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10 Things I Would Tell My Past Self in Preparation for This Dragons Trip

  1. If you think you have enough socks, you don’t. Pack more. If there is such a thing as ‘the land of lost things’, it is full of my socks from this trip. Who knows where they went–perhaps abandoned at the laundromat, or left at a campsite, maybe just lost in the wind. Regardless of where they went, I now have two pairs, when I started with five. Socks are crucial on this trip. Bring extra. It is worth the space in your suitcase.
  2. Put away those rain pants–you’re going to the desert. I know it’s tempting to bring every single item on the list, but let’s be realistic. You’re not going to wear rain pants, and that’s okay. That extra space in the suitcase can be used for socks. Rain is going to be the last thing you think about as you trek through the blazing hot desert, under the blazing hot sun. Just leave them at home.
  3. You’re going to cry, happy and sad tears. It’s okay, and you should embrace the experience. I know you think that crying on this trip is a sign of weakness. Oh, Jane, it’s the opposite. You are embracing the experience of this trip and the experience of life. You don’t know this yet, but when you cry, you’re showing your strength. You’re being vulnerable and that is invaluable. You’re also letting other people know that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. You are growing, and sometimes growing comes with growing pains. Lean in, it’s worth it.
  4. Not every day is going to be great, and that’s normal. Not every day at home is great, and not every day on this trip is going to be great. I know that feels like a personal failure, but the fact that you are getting through every day, good and bad, is actually a personal accomplishment. The fact that this isn’t easy is what makes this so important. You’re going to look back at this trip and at your growth in awe. It doesn’t feel like it, but you are getting more out of this experience when not every day is good. Just keep going, even when you don’t feel like you can.
  5. Trekking is harder than you think, but you can still do it. Hiking with thirty-pound backpacks is no easy feat, and neither is hiking without them. I know you feel like you can’t do it, but the only way out is through. All of the pain you feel trekking up those huge hills will be replaced with pride once you finish. Nothing feels better than realizing you can do more than you think, and you can always do more than you think.
  6. Your journal is the single most valuable thing you have on this trip. Bring more than one, because keeping a journal is a key part of the Dragons experience, and you’re going to want more space. Writing things down is important. One day you’re going to want to look back and read about everything you were feeling, doing, and experiencing. Your journal also becomes a sacred space, a part of your critical daily routine. At the end of a long day, it feels nice to talk to your journal about it. This is a way of preserving this trip forever, a written account of your journey.
  7. Bring a Crazy Creek. Trust me. Did you see this on the packing list and not know what it meant? Let me tell you a secret: crazy creeks are pivotal to have your best Dragons experience possible. There will be a lot of sitting on the ground, specifically in the desert where it is extremely dry and dusty. Your pants will get covered with this dust without a crazy creek. Crazy creeks are chairs that fold up easily, and the best way I’ve found to avoid this dust. Don’t skip it on the list–you’re going to need it.
  8. Your instructors are here to listen when you’re having a bad day. At the beginning of the trip, I was hesitant to share any of my feelings, because I saw it as a kind of fragility I was uncomfortable with. Once I decided it was okay, though, my experience here got significantly better. Talking out your feelings, out loud rather than in your journal, is cathartic and important. And letting someone in to your inner thoughts helps remind you that they’re normal and that you’re not a bad person for feeling bad things on such a wonderful trip. Life is full of ups and downs, and it’s a lot less lonely when you share the downs as well as the ups. It also helps bring you closer to other people.
  9. The lessons you’re learning here are lessons you’ll keep with you forever. On this trip, I have learned invaluable information about so many things. I have met people I would never have met otherwise, and listened to stories I would never have heard otherwise. I have learned about immigration while physically touching the border wall. I have learned about Indigenous micaceous clay pottery while actually making some. I have also learned things about myself, things I would never have known if I didn’t push myself. These lessons don’t always come easily, but they are always worth having.
  10. You are capable of so much more than you think. Do you feel like you can’t possibly keep going on your trek? Here’s a secret, you can. Are you having a terrible day full of tears and frustration? Here’s a secret: you’re probably not the only one, and this too shall pass. And the biggest and best secret of all: when you go out of your comfort zone, you are growing, whether you realize it or not. You will look back at this experience in awe of yourself because you did it, the good and the bad. Like I said before, not every moment is going to be fun, probably a lot of it won’t be. But by getting through it, you are proving yourself wrong. You are learning things about yourself, and you are testing your limits. You are bending, but not breaking. You are getting stronger every day. Keep going.