Travel Isn’t Meant For A Shelf

What makes a ‘group”? A unit? A team? A community? It’s something I ask myself as the leader and teacher of a group of 10 students here at The Traveling School. From the first week of the semester at AMB West in Montana way back in August we asked our students this question a lot, “What makes community- and what kind of community do WE want to make here at TTS?” Many people have never been in an environment where we get to choose the norms, expectations, and community desires to have in a group space. We worked hard on developing a community and yearned to get to a point where were living it- not designing it.

So where are we now? How is our community doing on day 60?! I’m so glad you asked.

We are at a place where everyone can setup a blaster stove- a high powered tri-pod stove for boiling water fast. We love the blaster; especially on mornings that dip into the 20’s F! We know how to set up all 9 of our group tents– everyone of which is a different model and style. We own our mistakes instead of just apologizing for them. We offer feedback in a OFOR model where we share an -observation, feedback, ownership, request- so often that we use it as a verb. It’s not uncommon to hear students asking one another, “Do you want OFOR that?” of “We need to OFOR the van after that ride!” We have been mentoring our students every Monday so often they are now turning around and mentoring us teachers too.

Our last big activity which was backpacking in the Abajo Mountains in southeastern Utah was a critical part of the unity and performance we are living in now. Life gets distilled to the essentials when backpacking. Food, water, campsite, sleep, and packing to pack your packing then packing your pack and packing your pack again. Your whole goal for the day is walking to the next campsite (we also did some class while on the trail) and thus your other to-dos for the day are simplified. You have time to take in the views, make up your own riddles, and trade snacks in a wishful attempt to hopefully score another cliff bar. The simplicity of the day allows for more depth in each action. In a semester that has as much travel and overall breadth as ours does- moments to simply get some depth in an experience is cherished.

The progress we as people and we as a team, a unit, a community have made make me think of who we will be as people when this unit changes at the end of the semester. Today is a 10-week mark, 6 weeks to go. Our students will fly home in 42 lightning-fast days. Who will they BE when that happens? I wish I could see the future and know for certain. Here is what I do know about them: every single student will stand a bit taller, have a lot of feelings about damns, and ask more often “why aren’t there any indigenous women in that story or article or history book?” They want to touch the land when they arrive in a place as they ask who used to live here. They will defiantly be excited about their bed sheets and pillows for a while. And ultimately- they will not stop talking about the people. The people they traveled with, the “guest appearance” we’ve had on trip, and the teachers who helped to drive and guide them through it all.

As is expected from the Literature teacher, I leave you today with a poem I wrote while in Glen Canyon Recreation area about travel. Enjoy!

Travel doesn’t have the word ‘Take’ in it.

So close. T. A. E.

I guess it’s okay to not take a place with you.

Rocks that seem to fall into your palm – and you suddenly love.

                                                I have to leave it?

Does that memory go away when I leave that stone where it originally lay?

One day I’ll want to put that rock on my dresser, my mantle, in my lover’s palm.

Say “I was there!” Prove I adventure out of my living room

Have sought inspiration in spaces I didn’t know I could find them.

I take these slivers of adventure to show others I. was. there. I do powerful things.

Travel can be taking it for yourself,

Travel is not to be put on someone else’s shelf.