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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Home in the Woods

Growing up in Vermont, my parents were always avid believers in appreciating the great outdoors. We have often laughed over memories of the ways I used to recite the words to The Cat in the Hat as a coping mechanism when facing “the scenic routes” my dad would often get us stuck on. So two days ago, when we departed from our orientation among the mangroves, and headed for our first trek, I could feel I was back in my element. But as is often the case, I emerged from the woods with a much deeper understanding of my place in the world than I ever thought I could.

Last night we were camped on the edge of an overlook that, though possibly enhanced by our slight exhausted delirium, took our breath away. The silhouettes of mountains extended like skyscrapers and the voices from the forest below put us all in a trance. But as night and the small accidental fires that scattered the landscape emerged, I was struck by the overwhelming sensation that I was somewhere very familiar. It was a feeling deep in my gut and one that took me very much by surprise. I was unsure as to why I felt this way as I was pretty sure I knew that I was far far from home. Perhaps the wide expanse of fires across the horizon, twinkling like little stars, looked just like the view from the back window of my friends house. Or maybe the smell of fire behind me reminded me of returning home from long ski days with my dad. I just couldn’t place the feeling.

But even more interesting was that this wasn’t the first time I had felt this. During both of our days of trekking, I had mentioned to whoever was closest to me that if I just stared at the pine needles on the ground or just focused on the lowest of the rolling hills, it looked just like Vermont or the Colorado trails I’ve spent so many summers on. We would all laugh about this then move on to the next prolific question someone had. But while standing on that rock ledge I realized that although I could convince myself that I never left home, I shouldn’t. Because I did leave and I won’t be back for a while- and that’s okay. There is so much for all of us to discover on this trip. This is the true adventure of a lifetime and one that I am so lucky to be on, so even though I may have moments where I really miss what I left, there is so much more for me to gain.