Finding family in the Wilderness

LandSea was an incredible way to start out college. What better way to get to know your peers than to spend two weeks in the wilderness with them, making food together, sleeping together under a tarp, being unable to bathe? Well, I can’t think of one.

The group dynamic of LandSea made it unlike any other bonding experience I’ve ever had. To be paired with nine strangers (seven incoming freshmen, two leaders) resulted in some very deep connections. On the long hikes through the woods we told each other our life stories. Without the distraction of technology and the internet, we looked to each other for entertainment. We took pleasure in getting to know one another, hearing each other’s funny, shocking, or sad stories. The social barriers of everyday life fell away. After a certain amount of time in the wilderness with nine other people, it’s impossible to hold up a facade. Everyone has moments when they are raw or exposed. It was challenging at times, but that openness allowed me to really get to know the people in my patrol. By the end of the two weeks, I felt like I knew them on a deeper level than many of the acquaintances I’d known for years in high school.

The sense of togetherness was amplified by the challenge of travelling through and living in the wilderness. When we came to steep parts of the trail, we helped each other out and cheered each other on. The support of the group made it easier to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks such as climbing mountains. And once we would reach the top — all ten of us — the moment would be so much sweeter since we were sharing it.

This is my patrol! We called ourselves the "A2 Sass Crew."

This is my patrol! We called ourselves the “A2 Sass Crew.”

I can remember days when we would get up before the sunrise. I would pull my fifty-pound pack onto my sore shoulders and think, I don’t want to be doing this. But then someone would start talking or singing as we made our way up the mountain, and the sun would start to rise, and then all of a sudden I could see the whole world below me — tree-covered hills stretching for miles, distant mountains the color of forget-me-nots, and a sky that had never seemed so vast. And we would all stand up there and look at each other and smile I what we had accomplished.

The relationships I formed on LandSea have lasted all my four years of college. I feel confident that they will continue to last after I graduate. I learned a lot about teamwork and wilderness skills on LandSea, but most importantly, I learned the beauty of sharing a sunrise with nine strangers who were beginning to feel a bit like family.​


Natalie Martell, K’16