As I stepped through the doors of the Adamah Adventures cabin, nerves were building at the pit of my stomach, fears were circling in my mind, and I questioned my decision to embark on this journey. My sister and I had boldly signed up for an eighteen-day, outdoor adventure camp in which we would travel across the country to Washington and Oregon. There we would test our true potential by white water rafting, rock climbing, sea kayaking, and spending our time around the clock with thirteen people who were strangers to us then. Miles beyond my comfort zone, I was unsure not only if I would enjoy the trip, but also if I would enjoy the people. I had no idea that the random bunch of teenagers I was plopped with would turn out to be a second family to me. Being left no other choice than getting to know a group of strangers taught me to always be open to new people; we turned into living proof of the saying, “Strangers are just friends waiting to happen.”
The first few days of camp before our flight were dedicated to stomping out the fears I was experiencing my first day. Hours were filled with name games and team-building activities galore. Intimidated by the new names and faces, I hovered around my only piece of familiarity, my sister, like the moon to the earth. Little by little, I fell out of orbit, and opened up to the campers and counselors. To my pleasure, everyone showered me with enthusiasm in return. I began to realize how easy it is to feel at home with such a positive and welcoming group like the one at Adamah Adventures. Finally feeling at ease with the people around me, I was itching for the real adventures to begin. My excitement was rattling inside myself and ready to burst when we finally touched down on the runway in Washington and started on our journey together.
Life on trek turned out to be more about each other than the physical challenges of camping and adventuring. For one thing, we got to know each other remarkably fast. There wasn’t much of an option considering we spent our days packed in a van like a can of smelly sardines and our nights shoulder-to-shoulder in a tent. Just barely big enough for fifteen people, our beloved van was camouflaged in dirt and crumbs, permanently reeked of chili flavored sunflower seeds, and often held our Britney Spears “Till the World Ends” dance parties. As we traveled from mountain top to ocean shore in it, we bonded together like the threads of a rope. Teamwork was essential in everything we did, from cooking meals to white-water rafting; we constantly relied on each other.
Our true test of personal strength and teamwork was our three-day sea kayaking trip. In boats of two traveling in a group, we supported one another and pushed through like a school of fish throughout the strenuous three days. On the last and most challenging day, my arms ached with unbearable intensity as I pushed the paddle through the crashing waves. Salt coated my arms and stung my eyes and lips while I persevered through the vicious ocean. Wind was pushing mercilessly against my tiny boat, making each stroke I took that much less effective. My sister and I had devised a system of singing our favorite songs and paddling to the beat, speeding up the tune to push ourselves harder and harder. We laughed hysterically at ourselves and the sounds of counting or other methods in action around us. The skies above had clouded over, concealing the sun and threatening rain. The only sliver of hope I had left came from the speck of land in the distance. I glanced around, catching sight of everyone working just as fiercely as I was and I knew that together we would make it.
Our trek group bonded through our experiences, but our greatest source of unity truly came from a joke. An adored group member, nicknamed Cliffy, declared the rocks on the beach we went to “baby raptor eggs.” Then it started: the songs, phrases, and handshakes, all about the baby raptors. Before we knew it, we were the BRFL’s: Baby Raptors for Life. You knew the baby raptors were around when you heard, “BABY RAPTOR ATTACK!” and a chorus of, “Grrrs” as we clawed each other with two fingers. We were all sad to put an end to our journey as we prepared to get on the plane to take us home. Hands clasped and arms linked, the baby raptors pounded down the walkway to our plane, literally inseparable.
At the end of our summer together, we all went home with the traditional dog tag necklace bestowed upon us by our counselors. Our biggest individual strength and an additional one, unique to our trek, would be depicted on our tags. We will all cherish the dog tag which was shaped like a baby raptor egg, and written on it was our trek’s greatest strength, friendship. Going to Adamah Adventures not only gave me incredible experiences, but it taught me a valuable lesson. I never look at a stranger as a stranger anymore. Instead, I see them as a potential friend, a relationship waiting to happen. I have learned to be open to everyone, because you never know what you might miss if you don’t. “Strangers are just friends waiting to happen” is a quote I try to always keep in mind, and doing so has changed the way I live my life.