A stingray glided under the kayak soundlessly. I set my paddle perpendicular to the cockpit of my kayak and tried to commit this moment to memory. The ocean was glass, a mirror image that blended into sky.
This is so beautiful, I thought.
Looking at images of the Everglades didn’t seem so impressive really, even arriving there and paddling to the basecamp from the dock wasn’t that lovely. Something happened though and throughout the time I spent on the water, the more I appreciated the true beauty of the place.
Chelsea, the author, kayaking in a pink hat.
In a week of community with strangers, I was a version of myself often reserved just for family – annoyed sometimes, frustrated, happy, quirky – in sum, human. The group was mix-matched. If we had met in normal life situations, we were unlikely to strike up conversation. It was freeing though, to see others in the same light, we had different flaws and different strengths which complemented each other.
Kayaking in the Ten Thousands Islands of the Florida Everglades is harsh. Tangled mangroves occupy all available real estate on oyster shell islands and the sun shines overhead all day. Our group wore bandanas under wide brimmed sun hats and long-sleeved shirts with gloves to combat intense sun exposure. The night garb was fairly similar to keep mosquitoes away.
On the last evening, in a ceremony I won’t ruin with details in case you attend your own course, we were asked what we learned. I went last and as I listened to the others talk about breakthroughs of peace and healing, my answer became considerably simple – people are worth getting to know.
Like the appearance of Ten Thousand Islands, hard to photograph well, my snapshot of the group meeting at the airport was wrong. The more I got to know this group, our collective strengths and flaws, the more I loved them. I had plenty of other learnings too – how to do a T Rescue, that I’m more positive than originally thought and life is good without a cell phone.
But what I’m taking away is that a group can come together on short notice and connect simply because we’re human.
The outcomes of an Outward Bound course vary – renewal, self-confidence, navigation – there are so many options and I now understand why they’re attainable. Maybe the one you were searching for isn’t the one you end up with, but I would argue it’s the one you need.