I thought that I’d camped in the wild before, but that had occurred to me as false when this exploration came to be in round 3. The students from this exploration last round had talked about their trips repeatedly after they ended, about how amazing they were. And that made everyone else want to be in this exploration.
I, too, was excited for my turn to be in the exploration. What I had expected was lots and lots of trips, but there was more to it than that, than just going on trips and having fun. There was more. And that all changed and became clearer when I took part in the exploration of Outdoor Leadership.
The first week of exploration, we went over the guidelines. One of the guidelines said “Play hard, play well, play fair, and play safe,” and that was one thing I kept in mind throughout the exploration. Then we got an introduction to Outdoor Leadership, the exploration, and started on lessons.
Two out of three main goals of the exploration as said by our facilitators were “We want you to involve yourselves more with nature and just appreciate what it has to offer,” (reworded by me). I was particularly happy about those two goals because I did love nature and two out of three goals being ones that aimed for us to love it even more made me – put in the simplest way – happy or happier. The other goal was to learn how to survive in nature or rather, how to become an outdoor leader, which is why this exploration is called “Outdoor Leadership”.
At times in the exploration, we did an activity called “Sit n’ Spot” which is almost exactly what the name says: you sit, you spot, you think, and you write. This was basically an opportunity to observe and sort of appreciate nature and write about it.
The lessons in class started off with simple things about walking outdoors and camping, then got longer and more informational as the exploration went on which I was very thankful for but, not too keen about, and I did acknowledge that they played important and essential roles in camping trips.
Some lessons talked about the three basic needs when going outdoors which were food, shelter, water, and some lessons talked about being cautious when trekking out in the wild and some others taught us how to build a fire. We covered a lot. At the end of the second week was when we talked about our first trip which would happen on Wednesday the week after.
A beautiful park in Kampong Speu called Kirirom was where we were headed on our first trip. We spent two days of learning there with an additional one of sitting on the bus, traveling. One of the things we learned before the trip really started was how to ‘go to the bathroom’ when camping. The goal for that trip, I think, was just for us to get used to walking long distances and practice some of the skills we learned in class. And that’s what we did, we walked, or more precisely, trekked, a total of about 30 kilometers, which is about 30,000 steps; 20 kilometers on the first day and 10 on the second.
The first day, we went to a place called “The Heaven Cliff”. It was a cliff high up the mountain and was known for its view. On the way up there, we got lost a few times, but we did our best to bear with each other and I was proud of that. The mountain was covered with trees, nature, and it was just beautiful.
The cliff was beautiful and the view was amazing and we saw lots of cool birds, too, mostly hornbills. We camped at the cliff for the night and left the morning after. We also did a Sit n’ Spot there before we left.
Our second campsite for the second day was a big lake all the way back down the mountain. The area was surrounded with big tall pine trees and it looked more beautiful than the last campsite in my opinion. We woke up with a beautiful sunrise at the lake and then we left. This was a great first trip and I had lots of fun and learned a lot, too. Two weeks later, we would go on another trip which was harder and really tested the knowledge and skills we learned in class.
In class two weeks before our second trip started, we learned about the more complicated lessons and things about being outdoors which included scary medical scenarios and how to save a person’s life. We were headed to Mondulkiri and we would spend 2 days of learning there and two additional days on the bus. Our one and only campsite, the one we would sleep at every night, was located at Resource Development International (RDI), a non-profit organization.
The first day, we trekked to two waterfalls and walked through a grassland which took us about 25 kilometers and it was extremely harder than last trip because of the steep and rocky terrain. We were going up and down mountains and in forests.
The second day, we went to another waterfall and it was just as hard as the last two. There, we learned how to make a soup made by the Pnong (indigenous) people of Mondulkiri. It was called the “Proung” soup and it was made entirely out of vegetables, hence very healthy. The way it was cooked was interesting, too; it was cooked over a fire in bamboo.
Lunch was amazing. And even though the soup didn’t look appealing, it tasted really good. We had the soup along with fish and pork cooked over the same fire.
We had Sit n’ Spots and activities throughout the trip. The activities included saving a person’s life and building a shelter. That second day, we walked about 15 kilometers. So we walked about 40 kilometers in total. The moment this trip started, I knew it was going to be my favorite because our walks were longer and the nature there was just beautiful, despite the difficulties and terrain.
Before this exploration started, I had thought that I knew what it was like to camp in the wild, but really, it had been false until this exploration. Even though we didn’t really camp at the waterfalls we went to or in the forests, I could tell how hard it was just by trekking through them which was extremely hard.
Throughout the exploration, I feel like I’ve changed a lot in terms of being an outdoor leader. Even though I didn’t enjoy the long lessons in class, I was grateful that they were taught to me because they were very important and could probably save a person’s life one day, if I ever decide to go out trekking with friend. Those lessons made the trips we went on way much easier than it would’ve been without them. At times when we, including me, were eating on trips, people changed from “I haven’t gotten food yet” to “Have you gotten food yet?” which is, to me, a big change. Being an outdoor leader is about sticking and working together in the wild, making sure everyone is okay, thinking about others first, and bearing with each other when we got lost or faced a problem. It’s also about knowing how to survive in the wild.
I was a bit sad when we went on the two trips because sometimes, I saw trash everywhere which was harming the environment and no one was doing anything about it. But we aren’t like those people who just walk over them without doing anything, we picked up the trash and made the place better, saving the place.
To all those out there, please, be careful of where you throw your trash because it can have some serious effects on the environment. Well, that’s it from me about this exploration. I had lots of fun as well as learned a lot and I loved being in Outdoor Leadership. Also being an outdoor leader. Lastly, I wish the people of Outdoor Leadership good luck, it’ll be fun and exciting!