being new at something prevent you from having a wonderful experience in the outdoors. Many of our students come to Bold Earth having never laced up a pair of hiking shoes or gotten on a plane without their parents. It is not until the second day or so that they realize that most of the other people on the trip are in the same boat! Trip leaders teach students everything they need to know throughout the entire adventure, and by trip’s end, students usually aren’t beginners anymore—in fact, they are often already thinking ahead to next summer, when they can create an opportunity to have these experiences again.

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