Dis-connected: Learning in the Outdoors

Here’s what happened when I unplugged for the weekend

By: Arianne Yago

Taking a step outside of the classroom, away from technology to embrace our biggest classroom — our world.

This semester, I was fortunate enough to have gone on two camping trips with writer, Kevin Fedarko, and painter, Shonto Begay.

I guess I should disclose this now, but I am a terrible writer and artist. Before these two trips, I was nervous because I have NEVER camped before, and I was worried that my work that was required of me was going to be horrific.

This next sentence is going to sound super millennial of me, but I was also worried about not having cell-service, and that I was going to be abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

However, as I look back, I come to a realization that these camping trips have been one of my most memorable college experiences.

One with nature — My Experience

For both camping trips, my peers and I had to lug all of our clothes, camping gear, and sleeping bags at 7:00am in the morning. Then we were packed into vans that drove us to our destination.

This was my first time being so close to so many students that I did not know for long periods of time… and yes, this was my first time sleeping in a tent, simply out in nature.

Fatigue, pulses of irritability, occurred — but so did moments of non-stop laughter, adventure, and raw memories.

Nevertheless, this was and is what the camping experience is all about. Defeating comfort zones.

When we got there, we were totally immersed in our environments. For once, my mind had no distractions, and I was not bombarded with the technological world. I was greatly humbled and inspired by these two guys (Fedarko and Begay), as they are men who truly love their craft, and use it to share a story.

Kane Ranch ft. Kevin Fedarko

The first camping trip, we went to Kane Ranch, which is somewhat southwest to the Vermillion Cliffs. The land was vast, and it stretched in all directions until your eyes met mountain ranges. It was a different perspective, as the famous Grand Canyon was actually below us, as a huge crack in the Earth.

We wrote in silence in nature, and I have to admit, it was the best feeling. You could actually hear yourself think, and embrace the wind that blew, or the cow that mooed, every little detail became a reality.

During the day, we would write, but we also had time to adventure around the area. It was fascinating to see animal tracks, and just being able to truly get lost in nature. I formed a tiny little family with the students that went on this trip. We would go on hikes, chase the cows, sing at the campfire, and when it was dark enough, look up to the sky and see the billions stars in front of us. I was really taken by the simplicity of the whole scene because I have never been in a place like this before.

Every day we would share our writings, and I have never been so impressed and inspired with what my peers came up with. Their perspectives really opened my eyes to what I was ignorant to see.

I learned more than how to write on this trip, I learned how to embrace the little things, the things that people do not see, and be motivated and inspired to shine light on them.

Shonto ft. Shonto Begay

This was my first time on the Navajo Reservation, and wow, I did not know that I could feel so connected to a place. Coming from Hawaii, where the struggle for keeping indigenous culture alive, I was able to connect and relate to the struggles of the Navajo peoples. I was in complete awe by the landscape, and by the hospitable people.

Yeah, I am no where close to being a a painter, but I learned that it is about the story behind the art itself. First of all, I was really inspired and impressed with the talent of Shonto and Bahi. They drew, and painted effortlessly, and really encouraged me to look deeper within myself, and let the paint or pencil do the talking.

From left to right: Bahi, me, Shonto, and Wolf (Honors College Dean)

They also took the time to actually get to know us, and share with us their Navajo culture. From showing us the herbs and natural healing elements they used, to scary ghost stories, we were not only indulged in the culture, but in their home as well. We were taken to numerous parts on the Navajo Reservation, but mainly stayed at the Navajo National Monument.

Every day, my art got better because I was more connected to the space.

The Take Away: Just Do It

I was nervous, scared, and some part of me dreaded it — but I got so much out of it.

I learned more about myself, my peers, and the world around me. These two camping trips have really inspired me to make a difference, and be a voice.

So if you find yourself questioning if you should take a specific class, or join a club, or do something out of the ordinary, my advice would be to just do it.

Expand your comfort zone, and put yourself out there… because you really never do know until you try.

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