WAmbassador Blog: Advice for a Nervous Camper
In the months leading up to my departure, I often dreamt about what might happen on my first Wilderness Adventures trip. I’d never done anything like it before. The longest I’d been away from home was a week surrounded by long time friends and teachers. No sleepaway camp. Barely any camping at all. With zero frame of reference for what lay ahead, my subconscious came up with countless possible scenarios while I slept. In my dreams, I had run out of time to get all the items on my packing list before I left for my trip; I was isolated from my trip mates who always seemed to be a huge pack of people. I felt overwhelmed and out of place. Nothing seemed to be going right. I knew my dreams were unrealistic, but they were a testament to how nervous I was for my trip.
When the time to leave finally came, I was anxious and doubtful of myself. Knots filled my stomach and didn’t go away even after I landed in Juneau and met my leaders and other trip mates. I was terrified of making the wrong impression, not getting along with these eleven strangers. Beyond that, they all seemed so much more experienced than me. I started to fear I had gone too far out of my comfort zone. The trip I’d chosen would be too hard for me. How could I possibly have thought I could handle three weeks kayaking, backpacking, and mountaineering in Alaska? It was too much, and now I was stuck. The homesickness kicked in hard then.
But very quickly, things started to get better. It became hard to want to be somewhere else. I saw incredible beauty everywhere in the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. The world around me filled me with joy and gratitude. The people around me did too. My trip mates and leaders encouraged me every step of the way. I’d told them I was nervous about my inexperience, and they always reminded me of my capabilities and pushed me to just try rather than thinking I couldn’t do it.
Because I could do it. I was kayaking miles a day in the Pacific Ocean. I was putting on crampons to go walk on a glacier. I was carrying all my belongings on my back up a mountain. I was doing incredible things. And I was doing the little things that I’d feared too. I was setting up my tent. I was cooking backcountry meals. I was seamlessly making strong friendships. Most importantly, I was having fun.
On my Wilderness Adventures trip, I pushed myself way outside my comfort zone. To do that had been the point of my trip and the reason I decided to go. I challenged myself daily. And I enjoyed it so much. That’s not to say I wasn’t scared sometimes. But I embraced that fear as normal and part of the experience. There’s no getting rid of fear, only living with it.
My advice to nervous campers is to let yourself be nervous. If you are, it probably means you’re doing something right. But don’t let your nerves hold you back. Excitement isn’t far from anxiety. They’re both anticipating something ahead. Lean into these feelings leading up to your trip. And once you get to your destination, keep an optimistic outlook. This is your chance for a life-changing experience. Your fear and excitement are telling you that. Take this chance and enjoy it.
By Virginia Callen (She/her)