7 life's Lessons gained through experiences at a wilderness camp that would guide future choices and values for one camper.

Fear, Faith and Letting Go: Seven Life Lessons

Life lessons gained from attending a wilderness camp.

Life lessons gained from attending a wilderness camp.


“The first summer I was scared out of my mind. The environment was all new to me. I was a kid from Alabama, getting ready to go white water rafting, with fast moving water and lots of rocks. “
When Lindsay was 15 years old and agreed to volunteer as a staff member at a wilderness bible camp in Montana, she had no idea what influential lessons she was about to gain. White water rafting was only one of the many outdoor adventures that she would take on. She would also learn to mountain bike over steep rock cliffs and hike deep into beautiful forested backcountry. Perhaps the most valuable skill she learned, though, was how to embrace life’s challenges.
“It was all foreign and new to me. People were teaching me stuff that I didn’t know. It was emotionally and physically scary.” It was especially hard for Lindsay to overcome the fears of not knowing what to expect, thinking, “What if I get hit by a rock? Am I going to slide down the mountain and die? I hope that these people will like me. I hope I fit in.” The camp staff worked with campers to look at new adventures as an opportunity for growth (personally and spiritually) and to push oneself by trying new things. Lindsay challenged herself to trust the process and engage in the social norm of at least trying new experiences on, in spite of fear.
The first time that she went hiking, she said, “It took me an hour to get to the top of the mountain. Everyone else was doing this in half the time. I had to fight the social expectations that I was putting on myself because it was taking me longer.” The whole hike up Lindsay was comparing herself to others. The leaders began to challenge this perspective, saying instead, “You did it! You made it to the top! Who cares how long it took?” It was peak moments like this, that helped her shift her thinking and she realized that she had accomplished something and that perhaps it was more about the process and not the final outcome that was important. So she set new goals for herself instead, “to do it quicker and better” each time that she climbed the mountain. Over time, she exceeded her original expectations with climbing, driven by passion, increased confidence and less fear.
At camp, staff rotated job responsibilities weekly. Lindsay and another camper were put in charge of leading mountain bike excursions. They would lead long rides through the forest and coordinate everything that went with this (including the repair of the bikes). She was overwhelmed by this task, given that she did not know the first thing about mountain biking. She shared, “I did not want to let anyone down. I decided that I had to jump in. It was physically exhausting; I became emotionally raw.” She learned all that she could, worked hard and through it “I learned If I don’t give up on the process, even though it sucks, you will be stronger for it. As I look back I also learned that by saying “yes” that has largely directed my life in saying yes to other things and eventually to my career path.”
With all of these new experiences, Lindsay felt emotionally vulnerable. She wanted to run away from the feelings that came up for her. She was concerned about others seeing this and it not being acceptable. And yet, with every experience, the leaders showed up for her with an accepting attitude, coaching her, cheering her on and pointing out a new way of thinking about fear, overcoming obstacles in life and perseverance. She appreciated the social connections so much that she looked forward to going back for the next several summers.

Lindsay said that as she became stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually, so did her sense of the core values that have influenced much of how she walks through life today. The most valuable lessons for Lindsay through her camp experiences were these rich gems:
 * Social fear was exaggerated by her thoughts. Her leaders assisted her to learn to reframe her thinking and the acceptance and support that she received in her small group helped to diminish these worries.
 * Trust. “Things are probably not going to work out exactly as you think. Everything will work out the way it is supposed to. It is not worth worrying about. “
 * Inquiry. Inquiring about what to expect with each activity helped her to decrease her fear. “I mitigated my own fear by having knowledge. If I knew what to do, the anxiety decreased some.”
 * Learning. Learning is possible through experience. She observed as people learned new ways of approaching challenges or interacting with group members. “People learn, people grow, people change.”
 * Overcoming Fear. “If you do the same thing enough times, it is kind of like home and you know what to expect. If we go to a new place, it may test you. You will not be as worked up about what might happen the next time and you will have learned the skills to get over it.”
 * “Normal is Relative. Take the time it takes, so it takes less time.” This is a favorite quote for Lindsay by Pat Parelli. “People compare themselves to others. Everyone is different. In the end, it will take less time if we take the time it needs overall. There is no cookie cutter when it comes to reaching goals and where one wants to be.”
 * Letting Go! “Sometimes letting go is the strongest and most courageous thing one can do.”

There is so much that we can learn from Lindsay’s story and values in living. Risks may be worth taking, despite our fears. And having faith in the process and the areas of growth that come through these may actually guide other parts of our lives as well. Every experience truly is an opportunity to learn. Thank you Lindsay for being willing to share your story.


Lindsay found her direction as a counselor because she realized that she wanted to give back as others had given to her. She earned a Bachelor’s of Ministry in Outdoor Education from Prairie Bible College; she spent half of each year at the same camp as a mentor and summer camp counselor. Upon graduation she began working with at-risk and adjudicated youth at an outdoor education school, Outward Bound. She appreciated the opportunity to give back what she had learned to troubled youth. She would go on to earn a Master’s of Arts in Community Counseling from Gonzaga University. She is a licensed counselor in Idaho and recently applied for full licensure in Washington State as well. She is a Certified by EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association) in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning. She has her own practice, PATHWAYS Counseling & Community Services www.pathwayscc

The camp that Lindsay volunteered at is Camp Bighorn in Plains, MT. They are still in service. The goal of Bighorn is to be a unique Christian camp that proclaims the salvation of God and emphasizes God’s discipleship principles trough the use of His creation, whether that be through rock climbing, white-water rafting or kayaking, team initiatives, or sitting around the fireplace in community.. : www.campbighorn.org Watch this video for more information: http://www.youtube.com/user/campbighorn

The outdoor education school that Lindsay worked for in the past is Outward Bound, an experiential education school. Their mission is to provide life changing wilderness courses that teach self-reliance, compassion, leadership, teamwork, and much more. There website also has a video to describe further, their services: http://www.outwardbound.org/wilderness-expeditions/wilderness-courses/

Interested in sharing your story or experience with learning that were valuable in your life? If yes, please email sapelskog@msn.com for more information.

About Suzanne

My name is Suzanne Apelskog, MS, LPC, LMHC. I started this page out of a lifelong quest for learning on numerous levels. I offer numerous services, including story and inspiration for everyone, online counseling services for age 18 and over, clinical supervision, training and products for counselors and training and consultation services for business and leadership.

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