Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to lead an Alternative Break trip to Asheville, North Carolina. During the trip, my group volunteered at various facilities including a women home for victims of domestic violence, a men’s veterans center, and a children’s home. We spent all of our volunteer time outside either organizing sheds or just general grounds keeping. Aside from the volunteer work we had an entire day dedicated to exploring Asheville which included hiking up a mountain in the morning before going downtown in the evening.
As we were hiking up the mountain, in the moments that I had to stop to catch my breath, I had the opportunity to appreciate my surroundings. I got to soak in the cold, crisp air and feel it fill my lungs. I felt the warmth of the sun on my face. Even when I was walking alongside the streams I felt the fluidity of the motion of my steps. The loud waterfall masked the noise of the outside world.
I did not always have an appreciation for nature. I was honestly scared of it. When we arrived at the cabin we were staying in, the director of our program warned us of bears and other wild animals that may try to dig through our trash or in their own fear try to attack us. I have always lived by the water so I never tried to explore heavily wooded areas. I never had an interest in finding out what was out there. But over the years, I have taken a few trips with my friends outside of my comfort zone and been pleasantly surprised. I blocked myself off from a whole new perspective of life, a new safe space, a quiet place. It has helped me find solace in nature. Now, I find myself putting aside my phone and laptop and going for a walk when I am stressed or allowing myself one day a week to sit outside for an hour and not think. It is too easy to get caught up in every day responsibilities and challenges and forget to take some time for self care. Sitting outside and giving myself that time to unplug not only electronically but mentally as well has helped improve my mood, my stress levels and increase my productivity. I am so thankful for taking the push outside of my comfort zone and exploring the things I do not understand instead of being afraid of them.