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Ten Things You Learn as an Explore Austin Trip Leader

By: Explore Austin Trip Leader Extraordinaire, Lydia Huelskamp


1.“ Almost there” doesn’t really mean almost there

The Explorers will ask you over and over if you’re almost there. Unless the campsite is within the next 20 feet, don’t you dare tell them “yes.”  Even though you may think “almost there” means within 1-5 miles, to them “almost there” actually means “we’re here”.

2. Trip Leader is actually code for chauffeur and pack mule

No really. You’ll spend as much time driving others (or just the gear) around, as you will in the woods. And suddenly, your pack goes from 30 lbs to 50 to “if this comes off I won’t get it back on”.

3. The mailman has nothing on us

They may deliver in snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night, but we’ve got all of that plus bears, water shortage, hail, lightning storms, other crazy campers, sick students, ticks, snakes, and more. We’re out there in the elements loving every minute of it (for the most part).

4. No excuse goes untried

Seriously, the students will try every excuse in the book, plus a few in the second edition. Sometimes, you just have to applaud their creativity. Then you’ll have the kid that breaks his elbow on a downhill ride but still manages to help gather firewood with merely one functional arm. Even those with the excuses find it in themselves to finish strong.

5. Surprises happen every day

After taking an hour to fill their water bottles one day, the students will wake up and pack everything up before you even get outside of your tent. They will get lost and find their way back onto the trail without your help. They’ll finish every single mile even if it takes them hours to do so. They won’t hate you for pushing them past what they thought was their limit. Or they’ll tickle the back of your neck with a piece of grass so you think it’s a bug. It’s great to be surprised!

6. Food is food

Lentils have never tasted so good. Day three of oatmeal for breakfast has you wanting more. After a few weeks out in the wilderness, you’re just excited to have fuel to keep your energy up. Who cares if you just dropped all your trail mix on the ground, the dirt adds a little something- yeah?

7. You’re Spanish isn’t as good as you thought

A lot of the kids in Explore Austin know Spanish and they know it well. However great you think you are at speaking the language, they’ll still laugh at you. But the good news is they find it entertaining and fun to teach you new words and how to say them properly! So, ¡Vamanos!

8. People won’t understand your job

You’ll get asked how your vacation was and how you can afford to go on so many trips. Then when you inform them it wasn’t vacation, it’s your job, they’ll laugh and give ya the ol’ “oh yeah your ‘job’ *wink, wink*”. We are very lucky to have this great opportunity for work, but it still is work. Let the haters hate, though – you don’t have time to try to explain to them how a week in the mountains is work, you’ve got a trip to pack for!

9. Your coworkers are your friends and your friends are your coworkers

I mean if you think about it y’all already have the same interest and passion. Then, throw in spending three weeks in the woods together (guiding a group of course), and you’re destined to be best friends. How do people even make friends outside of guiding?

10. This program will have more of an impact on you than you could ever think

I could write a whole ten page paper on the impact of this program, these kids, and the mentors have had on me. You’ll see their perseverance, their grit, their good times, their low times, their bonding, their support of each other, their growth, their jokes with you (and about you), and so much more. Some will fall in love with the outdoors and adventure and others will simply be proud to have made it through the week. However, all of them will teach you something. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true. Guiding for Explore Austin is a one of a kind experience. It is totally worth the excuses, questions, not ideal weather, and long nights. ACES (Action Oriented, Courage, Excellent Teammate, Strong Communicator) shout out to Explore Austin!

Interested in becoming an Explore Austin Trip Leader? Click HERE to learn more!