This is a guest post written by The Road Less Traveled’s very own Rachel Dallman, whose time with The Road Less Traveled has been in different capacities. If you’ve called our office in the last six months, you’ve more than likely spoken with her. Need ANYTHING RLT related? She’s your girl. Read why:
When I first graduated from Kalamazoo College (an amazing institution for you future college students!) in 2011 with a degree in English and Creative Writing, I had absolutely no concept of what the future held for me. There were hundreds of different adventures I was anxious to embark upon, but the only thing I knew for sure was what I didn’t want to do (go to graduate school right away, work in a tiny cubicle, sit on my parent’s couch, etc.). I didn’t feel I had a clear path, and while this opened me up to a lot of freedom, it also unnerved me. My mother, who always had a way of putting things into perspective, told me to follow my feet and pay attention to my footprints. I had been walking (or biking!) my path for years already, she said, and all I had to do was open my eyes enough to see it.
What she meant, I later realized, was that my passion had led me to my most significant experiences growing up, and that if I allowed it, my passion could lead me into the future as well. While there are many things I love (poetry, buttery pastries from my favorite Chicago bakery, dancing the night away with good friends, teaching), the truth is I have consistently made decisions that have kept me in the world of outdoor, experiential education. My mother would prove to be right; the decisions I made when I was young stemmed from a desire that would drive me when I was older. How could I have known at 15 that when I signed up to travel to Costa Rica with an organization called The Road Less Traveled that I would someday work full-time for them?
I participated on The Road Less Traveled’s El Sendero program during the summer of 2006, the summer before my senior year of high school. I had spent the previous 10 years going to an overnight summer camp in Michigan, and it would be dishonest to claim that I wasn’t terribly nervous to be doing something totally different. I knew at the time that the opportunity was once in a lifetime, but I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate until later the pure majesty of rounding the bend of a river at sunset and startling a flock of flaming pink flamingos so that they all burst into flight right before your eyes. Or swinging in a hammock suspended high in the trees of the rainforest. Or hiking through the mountains, and being caught in a rainstorm so fierce and thick and all-encompassing that it feels as if you’re swimming through the air. Or watching sea-turtles lay their eggs on the beach under the full moon of a hot, perfect summer night. Or building a school in Bonilla for the cutest kids imaginable.
Years later, I could still remember these things with a visceral intensity. I could not, however, have guessed that I would come back to the people who provided such an amazing opportunity to me. I believed my summer program on The Road Less Traveled had provided what it was meant to provide: an incredible, growth-inspiring summer experience, and that was that.
I spent the first few years out of college rotating between Vermont in the winters, where I worked as a ski instructor, and Michigan in the summers, where I was a program coordinator for the same summer camp I went to when I was young. I knew I wanted to continue contributing to the world of experiential education and outdoor adventure – as I child, I had gained so much from my own travels. By the time the winter of 2014 rolled around, I had biked thousands of miles from Maine to Death Valley, CA, I had backpacked through Canada, I had spent years skiing the hills of the East coast and the mountains of the West coast, I had lived and traveled abroad, and I knew I had found my path. The question was – how could I continue following it?
The Road Less Traveled came to me like a light in the night for a second time about six months ago. I was lucky enough to begin working with them as their Admissions Coordinator in April, and could not be more grateful. Just when I began to think that my adventures would eventually lead to a dead end, that there was no way I could possibly continue randomly piecing together amazing experiences and calling it a career, my path brought me right back to where everything began.
I’ve realized that The Road Less Traveled doesn’t just give kids a once in a lifetime chance to discover themselves, see the world, and learn to give back. Their influence extends into all of our every-day lives, and while not everyone is lucky enough to work with these lovely people year-round, everyone who has come into contact with RLT carries a piece of their experience with them. It is in the way you appreciate a sunset. It is in the way you thank your bus driver in the morning. It is in the way you reach out into the world and open yourself up to new opportunities.
I started out as a young teenager, looking for adventure and hungry to discover something new. I’ve ended up a young adult, confident in my passion and proud of my accomplishments. Even when I didn’t know it, RLT was with me all the way. Even when I couldn’t recognize my path, The Road was always calling me home.
Have questions for Rachel about any of our summer programs? She is one of several people on our staff working tirelessly to make sure all of our participants go on the adventure that’s right for them. We love talking to you! 773-342-5200
If you want to skip the talking part, feel free to apply to one of our programs by clicking the button below!