Transformation in the Wilderness by Kai

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My early memories of the Ananda LWS include outdoor pursuits that were many and varied. From exploring rivers and caves, to canoe trips and making fires in the rain with Tim Tschantz and summer days at Pubble Pond, Bridgeport or Mushroom Hole, the foothills gave us the opportunity to be outside in so many ways.

I connected with outdoor sports starting in high school and in a big way in College at Seattle University, where I grew from a rock climber to raft guide to trip leader and ultimately now, working as a wilderness educator for some of the best companies in the industry.

The part where we get to be paid to explore, experience and share the wilderness while participating in fun and challenging activities is certainly a great reason to be involved. But exploring, experiencing and sharing the process of personal growth as a facilitator and educator is the real treat. Organized classes get some information out there. Direct experience, however, where you are held accountable at a high standard by nature itself, really makes the lessons stick. And the most impactful learning is often the realizations that you come to upon return to the outside (inside) world. Classes may be convenient, but they remove the accountability of direct experience, where you’ve got to use your integrity and will to survive.

I might never have realized this perspective if it were not for the teachers and educators I encountered at Ananda LWS and later on as well. The chance to try with your hands and your heart are not common educational traits found in many schools. The chance to try while being inspired and supported by self assured and competent leaders is a unique and powerful way to find your interest, your abilities and yourself. Those leaders were the ones who inspired me to see the impact we can really have on our own lives and the lives of others. They are my role models and the wilderness is our classroom.

Since finding that you can do the above anywhere, I have tried to take advantage of that diversity. Apart from personal traveling, I have worked courses in 10 states and 3 countries. I have been on expeditions of up to 30 days; on trails, mountains, rivers and rock. And I return each time having shared the hardships and the glory, the deaths and the rebirths, with instructors and students who have experienced oneness with nature, and have chosen the lifestyle of challenge and growth.

Every course can be a transformational experience, and I return like an addict, to the place where the sidewalk ends.

By Kai Girard