Ellie Lardner, TTS36 Alumna

Dear Future TTS Students,

It’s been almost two months since I boarded a plane from Phoenix, Arizona, and returned home to the suburbs of Connecticut. Two months since TTS semester 36 ended, and our family of 15 (students and teachers; friends and mentors) scattered across the US and the world. Some of us have slipped back into the routines of our old lives and made them our own again. Others have made themselves new lives. 

TTS36 was the first US-based Traveling School semester. Our path led us to canoeing Montana’s Missouri River, floating by countless cows left out to graze along the riverbanks. It led us through herds of bison in Yellowstone  National Park and the autumnal yellow cottonwoods in Grand Teton National Park. Further south, we scaled the red rocks of Utah for science class; explored the rural city of Bluff, Utah; had a snowball fight during a break from reviewing for midterms; slept in a church basement; and twice visited the border between the United States and Mexico. I recorded each location in a little red notebook because I wanted to remember them all.

To my future TTSers, I wish you could fall in love with TTS just like I did. I wish you could fall in love with the rustle of your tent at 11 pm, blown by the wind, as you lie awake after camp has gone quiet and the last headlamps have been extinguished. I wish you could fall in love with the hum of flies and the bugling of an elk from across the river as we bent over our homework during nightly study hall. 

If only you could have signed our group constitution (which was written out in fancy, old-fashioned cursive on day two of our semester). If only you could have been with us as we stopped paddling our canoes and drifted down river during a lesson on direct communication. Could have read love poems with us in English and swam in freezing water in the San Juan River. Could have been with us as we circled up before dinner, always waiting for a few stragglers. Been with us as the cook crew announced the menu, and we spoke our gratitude into the abyss of the night air: “Thank you for being. Thank you for being here. Thank you for being here together.” Night after night.

I write this prayer for all of you to have what I had at TTS. Even as I do, the next Traveling School semester has started. If only they, and all of you who will come after them, could fall in love with the TTS that I knew. If only they could experience all the same joys and challenges that I experienced on Semester 36. You can’t though. That would go against the nature of this school because each semester is shaped by its people. You can’t have my TTS. You and the rest of your group will have to get out there and make your own. 

Yes, it is going to be scary. Know it was terrifying for us too. Don’t let fear– of leaving home, of being away from your friends, of filling out all five hundred pages of paperwork– stop you. I believe in you. I know you’re brave enough. 

With all my love,

Ellie Lardner, TTS36 


PS – And when you come home as different people, or as more authentic versions of the same person, I’d love to hear all your stories.