Self-Development: The gift that keeps on giving

By: Chloe Saulnier, 21 y/o, Canada

Growth, vulnerability, pushing limits, authenticity, connections. These all come with being on the ELP team. When I signed up for this trip, I knew it would be a life changing experience in a ton of ways, but somehow, after only 1 month, we have all changed beyond expectations in more than one way.

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While our reasons for joining this program and our goals for the future all vary drasticly, we have one thing in common; we came here to learn and grow. Even though it was explained to us on the first day, the self-development aspect of the program is beyond anything I could have imagined. Not only am I learning new things about my teammates, I am also learning something new about myself every single day.

Self-development is engrained into the program as part of our curriculum, but it also comes naturally as part of group travel. At some point, we have all said in one way or another that we feel as though this program represents a pivotal point in our lives. We all came with the intention of leaving with feelings of empowerement, inspiration and drive to take on a new journey. For some of us, this new journey will be professional, for others personal, and for some even spiritual.

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Debrief sessions, leadership workshops, long and sweaty trekking days, silly inside jokes that probably wouldn't seem so silly if we weren't exhausted from traveling, multiples days without access to warm showers or any showers at all, learning about each others' funny quirks or emotional pasts, keeping the group morale up with games when things don't go as planned, sharing rooms, drinking beer with the locals, waiting for those running behind in the morning, falling asleep on each others' shoulders on buses and airplanes, struggling to understand local languages, but making our best effort to learn. The experiences we have lived and our time together after one month has made us all grow closer than imaginable and made us reflect on who we were before, who we are now becoming and who we hope to be after this 12 week journey.

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While change and growth might seem scary, learning to embrace the process makes them two of the most beautiful humam experiences. What makes it more incredible is that we get to experience it all as a group. We learn from and insipire each other to grow, we challenge each other's ideas, we push each other's limits, and most importantly, we make sure that no one is ever left behind. A continuous effort to stretch our comfort zones has put every single one of us into slight discomfort on many occasions, but with a support system like this team has given us, we always know that it is only a short matter of time until discomfort turns into incredible memories none of us will ever forget. With two months left to go, we can't even begin to put into words how transformative this experience will likely be for us. 

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