The Trip of a Lifetime

It was May 2, and I had just stepped onto a plane with a destination of Dubuque, Iowa, the trip of a lifetime. At the point of 20,000 ft, I realized that I was becoming a responsible adult. It was the first time that I traveled alone, and I was more nervous than I ever could be. I walked around aimlessly in the Chicago airport, and I thought about what I was going to be doing later that day. I was heading for the Mississippi River to be part of a five person crew, through a program called "Rivers of Life." I was chosen a month earlier through thorough applications and deep interviewing. I had proposed to study the water quality of the river, while I was working on service-learning projects. I barely got my application in on time, but with the persuasion of my loving brother, I rushed it in, and am I glad that I did.

I didn't really know what I was getting into when I applied for the trip. All I knew was that I would be studying the river and living on a boat. I had no idea about the other crew members, the size of the boat, what we were to do each day, and where I was going. I packed my bags with protein bars, water quality chemicals, and all-weather clothing.

When I finally arrived in Dubuque, I met up with my coordinator and headed for my living space for the next eight days. As we slowly drove to the dock, I saw four girls walking along, and I realized that they were part of my crew. My first impressions of them I'd rather not say, but it was not what I was expecting. I waved and drove on to see the elegant boat, The Lilly Belle. I hopped out of the car with a giant "wow" and boarded what seemed like a ship. I was introduced to everyone and sat back for a while, trying to learn who these people really were. I figured sparking up a conversation couldn't hurt; so I did, and do I ever regret that. The first conversation that we had as a group was a huge argument about our school systems. At that point, I knew that I was in for a long week.

Eventually, we started in on a game of cards, exploding into a riot of fun. All of the students were "Type A" personalities, always wanting to be the leader; this could have been a major problem, but we worked through it because we knew that we had to live in very close quarters for eight days. The people skills that I had brought along with me really helped me out immensely. I started to open up to total strangers that I had just met hours ago; and it seemed that I had known them for years. They had taught me new ways to live life and I took it upon myself to change into someone new.

My crew members were not what I expected, not even in the least bit. Another girl who was doing water quality testing with me surprised me with the exact same personality as mine. I found this quite odd, another Brooke, but in a different body. It wasn't even funny how similar we were, at every second, we spit out the same thought, same action, and sometimes the same stories about our lives. The others were purely amazing in their own little ways. One crew member had questions about everything, ranging from my morals to sex. Another member, the only guy, argued all the time, but that was basically because he lived a sheltered life and didn't know how to handle people. The last member was subtle and quiet, but very interesting. All members fit in perfectly and each had a vital role in some part of the trip. They showed me how other people are in different parts of the states. Each gave me a new quality to take home with me, changing my outlook on life in general.

At times, I wanted to leave, but at other times, I never wanted to leave. I was so glad I didn't pass this chance up. Not only did it teach me new things, but it strengthened my character. I was at the point of a nervous breakdown back home, and when I was on the river, it was like a vacation, totally relaxed and I had complete freedom. When I went back home, not only did everyone think I was crazy, but I told myself to act as if I was still on the boat, relaxed and full of new ideas. I wasn't afraid to share my ideas anymore, before, I sat back and watched. Now I can't stop talking and shouting out new things to do. If I hadn't listened to my brother's views on why I should do the trip, I would still be sitting in back, listening and observing. Now, I'm up in front, taking control, and leading others in new directions.

Learn more about the Interactive Expedition

Center for Global Environmental Education
Hamline University Graduate School of Education
1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104-1284
Phone: 651-523-2480 Fax: 651-523-2987
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