A New Experience

Guest blog written by Shelbie Loonam-Hesser

I’m just about to finish nine months of studying abroad in Athens, Greece. Nine months of new discoveries. Nine months of new friends. Nine months of new favorite places. Nine months of overcoming fears. Nine months of reshaping who I am. Like all first-time world travelers, I am overcome with the incredible conviction that there are more important things then the hub that was my life back in the States. I believe that you really discover who you are when you are in places you have never been before. The amounts of realizations were limitless. Within every experience of studying abroad, there was something new yet familiar… similar to a summer spent at camp.

For Cheley returners some things are “familiar”: Reuniting with old friends, children’s laughter echoing through the mountainside, the sound of pounding feet as campers run along the paths between the cabins, dust picking up in the wake of footsteps during a particularly dry summer, the bubbling noise of the cool mountain stream, the horses in the stables whose hooves clash against the wood, wind whistling through the trees, the view, gosh the view, of the mummy range from the Chapel or Twin Sisters and even further Longs Peak from the top of Cathedral. The Rockies are our playground. The Rockies are our home.

However for a first time camper, a summer at Cheley could be a completely “new” and overwhelming, yet life-changing experience. For example, some first time campers can develop homesickness or have a fear of trying new things such as hiking or horseback riding. It’s not uncommon. For someone who is so invested in traveling and adventure, I even became homesick. I had a complete mental breakdown, tears and all, the first week I was in Greece. I even questioned why on earth I decided to study abroad in the first place. It doesn’t matter what age you are. New experiences can be overwhelming and even scary, but that’s the beauty of it. Once you overcome these fears, you discover that you can take on anything else that comes along your way. There’s nothing greater than seeing a first time camper persevere, while finding their voice and trying new things during a summer at camp. We are all challenged in our lives, whether one is studying abroad or spending a summer at camp, growth and resiliency can take place.

From what I’ve experienced, children are the same all over the world. They may be brought up in completely different cultures, but they all want similar things. Children want to have fun, to play, to laugh, to dream, to create, to be noticed and to be important. There’s no denying the innocent gleam in their eye and the smirk on their face when a good ol’ game of tag is taking place. Unstructured fun is universal.

So whether you are traveling the world or attending camp for the first time, you’ll always discover that life is an adventure and all you ever dreamed of is on the other side of fear.

It’s a big and beautiful world out there. I implore you to go and explore.

Shelbie Loonam-Hesser will be returning to Cheley this summer as a backpacking counselor in Chipeta.

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