Sometimes The Biggest Lessons Come From The Most Unexpected Places

Ever since the second grade every summer I go to a camp in Colombia called Kajuyali. While most of my friends this year were at college camps attending classes I wondered whether or not I should have been doing the same. But I came to a sort-of satisfying realization over those two weeks. I learned more valuable things about who I am as a person stranded on the Island of Isla Fuerte than I could have anywhere else.

My counselor Pia-who I had been a camper with years prior- told us on the first day that the Island carried something magical. She didn’t mean it like fairies and boys who never grew up even though the camp had named these two weeks “La Isla De Nunca Jamas,” which refers to Neverland. Even though I don’t really believe in magic this island had to be the closest thing to it. I was surrounded by crystal clear water that was filled with coral and animals like nowhere else. And at night when it was pitch-black the island was illuminated from all the stars in the sky and the plankton that glowed in the water.

During my two weeks the most impactful experience was an optional 24-hour dare called the Kayuko. Before starting it we were told 3 things:

· It was a 24-hour survival dare that was going to make us exceed our physical, mental, and emotional limits.

· You had to be 14 or older.

· It could start at any time.

We were woken up one morning just like every other at 6:30 for our morning swim. And then they announced that the dare was on. We started out as a team of 13 people and we were given tasks to complete in a certain time but if we failed we had to kick one of the team members out. As the dare began we were given one kayak for all of us to put our bags and shoes in. We swam for 6 km straight in open-ocean with out any breaks until we arrived at a village called Puerto Limon. We were given our food that we had to manage for the next 24 hours. It was one bag of panela and bocadillos (Colombian natural sweets) for energy, 8 apples, 4 cans of tuna, and one bag of bread.

After getting the food we swam for 3 km along the shore in water full of sea urchins where half of us got our skin pricked. We arrived at a deserted beach and were told that we had to find a wooden mermaid that had been buried at 9 in the morning. Our job was to find it in less than 1 hour or else we had to vote someone out. We all started digging all over the beach until our nails hurt. We realized we were losing time and getting nowhere. Finally we figured out that the only clue we had been given-that it had been buried at 9 a.m.- had to have meant something. So we made a sun-clock and used the length of the shadow of a palm tree to determine where something would have been buried 3 hours earlier. At that point we had run out of time and had to kick someone out. We had to kick 4 more people out before we actually found the wooden piece. By that time our nails were bleeding, we were all exhausted, and it was the hottest time of the day. After running for 1 hour and a half, a rock-climbing dare, and deciphering a secret language we only had 7 people left. One of the more emotional experiences was when we anguished over who would be the next one to get kicked out but my friend tommy sacrificed himself and volunteered to leave.

The most complicated dare was one were we had to go through a maze without touching anything and without going through the same path as anyone else. The first four people went and none of them were able to do it. I made it through on my first try and watched everyone else fail again. It was really hard to see my best friend leave because she wasn’t able to finish the maze. Finally 3 others joined me and the 4 of us were able to finish at 1:30 in the morning. We were only 4 left and we needed 5 to continue. So they called off the rest of it. Although I was physically exhausted I could have continued running and swimming but the day had left me so mentally drained that even basic thinking was really tough.

After we got back to the camp I finally had time to reflect and really internalize all that had happened. For the most part I was completely devastated and I felt like all our effort had gone to waste. But then I realized that there were a lot of valuable takeaways. After, I felt like as a group we didn’t handle very well how we kicked off the first group of people. We didn’t find the value in everyone until we got to the point where we needed more people by our side.

I also learned a lot from the way we changed how we voted people off. After being called hypocrites by the camp director for voting anonymously we began to tell people up front. It was easier when it was anonymous and harder to be honest because it’s most authentic but why would you do something behind your back if you wouldn’t do it in front of them. Finally, when I was able to complete the maze when the others in my team had not. I learned that my own capabilities were what I had to put trust in. By trusting myself I was also able to help the team.

Even though I wish we had completed the dare I am grateful for what I learned from it. Sometimes the biggest lessons come from the most unexpected places.