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NOV. 12, 2013

What’s Your Challenge?

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by Caroline Toy, Assistant Director

Experiential educators—that’s us here at Eagle’s Nest, your counselors, teachers, and other staff—love to talk about something called “Challenge By Choice”. It’s one of the most important principles of adventure: we’re going to urge you, encourage you, and support you to try exciting and tough things, but no one is ever going to force you. You decide.

Some of us (like me) prefer to think of “Challenge By Choice” as “Challenge Of Choice”. By that we mean that trying something new is always a challenge, one everybody is going to face all the time in their lives. We want to empower you to find the challenges that you want to experience! That might be coming to camp for the first time, or studying for a really big test. For lots of people, it’s Hante. Going on my first long expedition (in my case, Outward Bound, which is pretty similar to Hante AT Trek or Hante Rocks and Rivers) and leading my first Hante were huge milestones for me!

But it’s not just about those achievements. One challenge is always going to lead to another—and that’s exciting! And as always, what stretches you is going to be different from what stretches your brother or sister, or your parents, or your best friend. My friends Liz and Lucas wrote recently about their incredible adventure hiking the 30-plus mile Art Loeb trail in one day [link to Liz’s post]. My most recent adventure was a different kind of challenge: traveling independently in a foreign country.

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I landed in Ireland after 22 hours of travel with a backpack, a guidebook, a map of Dublin, and a two-night hostel reservation—and that’s pretty much it. And I did it on purpose. Why? Because I wanted to see a new place, meet new people, and challenge myself to travel without an itinerary. As someone who does a lot of planning to make Eagle’s Nest trips awesome, it’s a learning opportunity for me to do something with a little less structure. And that’s just me—this is one way I can use my travel experience to push myself and discover something in the process.

And it was a challenge! About halfway through my trip I found myself on a bicycle, in the rain, riding out to medieval and even prehistoric ruins on the island of Inis Mor, off the coast of Galway. In that moment—wrapped in raingear on that bicycle, or maybe on a long, hot hiking day on AT Trek, it’s easy to find yourself asking “how did I get here?” And that’s a valid question, even if at the same time you’re asking it you’re also having fun. You got there because you chose to, because you were brave, and maybe you wanted to do something that sounded a tiny bit crazy.

Maybe it still seems a tiny bit crazy. But the view from the cliffs is amazing.