As I write this, the students are sprawled out on the carpet and armchairs, studying peacefully with snow-dusted mountains framing the windows of our cozy lodge outside of Yellowstone National Park. This past week we’ve enjoyed the May snow of Montana, heard from amazing speakers about their perspectives on the region (Betsy Quammen, author of American Zion, and Shane Doyle, scholar and Crow educational and cultural consultant), as well as got the chance to meander through and marvel at the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone!
This week and next, we will wrap up our final classes and present final projects. With classes so close to being over it feels like the beginning of the end; however, we still have a lot packed into our final weeks–it’s not over yet! We’ll spend a day this week looking for and learning about the wolves of Yellowstone, and after finals, we will embark on our last backcountry expedition: packrafting on the Dearborn River in Montana!
Our time on the river will provide an ideal context to reflect on this indescribable, transformative experience. In our journals, around the fire, and even while in our boats we’ll spend time writing and discussing what this experience has meant to us, how to share it with others, how to approach the transition home, how we’ve grown and changed, and more. We spent a week at the beginning of the program for orientation, and we’ll dedicate the same time and intention to the transition home because adjusting back will be just as transformative as adjusting to The Traveling School.
Already, the students have expressed feeling scared and sad to leave this experience and community behind, excited to see their loved ones waiting for them at home, and nervous about the transition. We’ve talked about–and will continue to process–how this is expected and healthy to have such mixed emotions. It’s a gift to have an experience that is hard to say goodbye to.
However, the Traveling School community does not disappear on May 20th. The students will get a chance to meet alumni of all ages on a Zoom call next week so that they can be welcomed into the very active and loving TTS alumni community. The alumni love and connection is something that personally convinced me how special this job was going to be before I started–alumni reached out to me from far and wide to congratulate me on joining the faculty team, strangers and acquaintances told me stories of how TTS changed their life, and they even told me about TTS tattoos that they have!
This time of transition will undoubtedly be hard, but so much of it is bittersweet. Our lives–the students, the teachers, and our family and friends–will never be the same as before The Traveling School. But we will be the better for it.