Top 10 Things I Now View Differently from Spending Time at NOLS

By: Emerson Loria

10. Toilets- probably the first big change for everyone when we arrived at NOLS, and the biggest shock once we all realized that this wonderful invention was no longer going to be with us for the rest of the month. Luckily this transition wasn’t as hard as many would assume, as I quickly became accustomed to digging holes and doing my business anyways.  However, despite my easy transition, coming back to the front country using a toilet was truly a wonderful and very warm welcome back.  As weird as it may seem, my respect for toilets has grown far beyond than I ever would have expected.  So if you’re ever annoyed by someone taking too long in the stall, clogging the toilet, or not putting the seat down, let me just say that is nothing compared to using your own hole in the ground and then covering it.

9. Movies- with hikes almost every day lasting about 4 hours boredom can set in extremely fast. The cure for this very common disease is simply conversation with another person, which luckily is in high supply with this Gap program. Probably the most common topic of conversation while on these hikes was movies.  From all these conversations on movies it seemed that every time we talked I would have to write down the title of a really interesting movie I wanted to watch when I got back.  Not only do I have much more to watch now, I came to the realization just how much I really enjoy movies.  Because of all the wonderful conversations I feel that I’m watching movies very differently now and appreciating a lot more of the little things within them.

8. Cooking- this was something that actually scared me a bit when I first heard that we were going to be forced to cook our own meals. I had never cooked anything my entire life, so being put in the middle of the woods forced to cook your own meals was a bit frightening for me. But luckily after spending time working with what we had to cook and watching how others used their food and how they cooked it I was able to get the hang of it.  During the last week and a half I was truly impressing myself with some of the stuff I was putting together for me and my peers.  So thanks to NOLS I now have much more confidence and skill within myself in terms of cooking.

7. How quickly you can learn something if you really try- this one really relates to cooking but the message covers the many things we learned while at NOLS. Putting up and tacking down tents very efficiently, my efficiency to pack, just how far I can really hike, how well I can last in the woods, and yes cooking, are just some of the things that everyone in this group quickly learned and became very good at. This shows me that if you really take the time to learn something new and put forth your best effort, I bet you will be surprised.  Because of this I have wondered just how much I can better myself as a person if I truly try to improve myself, but also how I really believe that I can develop the skills for almost anything.  By spending time in the woods I now know that learning something new is only challenging if you make it challenging, you just have to do your best and really work at it.

6. The beauty of nature- I have spent almost my entire life within the suburbs of Michigan and I didn’t get many opportunities to really experience the natural world. But after NOLS I feel that I now somewhat understand how beautiful nature really is. Being in a place untouched by man is truly something special and life changing in itself.  Being back in the front country is certainly nice but I can’t stop looking at some cities and wondering how beautiful it might have been before the city was here.  My view on the nature around me has been truly changed for the better and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this Gap program.

5. The importance of helping others- at NOLS teamwork and helping others are as essential as food and water. These things are an absolute must in order for everyone to complete the course with everyone still in good health. Whether its pulling them out of a mud pit or simply getting someone else water to boil for their meal, it truly makes a difference.  Because not everyone is always going to be at 100% and not everyone will be at the same energy level as you, so it’s important that you work your personal hardest, regardless if its 75% or 10% just do what you can.  Help others whenever you can and when you need their help their sure to do the same for you and that is what a fully functioning cohort is really about.  And from this I have witnessed, and experienced just how important it really is to help others around you during your life.

4. Time- on our NOLS course we weren’t allowed to bring our watches or phones, so we never knew for sure what time it was while we were out there. Most people who heard this probably looked at it as another hardship we had to overcome.  Which that may have been true for the first day or so but life without an exact time always around is surprisingly relaxing.  The ability to just live in the moment and enjoy what’s around you instead of being focused on the time and how much of it you have left until you’re late for something or someone is truly a wonderful feeling.  The way I look at time and how I go about my life has been forever changed because of how great it was to live without a clock always on my wrist or in my pocket.

3. People around me- when you spend a month in the woods with the same people you’re bound to get to know everyone much better than you normally would. And because of this I learned many things not only about them personally but the lives that each of them lived and what life is like for other people around the country.  This experience has made me realize more about the world we live in and just how different everyone really is in this world.  This has made me look at just about everyone differently and made me more conscious about my personal assumptions of people.

2. My future- do you know the moments before you fall asleep but too tired to really do anything else except lay there, just left alone with nothing but your thoughts and you begin to contemplate every life decision and wonder if you did the right thing? Well this is something that happens to me a couple times a week and a common topic in my head was what type of job do I eventually want, one with money but that I don’t enjoy? One I really enjoy but not much money? Or something in the middle of them both? Well during one of our hikes I came up with this quote that I think really does solve my personal debate, “I’d rather have a unique life and struggle financially, than live a cliché or normal life with lots of money.” I realized just how important being different or unique really is to me and what I’m willing to lose for that lifestyle, and because of this epiphany that I had I will never look at my future the same.

1. My love for my friends back home- I went to school with pretty much the same people from first grade all the way to the end of high school and I spent a lot of my time with these same people.  And I always knew I loved my friends but it was nothing huge because I always saw these people so I never thought about it too much or at least not that deeply.  But after being away unable to text, call, or facetime these wonderful people I truly started to miss each and every one of my friends.  And although my new friends are fantastic as well, I really started to think about my friends from home and I realized just how lucky I am to have such amazing people around me throughout my life.  With what started as sadness I realized that my love for my friends at home is gigantic compared to what I originally thought and I can promise everyone who reads this that my views of my friends will never be the same.

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