‘No one gets remembered for the things they didn’t do’ is a lyric from a Frank Turner song called Peggy Sang the Blues. I had these words tattooed on my arm last year to remind myself that being scared isn’t a reason not to do something, if I want to achieve something, I can’t let fear hold me back. So, I put those words on my arm into action and moved to the other side of the world. Canada has always been a place I have wanted to travel to, seeing new places and living up in the mountains seemed perfect for me. I came to Chilcotin Holidays to learn to be a horse pack guide, working with animals and learning all the new skills I could absorb. I came here in search of a transformational journey and that’s exactly what I got.
In my first week of Guide School, I learned to pack and shoe horses, then on my week-long pack trip, I explored mountain trails, learned to make fire and chop wood. Over the next month my skills at finding landmarks to allow myself to navigate without a compass or GPS developed exponentially. I came to recognize familiar mountains and teach them to others. I taught new students the skills I had only learned a couple of weeks ago, and found a love of teaching I didn’t know I possessed. Passing on my knowledge to others gave me a thrill I wanted to repeat again and again. Then, when I hadn’t even been here a month, I was the mentor guide on a guest pack trip. I was worried I wasn’t ready for this, and considered going back to the ranch with the Guide School students. But I didn’t give up, I spent the weekend up in the mountains with the guests and discovered I was elated by this experience – it wasn’t anything to be scared of.
When I returned to the ranch after this pack trip, I had developed from someone who was quiet and reserved to having the confidence to interact with the guests and join in group conversations. I came back from the pack trip ready to go again, eager to share my knowledge of the area with whoever I could guide.
Here at Chilcotin Holidays I’ve had an amazing amount of personal growth. I have learned how to work with horses, guide guests and students through the mountains and organize schedules. I learned to run a chainsaw, drive a logging horse and the correct context for the phrase ‘for sure’, but what I have really learned was the value of responsibility, initiative, determination and perseverance. All these things have given me the confidence to be more outspoken and decide what I want to do. In other words, be my own boss.
Personal responsibility has come from taking control of what I needed to do, holding myself accountable for my actions and always trying to be a listening ear or teacher to the other interns.
Initiative came from deciding what I wanted to do, and finding a way to do it. Whether this was searching for books to learn about the area’s history or starting cooking dinner at 5am so I could help out at a logging site, there would be a way for me to do it.
Determination and perseverance came from working with all different types of horses, most memorably with Tatla. For the first day of my third pack trip, I couldn’t get Tatla to walk to the speed of the other horses, I was falling further and further behind, but I kept trying to get her to go. Finally, I managed to get her to walk at the right speed, after trying everything I could think of. In the end, it was as simple as leading her down hill, getting her to walk at my pace, which made her realize I wasn’t giving up, I was more stubborn!
Coming to Chilcotin Holidays has given me the perfect environment to grow in confidence and face my fears. If I ever feel overwhelmed or scared, I can look up at the beautiful mountains which surround us and remember how truly privileged I am to be in this amazing environment, untainted by the distractions and trivialities of modern life, no TV, cell phone signal or big city living. I have learned not to give up and to face everything with positivity and a willingness to develop as a person, even if that challenge may seem unattainable. The first time I tried shoeing, I didn’t know how I would ever be able to trim and nail on a shoe without the job taking several days, but within a few short weeks, I was excited by the task and happy to teach new interns what I had learned.
In my third week here, I helped catch two piglets whom we named Brendan and Remarkable and brought them back to the ranch. Although initially they were almost feral, in just a month they were friendly, lounging against me as I scratched their sides, and even running across the field towards me when I called them by name. This was a moment that really made me recognize those small things in life that mean a lot. I couldn’t stop smiling as those two pigs came running towards me like friendly dogs.
There have been moments where I have struggled to cope with my fears, but I realized here I always have a supportive family who will listen to my worries and do everything they can to offer positive and constructive solutions. Here I can face my fears, knowing I am in the perfect environment to facilitate my personal growth.
In Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch describes real courage to his children. He says ‘I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.’ This is a quote I though about a lot since coming here, and I have seen first hand how true it is. What I can accomplish by not giving up is whatever I set my mind to. Being positive and looking for the good in a situation is a choice, making a conscious decision to live that way every day means I can accomplish more than I ever did before. Roles that took me months and years to develop in my previous jobs have come to me in just a few short weeks. Here, I am more confident and outspoken than I have ever been. And braver. I might not always feel it, but I know I am. I traveled to the other side of the world to follow my dreams and here I have chosen to stay. The only person who can stop me achieving what I want from life is myself. With a positive mindset and the confidence to take responsibility for my own future, I can achieve anything. I can look to the mountain in the distance and the way to it will come, but if I always look at my feet, I might never find my way out of the forest. To explain the metaphor, when I know where I want to go with my life, the trail to get there won’t seem so overwhelming. The future is exciting and the route to it will be full of surprises, but they are challenges I am willing and ready to face.
Author: Charlie, UK
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Photo by Kristin Noak