My fellow travelers,
I am writing to you from Cascade, Idaho where the mornings are frosty and the afternoon sun is scorching. The rivers are running high from snow melting off the mountains and the wildflowers are starting to bloom. I am wrapping up my final semester as residential and expeditionary faculty at the Alzar School and I feel a wide range of emotions. This has been a big year for me: I learned how to roll a kayak, became a Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, led backpacking trips in Chilean Patagonia, and developed a new course in digital storytelling. It was exciting and exhausting! As I prepare to close this chapter in my life, I am gathering up new energy and anticipation for the journey that lays ahead of us this summer.
Everything is becoming more real as I meet weekly with Vanessa and Gabriel to plan our itinerary and curriculum. This will be my first time traveling in Peru with Dragons, and I feel all the same nervousness and excitement that comes from departing a place that is known in order to explore the unknown. Although I am an instructor on this course, I am also very much a student. I hope to learn as much as I can alongside you about Peruvian history, society, culture, and ecosystems. I hope to continue to explore questions about myself and my place in the world as I navigate a culture, language, and environment that is foreign to me. This process of exploring self and other, our similarities and differences, and learning to build bridges of communication, connection, and cooperation is what keeps me traveling. I’m eager to share this process with you.
My childhood in Maine was community oriented, close to nature, and relatively absent of cultural diversity. I had the privilege to start traveling outside of the United States at a fairly young age with my parents, and then took every opportunity I could to learn from travel. I spent extended time in Israel, India, and Costa Rica, focusing my formal studies on intercultural conflict and peacebuilding, but informally learning about so many things. Over time, I started to focus less on conflicts between countries, and more on conflicts between individuals and peacebuilding inside oneself and within one’s community. I also developed my capacity as a wilderness educator, group facilitator, and leadership coach.
Professionally, for the last ten years I have been guiding people through unfamiliar environments in order to foster self-discovery and personal empowerment; teaching tools for effective communication and conflict transformation; and coaching critical reflection, leadership development, and community engagement. My personal passions take me outside – backpacking, paddling, bicycling, rock climbing, and skiing. I am always excited to learn a new hobby! I also love cooking, dancing, singing, crafting, and practicing yoga.
As an instructor on this course, I hope that I can inspire intentionality with our thoughts, words, and actions and that together we can practice humility, curiosity, and generosity as we travel in Peru. I hope we can support each other in digging deep into the process of self-exploration, community building, and cross-cultural engagement. I can imagine that you are feeling very excited and maybe also a little nervous – whether for the level of physical challenge, the new people you will meet, or lack of familiarity and comforts of home. I think it takes courage to commit to this experience. Whatever you are feeling, you are not alone and we will learn to support each other like family.
In addition to the physical preparations, I encourage you to take time to mentally prepare: What are you hoping to learn about? What are you nervous about? What are you excited about? What parts of yourself do you want to share with our community? Is there anything you want to leave behind?
Please bring up any questions or concerns that you have when we talk on the phone in a few weeks. I am so excited to meet you! In the meantime, good luck finishing up your semester.