One week in, want out? I am not going to make your life easy by giving this question a ‘yes or no’ answer. It’s on you to juggle your way through this text and find it. And that is exactly what Chilcotin Holidays is about…
Now let me begin with the inevitable skepticism I had prior to my arrival at Chilcotin Holidays. This whole summer it was only in my dreams that I could envision the surroundings of this area, this unknown and remote place. But even though I was left to wonder, I felt drawn to this mysterious adventure. The questionnaires I had to fill in created the most insightful and thought-provoking application process I had ever gone through. Reflecting on my actions, I got to know myself better and learned to plan my future. I realized that it is ON ME to take charge. And that was the start of my journey to success.
The date of my departure came closer and before I knew it, I dove into a marvellous scenery of mountain terrain, filled with the most fascinating wildlife and befriended the most welcoming community you could ever imagine. And I am saying this one week into my adventure.
It took me a few days to get used to everything. At first I was slightly overwhelmed with everyone being so familiar and comfortable around each other and having confidence in what they were doing. My tummy was mixing up a cocktail of excitement and fear. I had two options: stay in my tent and whine or do something about it. So I learned to take initiative. To figure things out by myself. But most of all, what I have learned already is to always be flexible. My fear of speaking in front of people has been challenged every single day. It was the 11 o’clock meeting that I was initially dreading. But now, I am enjoying the daily challenge and think positively about it: I am learning. Four days in, I faced my hardest challenge thus far: I gave my first map orientation. I had ten minutes to gather all the information I could in my head from the orientations I had listened to and to skim through the binder. And guess what, the visitors didn’t bite! It was definitely a lesson learned: you are capable of much more than what you think you are.
But something that is just as valuable as your own development is to observe the changes in other people. Witnessing everybody’s growth here is one of the most inspiring things to watch. It gives you a different sense of time. Everything is accelerated. Because every step you take has value. You evolve much faster through all the challenges the daily life of a wilderness experience at the ranch pose upon you. Whether that’s quitting every ten seconds to turn around and check no cougar is getting ready for its lunch or getting up very early to cook breakfast for everybody.
So what exactly is it that makes it feel like I have been here for months, and not just seven days? I can only guess, but the current conclusion can be summarized in a couple of words: common sense and simplicity. The normality of your presence, the maintenance of everyone’s initiative and the simplicity of every single procedure. How quickly your presence becomes the norm, how everyone keeps up their motivation and initiative, how simple each procedure is.
These past few days I’ve completely redefined my understanding of independence and got the chance to see a remarkable culture in action. Over the years, I learned to do things by myself, for myself. But there is another side to independence. A side where you take initiative to care for others and not just yourself. To move your own priorities down the list and push up the ones that will benefit everybody, including yourself, rather than just yourself. This is what a remarkable culture is.
But it doesn’t stop at people and their interactions with each other. Building a remarkable culture also includes caring for the wilderness environment. It’s astounding what broad knowledge everybody here exhibits about the wildlife and the area, whether interning with the Wilderness Stewardship Foundation (WSF) or not. Everybody who comes to the ranch is interested in and committed to preserving the marvellous landscape we are surrounded by. When we witness nature’s beauty and reconnect with the wilderness we begin to notice a change in ourselves. A shift from hasty to patient, from frightened to brave, from self-conscious to confident. A change of perspective from which you realize that the therapeutic effect of nature would be destroyed if everything was to be turned into a cascade of man-made lakes and roads. And that’s why it’s important to look after not only you work and social environment but your wilderness one too. For without nature, we’d have nothing to reconnect us back to each other and ourselves and to slow us down to where we can learn to appreciate the little things in life and take the time to appreciate our transformation.