I roll over and the smell of my own armpits wakes me up before my 5:30am alarm does. Slowly, I lower myself from the top bunk without waking my 4 other roommates. I slip into my now baggy, oil stained, Carhartts and synch down the NRS cam strap that I’ve been using as a belt. I’m lucky and grateful that my shoes are dry this morning. Coffee gets thrown into a small Nalgene water bottle that is meticulously covered in duct tape (for insulation of course) and I’m sitting behind ole Frank the van giving him encouraging words to please start on the first turn over.
As a guide in Skagway, we take people from the cruise lines to come on a historical adventure in Alaska. Everyday; the same set up, the same waivers, the same dock, the same hike, the same terrible jokes, stepping in the same foot print in the mud that you made earlier that morning…but never the same day.
The monotony of the job; it is often talked about as we drink our cheap beer and eat the left over extra food from the lunches that didn’t make it to cruise line guests that day. That monotony can consume you, if you let it.
What you have to remind yourself everyday, and just about every minute is that, yes, it may be the 47th time you’ve lead this trip, but for them it’s the first.
I studied Kinesiology because I love more than anything watching people grow, not just physically…even though everyone loves a good 20 inch bicep. I love watching people push themselves out of their comfort zones, watching them gain confidence in their physical and mental strength, watching them come to a screeching halt due to paralyzing fear, and then pressing on forward to smash that fear in the face.
It was naïve of me to not even consider this day scene of guiding as an opportunity to do that
“I’m sorry if I’m a little unsure of my footing, this is my first hike…ever.”
“Holy cow, I’m surprised I was even able to do that. I had my ACL reconstructed 5 months ago.”
“I just turned 89 this year.”
“To be honest, there was a mistake when I booked the trip. When I found out what we were going to be doing, I thought there was no way I could do it. Shelby, I am so happy, I haven’t had that much fun in a very long time, and look I did it!”
This. This is special. This is empowering. This is more than I could ask for, to help facilitate and be apart of that growth is more fulfilling than I could ever imagine. And who knows, maybe I’ll get them to laugh at some goofy nature jokes along the way.
It’s worth it.