Over winter break, Max Berube, Dawson Brown, Avery Davis, Dillan Desai, Emily Dotson, Dylan Edwards, Elizabeth Hayslett, Kate Padilla, Zach Taylor, and I took a trip to Folly Beach, South Carolina, with Walkabout instructors Ashlee O’Steen and Tim Williams. Williams, Berube, Desai, and Taylor had already been in South Carolina for an extra couple days to get their Wilderness First Responder recertifications. We’d gone there to surf on paddleboards and whitewater kayaks, many of us beginners, and we had the time of our lives.
First and foremost, we really did have a lot of fun. We spent four days at a beach house around friends, spending time together and surfing. The beach was beautiful, as was the town. Everything was so still and calm, and I hope to speak for everyone who was there with me when I say that I hold each day I was there very close to my heart. Each sunrise and sunset, every game of cards, every meal. But more importantly: we learned a lot about ourselves and each other. While concrete things are easier to detail, I feel that it is moments that better shape memories. I’ve still got bruises and blisters from kayaking, but I don’t really want them to go away. I’d like to hold onto every single time a wave pushed me over and the aching muscles and mouthful of seawater that always resulted. I remember feeling absolutely overwhelmed with love for the people around me after catching my first wave and hearing shouts of support from others who were in the water. The beach and the town were cinematic, yes—but what characterized the trip, and every Walkabout trip, for me, were the people there and how everybody positively affected each other. Because, to be clear, I’m a pretty garbage kayaker. I had to have dragged my kayak out to drain it of water after flipping at least ten times. There’s no reason to worry or be anxious; everyone who is there will always be rooting for you, providing the best possible environment for you to try something uncomfortable, fail, learn from it, and try again. By the last day, we stayed out until sunset, pushing through the waves and declining to get out of the water until we had to. I was proud of myself. I didn’t flip once, but even if I did, that wouldn’t have been the point.
Walkabout trips give people the opportunity to get frustrated and teach themselves to be patient. People can learn how to flip in a kayak and calm themselves down enough to roll back up, tune themselves in with their bodies and surroundings enough to instinctively know which way to lean when a wave hits, or teach themselves to trust the holds on a good boulder. It can be as simple as learning to pace yourself on a run. I could go on.
You learn things about your patience and self-confidence, no matter how strong or weak you think you are, and you do something new and scary because it feels good. By the time you get your roll down or you top the boulder, even if you did it on your first try, you have learned a whole world of things.
And you come to love what you’re doing. That’s why, upon finally reaching senior trip, the final chapter before graduation, seniors say that they wish that they had gone on more Walkabout trips before. People who join after school Walkabout or do weekend trips wonder why they weren’t doing it before. You come to love the process; you come to love the people. Everyone who went to Folly shared all of these lovely little moments with each other; you go on a trip with people you are fairly acquainted with and you become loving and comfortable and familiar with one another.
You feel at home. Not even thirty minutes after we left Baylor, we hit standstill traffic on the edge of Tennessee and Georgia. But everyone in the car was calm and content, chatting, laughing, and singing along to music even after we were able to drive above five miles-per-hour again. On the night we got there, all of the girls ran out after a 7-ish hour road trip to feel the waves and do cartwheels, for some reason. In the mornings we would make breakfast together. We had the most intense games of Unstable Unicorns and Trivial Pursuit that I have ever witnessed.
I’ll leave it to you to go on a trip or do Walkabout after school and interpret it for yourself. The moments you have-- whether they be existing inside your own head in the process of learning something new, or simply existing with other people and learning to love them wholeheartedly-- will stay with you. I promise.