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Disconnect to Connect

It is so comforting to feel a connection with every part of nature. When was the last time you laid outside looking up at the sky, just watching the clouds change shapes? Or listened to the comforting sound of nature without hearing a car whizz by or a lawnmower? 

Part of every Outward Bound expedition is a solo experience where everyone has their own space for a few hours up to 48 hours, depending on the length of the course. 

We would recommend not having your watches with you,” we were told by our instructors before starting the solo. I did not understand at that moment what a difference that would make. I started setting up my tarp and got out my notebook to write all I could. I had not sat down to write in a while, and it was amazing to finally have the time. After barely an hour, I had written everything I could think of and was ready to move on to something else to fill up the time.

Then it started raining heavily, and my mind focused on my priorities; get my rain layers on! I rushed to put my sleeping bag and gear under the tarp.  It lasted 5 minutes and then it was sunny again. 

I just wanted to sit, watch the sky to see what was coming next and how the clouds looked. I noticed how quiet it was, yet the sound of air and leaves made me feel like someone was hugging me. I forgot what time it was. It was like watching a movie starring different shapes of clouds, with so many imaginations and thoughts provoked by each. I felt a moment of gratefulness to be alive and be able to enjoy a beautiful sky. I didn’t know I had this need to rush myself, keep an eye out for the time and jump on to the next task. It was so freeing to let go of that feeling and actually pause to look around. The world is so big with tiny little details I hadn’t even noticed.

I wrote myself a note. It was empowering to self-validate, like “yes, babe, you got this!” How did I not do this before? In the middle of a pandemic, with all the chaos and life’s routines, imagine having a moment of complete peace where the only voice that matters is your own. 

I reflected on all the great things I have done in life, the people I have made happy, the laughs I have shared, my achievements, my experiences and the friends I have made – it was overwhelming. I cried for a few hours and even went to my instructors because I thought I couldn’t handle it. I will never forget the feeling after I let it all out. The first step was acknowledging my feelings and then letting myself feel them. At that moment, I reached another level of self-awareness. I understood when to push myself to do more, when I’d reached my limits and to embrace all my emotions. 

It was beautiful to have clarity about why I needed a solo. There was so much to do and not enough time to connect with myself. I want to go back and do it again!

“Connecting with yourself” always seemed like an abstract idea until I was out there, midway through my expedition with amazing people who encouraged and reassured me, making my solo even more meaningful. Connecting to yourself means different things to different people, but thanks to my Outward Bound solo, I now know what it means to me.

Article contributed by Maha Ejaz, a participant on a 2020 Rocky Mountains expedition.