A quote I have tried to live by for most of my life, and one that is especially relevant on this gap semester is: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” I think this quote has been a good guiding principle for me on this Dragons trip. Specifically, the last week and a half in the backcountry. This semester contains a lot of ‘firsts’ for me. Like, for instance, I have never been away for this long, but more importantly, I have never gone more than a few days without showering, I have never cooked dinner for such a big group, and I have never pushed myself this far outside of my comfort zone. I chose the boat quote because it fits in nicely with our activity over the last 5 days: a 34-mile canoe trip along the Rio Grande. We got to experience the extreme beauty of Boquillas Canyon and even spend a few nights in Mexico. We explored the river, acting as a natural border between the US and Mexico, and reflected on the many people who take this journey for reasons completely opposite from ours; out of necessity and desperation, rather than fun and games. It was important to have fun in the water, and I think equally as important to remember all of the people who don’t get to have fun, who are preoccupied with staying alive and staying safe. So, this experience was equal-parts exciting, and humbling.
A lot of these new experiences can be a little scary and overwhelming. So I guess it’s really lucky that I am surrounded by such amazing and accepting people, just as anxious for new, fun experiences as I am. Everyone here is as hungry for knowledge and information as I am, and it provides for a great environment, full of important conversations about humanity. And I guess it’s also lucky that we are being taken care of by such interesting and unique instructors. Not only am I grateful for the people here, but for the mission. Where There Be Dragons has taught me to take a step back from the world I am familiar with, and reminds me of how starkly different my experiences in the southwest are from others who are traveling here on a mission of life or death. I feel extremely lucky to be able to experience all the beautiful views and landscapes that many travel through solemnly, quietly, and painfully. It’s impossible to separate the view from the people who take it in, and that’s the point: it’s inextricable. These are double-sided experiences, and they’re important to have. I will keep these people in mind as we travel to McAllen, Texas, and continue our work with the border and immigration.