I used to envy people who knew what they wanted to do with their life and then went out and did it. I have friends who knew from a young age that they wanted to be a veterinarian, a lawyer, a teacher, or a biologist, and they went out and became those things. I changed my mind every day. If I tried to name all of the things that I have thought I wanted to do with my life, it would be a very long list. I don’t actually know if I could name them all anymore. I have tried a few different things over the years. I grew up on a farm and farming is what I know. It’s in my blood. I know how to milk a cow, pluck a chicken, tell when an ear of corn is ripe. I worked in a restaurant and a video rental store to help pay my way through college as I majored in Zoology. Once I graduated, I worked in veterinary hospitals, a wildlife rehabilitation center, and a zoo. Then one summer, I got the chance to do something that I never thought I could get paid to do.
Every so often, I get a pestering itch to go somewhere, to see something new and step outside of my comfort zone. Over the past six years I’ve been leading summer trips, primarily for teenagers, in different countries around the world. I’ve led trips in Australia, Fiji, Thailand, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Turkey, and Greece. All of those trips were great for scratching my itch, but they did something more for me that I didn’t expect. They moved me. It wasn’t the beautiful sights that took my breath away, not the strange, weird, and delicious foods that stimulated my taste buds or the sounds and smells of foreign cities. It was the people. Not only the people that invited me and my students into their communities and homes, or the people we met by chance on a hike through a canyon or on a crowded and busy sidewalk. Meeting all those people was wonderful, but it was the people within my student groups that truly made these experiences special. We went on these journeys together and we bonded in a way that you can only do in the midst of an adventure. These trips made me happy but alone they couldn’t sustain me financially, and I couldn’t keep asking for multiple weeks off at a time every year from my job at the zoo. So I made a decision and I made a change.
Where I’m from, deciding to drop everything and move to California is a drastic change. But it was the best decision I ever made! I first started working at Camp Ocean Pines in the Outdoor Education department as a seasonal naturalist teaching science to 4th through 8th graders. When I made the decision to work at Camp Ocean Pines year-round as the Assistant Outdoor Education Director, I was a little worried that my time of going on adventures had passed but then I was given the opportunity to co-lead (with Kat, a.k.a. “Coral”) the summer Teen Adventure Trips. Now I get to explore my new backyard on the Great California Road Trip and the Santa Cruz Island Camping Trip, and immerse myself in the beauty and culture of Hawaii on the Hawaiian Adventure Trip. We even have plans to take these trips international! At Camp Ocean Pines, I am able to live my passion through introducing teens to travel. The teens who come on our trips will make connections not only to the places they visit, but with each other. They will learn how to be travelers and explore new places, and while they are at it, explore new aspects of themselves. They will be challenged and they will grow. Guiding, facilitating, and being a part of these adventures makes me happy. It’s what I was searching for.
(For more information about our teen adventure trips, visit www.campoceanpines.org)