Wonderland

On May 10th, I got on an airplane and flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where I began a 9 day journey that I thought would be my English 400 class, but turned out to be an unexpected beautiful adventure. I spent the week in Wyoming and Montana with 85 Longwood students, faculty and staff, in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, in Grand Teton National Park, Gallatin National Forest, and Yellowstone National Park. I immersed myself into dozens of beautiful landscapes, saw hundreds of bison, and took thousands of pictures. I learned a lot about the culture in these communities and different issues that are prevalent out there. I hiked many mountains, I went wildlife watching, I ziplined through a forest, I touched many waters, I stepped in lots of bison poop, I made dozens of new friends, and I learned more about Yellowstone, the world, and myself than I ever imagined.

On our last day, we were at Colter Bay in the Grand Tetons, and were asked to reflect on our turning point on the trip, where we made a connection within ourselves, when the trip went from being a class to being a life-changing experience. I picked one instance, but as I later thought about it, my week was full of turning point after turning point.

My first turning point was on Wednesday. We went on a hike in Mammoth Hot Springs, which is just inside the North Entrance to Yellowstone. A few miles into the hike, we stopped in the middle of this huge field to reflect. We were told to focus in on where we were in that exact moment and write about it. I let myself fall victim to the beauty around me, and completely sunk in, being engulfed by the fragrances I smelled, by the sounds I heard, by the colors I saw, and tried my best to convey this beauty through words.

It is as if God
Created this place with the intention of
Showing the world a beauty
What heaven looks like
Feels like
Sounds like
Smells like
Because, here,
Everything is perfect,
And as I become one with nature,
I, too, become perfect.

It felt as if the sounds that traveled around me, the birds chirping, the water flowing, all seemed to wash away the fears and worries in my life, an air full of beautiful quiet that isn’t silent at all. I felt calm, I felt at peace, I felt the closest to perfect that I will ever get.

Later that day, I laid in my hammock on my hotel balcony and thought about that day. I realized that living in the moment of beauty around you allows you to feel both separate and one with the world. We tend to speed everything up, to rush from one thing to the next, when we really just need to stop, breathe, and take in the exact second we are living. Nothing more, nothing less. Just live each moment for itself and you will find an abundance of peace.

Another turning point was on Friday, while I was ziplining. I was a bit nervous, but I was conquering each and every zipline. UNTIL we hit this Sky Bridge, nicknamed the “Bridge of Tears.” It was a suspended, moving, bridge over 50 feet in the air and I was freaked out. I hate bridges. And so how was I supposed to get across that bridge? Don’t even ask me why ziplines don’t scare me but bridges do. I realized, in that moment, that the only way I would be able to do it is if I hold my own hand, is if I tell myself I can do it. And I shall quote, “if you think you can’t, you won’t. But if you think you can, you will.” I knew that I had to do this, and that if I believed I could, I would do it without someone guiding me through each step. Did I do it? Yes. Was I terrified? Absolutely. But at the end of it, I realized what I did. I walked across that stupid bridge, and I did it because I had the upmost faith in myself. Sometimes you have to realize that you ARE capable of doing ANYTHING you put your mind to, as long as you have FAITH. Faith can move mountains (or it can move you across mountains).

After our morning of fun, all the students on the trip went their separate ways to collect oral histories from different people in the surrounding communities, from ranchers to government officials, from retired park firemen to railroad workers. My three roommates and I (all Education majors) got to spend some time interviewing the counselor at Gardiner School, the K-12 public school that all 213 students in the town attend. After giving us a tour of the beautiful school building, we got to sit down with her and talk with her about her role in both the school and the community. She spoke with such infectious passion for the students and for the town as a whole. Recently, I’ve been struggling a lot with figuring out what I want to do after college. While I feel led to working with kids, I don’t know if teaching is where I am supposed to be. I’ve been told by many people that I should consider counseling, but I hadn’t really thought about it. After talking to the counselor in Gardiner, I felt a sense of direction. While I’m still not 100% sure about what I want to do, after talking with her, I feel led to counseling. Maybe that’s where my life goes, maybe it’s not. But for the first time in a while, my life after college isn’t as fuzzy as it has been. For the first time in a while, the idea of a profession isn’t completely terrifying.

Yellowstone is “an unending hymn,” a place that is truly beyond the beauty of pen and tongue. Yellowstone brings you more than just pretty views. It brings you a better understanding of the world you are in, and most of all, it brings you a little bit closer to understanding yourself. I got so much more out of my 9 days in Wyoming and Montana than I expected. It was more than an English class. It was more than wildlife. It was the realization that there is this world that I am separate from, but also a part of. It is going into the world by myself to realize that I can succeed on my own, but it is also going into this world by myself to realize the importance of having people around me to lean on.

Thanks for the indescribable, wonderful week in a wonderland, LU@YNP. Don’t think for a second you’ve seen the last of me.

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

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Grand Teton National Park

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Old Faithful

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Grand Prismatic Spring

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Hiking Mammoth Springs

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Hammocking by the Yellowstone River

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“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people”
Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park

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Ziplining through Gallatin National Forest

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Colter Bay in the Grand Tetons

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My 3 wacko roommates who were blessed (cursed?) to spend the last week with me.

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You’re breathtaking, YNP.

| want to see more about our adventures? check out www.longwood.edu/yellowstone to see tweets, instagram photos, class blogs, and facebook posts from our week! you can also search the hashtag #LUYNP on all social media platforms |

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