Monday, February 8, 2010

Just Me, Myself, and I

so-lo [soh-loh]
1. a person who works, acts, or performs alone
2. a person who performs or accomplishes something without the usual equipment, tools, etc.
1. alone; without a companion or partner
1. on one's own; alone or unaccompanied
-en EspaƱol
1. alone; lonely

How would you handle being alone in the rainforest or on a beach for 12 hours? 24 hours? What about 48 hours or SEVENTY-TWO HOURS?

Ask a Tri-Country course student. They just finished a 72-hour solo in Santa Cruz, only three days before they finish their cross-country hike.

The "solo" is an exercise for all non-Girl Scout students in which they are assigned small adjacent plots of their own, putting them just out of sight of their fellow course mates. Each student is equipped with a whistle, water, a lamp, food rations, pen and paper, a sleeping bag and a tarp. In the event that a student would need the assistance, they can blow their whistle to summon their instructor who stays within earshot of all students. The length of a solo is proportionate to the length of the course; therefore courses of 15-30 days have an 18-24 hour solo; courses 60 days are longer have a 48-72 hour solo.

This is not a survival exercise, but rather a more meditative one. The solo experience leaves a lasting impression on the students. For many it is the first time they will experience this type and duration of seclusion in a natural environment. Some students claim this as the highlight of the course, and for others it one of the toughest.

"It's an oddity, a luxury, and it's scary; all in one," reported a 2009 Multi-Element student.

The result of a solo for every student is astounding and unpredictable. Most don't realize just how difficult it is once the instructor says his/her "good bye" at the very start of the solo. One student said, "If you think about it, never in your life do you get the chance to be completely removed from everything you own, every possession, all technology.... You don't realize how challenging it is to be out of your comfort zone."

During the solos, students journal, do yoga, cook, make up games to play, sleep, exercise, and of course: they think. Thinking for that amount of time with no distractions is so foreign to some students that it scares them at first. What they all get out of it is a new outlook on life. One student even said, "I realized where I was and how awesome my life is."

Many opinions differ, but there's one piece of advice on which they can all agree: bring the bug spray.

Want to see more? Below are three videos that can help you see a little bit more of what it's like to do a solo.
Discovery Kids followed a group of students to Costa Rica in March 2001, filming their 15-day Costa Rica Outward Bound experience which includes the solo:

Sam, from our Leadership Semester spring 2010 course, has filmed two short videos of his experience. In the first, he evaluates his spot near the Lopez's homestay. In the second, he has completed his tent.

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