I am a wilderness survivalist. Over the years, I have found myself thriving in conditions ranging from torrential rain in the Valley of the Kings to white-out conditions on top of Mount Lassen. Some would call these situations miserable, but to me they are just another challenge to tackle. When I am at my best, I am outdoors in a high-stress situation. This could be a life-threatening injury, or a sudden storm, or even both. While the skills necessary to tackle these situations were acquired along my scouting trail, scouting is about more than just learning these skills.
It is also about teaching them.
My Paideia would be a class on how to properly prepare for and thrive on an excursion out into the wilderness. The first step to any successful outing is planning. If I were to take a class out to New Mexico for a backcountry backpacking trip, ny fellow students would need to absorb quite a few skills ahead of time.
A good place to start is how to set up a rain fly, in under a minute. In New Mexico, the weather is unpredictable; it can switch from a light mist to a heavy downpour very fast. Beyond physical skills, a lot of itinerary planning has to be completed. Two summers ago, I led a trip to Hawaii for a crew of twenty people. This expedition included everything from securing airfare to determining campsite locations, and was a step out of my comfort zone. By managing the group effectively, and clearly assigning roles, we could sufficiently plan. That trip was a success, because there was a scheduled plan that motivated all of us.
Sometimes, however, there are times when such plans fail. Another skill that I would focus on during my Paideia is how to respond when everything turns belly-up. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared,” and often training goes unused during an outing. However, when training such as first aid or CPR is needed, lack of preparation becomes a dire risk. Indeed, last summer I was thrown into a situation that quickly escalated to life and death. While hiking in the night, one of my friends fell into a stream, fractured his leg, and was left soaking wet. While the others in my group panicked, started blaming people, and showed a lack of confidence, I calmly constructed a splint, bundled him up, treated him for shock, and called for medical assistance. Staying composed under pressure is what I do best, and if composure under stress is the only skill that I teach during my week-long course, I would be content. Every learning experience stems from stepping out of your comfort zone, and the best way to thrive is to be prepared, then take a deep breath and jump in.