Early Insights From the Land Down Under

Mom, if you’re reading this, the part about hitch hiking is totally made up, don’t worry!

(Yeah not really)

I’m standing in the salty breeze next to my bike on the Harbourside Path, and I’d be jumping for joy if my legs didn’t feel like they were on fire. Actually, on second thought, while the breeze would be salty if there were any, I realize that the taste of sodium in my mouth comes from the waterfall of sweat cascading down my face. I probably look like such a catch, I muse to myself. Yet my gargoyle-esque appearance is no weight on my shoulders, as I revel in the fact that after 6 hours of adventurous travel, I made it back to where I started early that morning.

Then I stop. How the HELL did I get back here?

After a bike ride, miles on my feet, a ride from some lovely ladies, some more miles on my feet, an impromptu bus ride ,more miles on my feet, even more miles on my feet, more-er miles on my feet, the kindness of three Scots driving me down the other side of a mountain, alas, MORE miles on my feet, and a ride from a nice man with a vape pen (no judgment), I made it back to the start. What I thought was going to be a small hike up a mountain, turned into be a 6 hour ordeal with the VERY little scroggin (trail mix) that I packed. *Here’s where you say: good plannin’ Katie B!*

So, as I rode back the short few miles back to my flat, I thought not about how tired I was, or how ridiculous I looked in my dollar store-wrap-around-wannabe-Lance-glasses, I thought about how journeys like that make you feel at the end. That got me thinking about how useful challenge can be for folks who are struggling, and THAT got me thinking about my career in wilderness therapy.
For those unfamiliar, wilderness/adventure therapy is an “active, experiential approach to group(and family) psychotherapy or counseling: – Utilizing an activity base, (cooperative group games, ropes courses, outdoor pursuits or wilderness expeditions) – employing real and or perceived (physical and psychological) risk” (Bradwoods.org). It’s an incredibly effective supplement to traditional, normative counseling.

My degree in Outdoor Environmental Education sets me up well for a job in this field, but it’s something that I hadn’t really considered until I arrived in New Zealand. Moving into a city, I began to realize how therapeutic nature was for me, and it brought me to a new understanding about how powerful the outdoors and challenge within them could really be.

Until this point, I was unsure about where I’d be heading after graduating in the Fall. Now that I had a good lead, I began to do some more independent research to ensure that this was really what I wanted to do.

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Mt McIntosh Loop, Glenorchy, NZ

I interviewed Scott Blair of Adventure Development, and learned about the high percentage of incarcerated men that were there due to alcohol related offenses. I quizzed Jeremy Bundett, a Dunedin probation officer, about his work with people who were struggling to stay out of jail and prison. I visited Alcoholics Anonymous classes in order to understand more about the diseases of alcoholism and addiction. I loved this continuous knowledge of people who were willing to share it; the more I learned, I more I formulated a plan and a vision.

I’m still going to continue my research while I’m down here, and of course when I return home as well. At the moment, though, I can happily say I have a good idea of where I want my life to go. I’d like to pursue a job in wilderness therapy after graduating, hopefully working with young people with substance abuse and mental health issues. I’d like for that to lead me towards a Master’s Degree in Educational Counseling or something of the sort. Then, I’d like to pursue a PhD, and go on to teach university courses at a prison, so that we are rehabilitating people who have offended, rather than just punishing them.

I’m looking forward to continuing my studies in the hopes of making these dreams a reality.

Works Cited

https://www.bradwoods.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Bradford-Woods-Adventure-Therapy-Overview.pdf

http://adventuredev.com/

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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