That Time I Lost my Left Sandal...

Kit John
Kit John
Emrick-Cutler Scholar '15

On the last day of my Outward Bound rafting trip in Utah, we were all given a huge treat, the chance to swim in a rapid. None of us had even considered it given all the training we received on the off-chance we fell out of the boat. Even though I was an experienced swimmer and had been to many water parks, none of the rides were quite as “natural.” As we started out, my heart pounded. I swam confidently across the river and flew down the big dip of the rapid. Relaxing now, I continued my streak of confidence as I made a dolphin-like turn to swim towards shore. In short, there is a reason dolphins don’t wear shoes.

Over the eight days I also lost two pairs of socks, a bandana, and some chapstick. But in the end, I won. I gained way more than the simple items I lost.

Each day was different than the last. We spent the majority of each day on the river in our boats, bonding with the six other members of our group. Occasionally, we would stop to eat, sight-see, or scout a rapid before finally stopping to set up camp for the night. Once there, we got to work and simply hang out with the other two groups. Some activities were planned by the leaders, but most times we made our own adventures. Even learning to cook with limited supplies was an adventure itself. Overflowing pasta, anyone?

I also gained confidence in myself, especially as a leader. I had always considered myself a pretty good leader and a fast learner. Captaining the boat was a different story. First came mastering the hydraulics of the boat. Two simple moves were used to turn the boat either right or left. Next, I started using the crew. I shouted commands to each side or everyone at once. Just as I thought everything started to come together, so did the rapids. Before I knew it, I was yelling contradictory commands, forgetting basic steering, mixing up right and left and becoming generally flustered. As the water calmed, so did my adrenaline. All I needed to do was relax. I knew the crew was my most powerful asset. I knew I could steer the boat. I definitely knew my rights and lefts. After learning from my mistakes, I was able to successfully steer the boat until our next stop.

At that point my crew became more than just a crew. The fact that all six of them blindly followed my commands showed a lot of faith and trust. It was the kind of trust usually reserved for close friends. I had never had that happen with anyone. I could have ran them straight into a strainer (a dangerous mass of sticks and debris), but I would never do that to my new friends. Living with the whole group of twenty other people for eight days, it was bound to happen: I would either gain twenty enemies or twenty friends. I was unbelievably lucky to meet twenty of the most amazing people from all over the world (I’m serious; I met people who lived part of the year in India or went to school in Japan!).

On the last day, the bus pulled away from our final campsite on the way to the airport and civilization, and I felt like a kid leaving home for the first day of kindergarten. Even though we were constantly packing and unpacking, the river had felt like home. As a group we had become a makeshift family. If given the opportunity, I would definitely go again, but the magic of my first Outward Bound experience would not be there. It’s one thing proving yourself to others through merits and achievements. It’s another proving you to yourself. My Outward Bound trip helped me find myself. I liked what I found.

Frankly, I couldn’t think of a better place to leave my sandal.