On March 27, my journal entry said, “Today was magical.”
For four days and nights that week, I was challenged constantly. During my exchange semester in Finland, I signed up for an Outward Bound Finland course called A Touch of Tuntsa. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into, but I was excited to see the beautiful Finnish Lapland and use some new and old outdoor skills. I shared this journey with about twelve other people who inspired me every step of the way.
On our first day in the Tuntsa wilderness, the OBF instructors taught us to cross-country ski. Since I had never before seen more than an inch or two of snow on the ground, I had a pretty big learning curve to tackle. I joke that I didn’t actually get the hang of skiing until our third day on the trip, but our instructors and group were all incredibly supportive (sometimes literally, when we fell on each other). During the first three days we spent outside, we practiced skiing until our arms and legs were sore. We carried our supplies on our backs, and learned how to cook food in below freezing temperatures. We conquered a fell and bonded in the way that you only can in the wilderness. We fell a lot, and laughed even more.
Finally, our fourth day in the wild, March 27, arrived. On this day, our goal was to navigate (as a group) several kilometers on skis to a camp for the night. We rose with the sun and were each responsible for a part of the trip planning. We all handled it beautifully! Many hours later, after a full day of orienteering, skiing, hauling sledges and anticipation, I was able to cook dinner with my friends in the snow. It was one of those moments I won’t soon forget. After dinner we each bundled up in warm clothes, crawled into the snow caves that OBF had taught us to dig, and had a few moments of calm in the Finnish Lapland. It was here that I had a moment to write in my journal. I did not have the time (or energy) to write much, but I tried to sum up my feelings of the trip with that word, magical.
I had been backpacking and camping before my OBF trip, and since. But this trip gave me new skills like orienteering and skiing, and helped me learn so much about myself in such a brief time. I found unending appreciation for the staff, instructors and peers that surrounded me in Tuntsa; we each had talents to contribute and a common determination that drove us to complete this adventure. I am forever changed and empowered by what I was a part of in the wilderness.