Pulling up to the French Chateau I was in love, the building mimicked Parisian architecture and the grounds were full of art. The bus driver stopped me as I stepped off to check my sanity – this was not my stop. Another 15 minutes on the bus, I finally arrived in the woods to an easy up and a canoe. What the-. I couldn’t understand a word but before I knew it I had a different name, had gotten checked for lice, all my stuff was taken from me (except the five things I was actually allowed to have) and was getting into a canoe. Woah. Head rush. Campers were expected to speak or attempt to speak in French, cook French food and learn to be completely capable of survival in the woods. I had no experience doing any of this so the “French” I spoke was broken Franglish, the food I helped cook was probably mediocre at best and learning to survive in the woods was an interesting challenge (I was not as adventurous at this point in my life). We got up at 5am, went on hikes, canoed or swam all day, cooked dinner and got to know each other through the (mis)adventures we all shared. Eventually I got used to it all – the mosquitos, checking for ticks, speaking progressively better Franglish, cooking and getting too sore to move every day became my new normal. We earned beads for passing tests like swimming, canoeing, pitching tents and building a fire (from the tree you were expected to chop). These relatively little accomplishments were a big deal for me; they served as a physical reminder of my newly discovered self-worth when challenges became overwhelming. It is unfortunate that any child, under any circumstances, would discover his or her self-worth and importance in high school when it should be shared and fostered throughout one’s childhood. The challenges I faced in the initial two weeks peril in comparison to the following two weeks that changed my life forever and sparked my wanderlust.
Content by Alex Rager