Please Don’t Find Your Park.

Over the past year, I’ve noticed a big push to find your park.

I find this absurd.

As an Eagle Scout and avid outdoorsman, I’ve spent the better part of the past two decades exploring national parks. I was blessed to have parents who took our family to national parks every chance they had. Our national parks system is one of our greatest assets. One that I truly do believe is underappreciated.

I’m all for individuals finding adventure. I believe it is instrumental in developing the human spirit. But the notion of finding your park creates a mentality of takers.

The idea that individuals should find their park inherently implies that the park is theirs. It encourages them to treat it as if it belonged to them. This is all at a time when parks are already struggling. Over the past few years, our national parks have surged in popularity, which is putting a strain on the parks already limited resources.

The statement “find YOUR park” leads individuals to explore these parks as if they were their own. It implies a sense of ownership. It leads individuals stray off of marked trails, litter the woods, and deface natural artifacts.

The slogan also reinforces the notion that one’s experience at a national park should be catered to them. Instead of being mere observers, visitors have come to demand

What happened to staying in quaint cabins?

higher expectations. They expect accommodations and dining to meet commercial standards. In order to cater to these growing demands, companies like Xanterra, have stepped in to provide fine lodging and concessions within the parks. No longer are the accommodations in national parks basic cabins, they now rival luxury hotels (with prices to match).

All I’m saying is let’s not Disney-ify our national parks. Let’s not tear down forests so visitors can have better coffee. Sure let’s make them accessible for all to see, but at the same time be conscious of the footprint we leave. Let’s keep them pristine. Let’s leave them as we found them, not as we want them to be.

So please, don’t find YOUR park, rather discover OUR parks.

 

P.S. if you ever have any questions on how to adventure in the wilderness without leaving a trace, please don’t hesitate to message me.

Lessons Learned: One Year of Sailing

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine pointed out that I’d hit my one year anniversary of sailing with the UT Sailing Club.

In that time, I’ve learned a couple things (I know most of you didn’t think I was capable of that). Number one, if someone is yelling at you…just duck.

Things Break. Be Ready:

The first time I ever went sailing at UT, a few members managed to break a sailboat in half. Somehow, I was convinced that this was the group of people I should learn to sail with.

We’ve had numerous parts break on us at inopportune times. Sometimes it’s just poor luck and sometimes it’s our own incompetence (hint: it’s usually the latter). Instead of fretting and freaking out, you quickly learn to calm down and figure out how to improvise until you can fix it (or duct tape over it until the next person finds it).

Find a Sport:

As someone whose athletic claim to fame is scoring on my own soccer team in fourth grade, I never really understood the appeal of sports-ball competitions. I never understood how people bonded over flailing balls and pucks at each other.

After getting involved with J24 racing (the type of boat we race) it finally clicked. I understood how sports build camaraderie. The shared spirit of wanting to accomplish something. The coordination required to do something as simple as tack (turn) into another direction. The panic when things go wrong, it all just made sense.

I’ve probably inhaled just enough fiberglass while working on Jolly Bevo (our beloved J24) to shave a few months off my lifespan (how’s that for dedication), woken up sore every morning for a week after a regatta, and spent a too many hours in cold water, but somehow it all makes sense.

I have found a newfound respect for athletes and for my fellow professional Netflix connoisseurs, maybe give another sport a try.

What my parent's think I do when I say I'm sailing.
What my parent’s think I do when I say I’m sailing.

Everything Makes Sense. Except When It Doesn’t:

When I began sailing I floundered around in the water. Pulling on the mainsheet (the line that controls the sail) and messing with the tiller. More often than not I found myself in the water with the boat upside down. I didn’t understand what was going on and decided that sailing is essentially magic.

In the past year, I have learned more about sailing that any sane person should know (the amount of sailing knowledge I have has gone from nothing to being well informed, and has now peaked at nerdy). Generally, things make sense. I can read and react to the wind. When things go wrong, I can ascertain what I should look for. Once you know what you’re doing, sailing becomes a lot less like magic and a lot more like science. It’s a nice reminder that behind all the things we take for granted, there’s a lot more happening behind the scenes. At least for me, it has led me to become even more inquisitive (this was probably my elementary school teacher’s biggest nightmare).

But every once in a while, things just do not make sense. You can be sailing next to an identical boat doing the exact same thing as you and they still manage to surpass you. In those cases, I have decided to accept that sailing is still magic.

Bonus – Boat Puns Are Great:

I haven’t a clew where this fits in, but I have a newfound appreciation for boat puns and dad jokes. Maybe I’ve been pier pressured into appreciating them or maybe it is aboat time I started growing fond of them.

That is all.

End Notes:

One year in, I’ve been grateful that I somehow got roped into sailing. If you ever want to sail (regardless of whether you’re a pro or have never sailed before), let me know and I would love to get you out on the water (please note, you will be subjected to boat puns).

 

 

Why The 21st Street Co-Op?

One of the first things I was told once I moved into the 21st Street Co-Op was “This place will eat you alive and you’re going to love it.”

But let’s take a step back. How did I end up here in the first place? While always adventurous, my housing experience had always been pretty traditional. I’d spent most of my first 18 years living at home and then proceeded to live in a dorm my freshman year. After landing an internship in Austin over the summer, I needed to find a place to stay until I moved into my apartment in the fall. And that’s the start of how I ended up in the belly of the dragon.

For those of you do not know about the 21st Street Co-Op, it is the first structure built to be used as a cooperative living space, which is about as accurate a description as saying Brittney Spears is a wholesome (side note: is Brittney Spears still culturally relevant, because she’s still the only music I listen to)

In reality the co-op is cesspool of filth, drugs, and alcohol who use the ideals of communal living as a means of discovering and expressing themselves.

It really is a place where you get to see the best and worst of human nature. At the co-op, you see the power of democracy when structures are built in a day and you see the pitfalls of democracy when something as simple as purchasing a first-aid kit takes hours of debate and weeks to implement. Every day, the structure of the co-op is pushed to it’s limits and miraculously it manages to get by every time.

So to answer why I am at the the 21st Co-Op, the answer is simple. I don’t know when the next chance I’ll have to meet strangers and experience the human condition in their raw state (both figuratively and literally). Now that I’m here, I’m sure I’ll be a 21st MF for life.

 

 

What Happened to Summer Camp?

So this morning I started to wonder what happened to camp. It seems to me that summer camps in general have just disappeared. For a moment I considered the theory that maybe the ghost who live in the abandoned cabin did really take all the campers away and now there are none left, but for some reason I was not 100% convinced that theory would hold up.

Now let me be clear, when I say camp I mean real camp. The kind of summer camp where you sing cult-like chants that were written before the invention of a dictionary and where clothes end up getting burnt to ashes (ask me about that later). The kind of summer camp where you made crafts that only your grandma could appreciate and where you would inexplicably find yourself in the water rather than in the canoe you were supposed to be in. What I do not mean is math camp or science camp where kids sit in a classroom doing the same exact things that they would be doing during the school year, but because it’s “summer camp” they eat their lunch on the playground instead of in a cafeteria.

I can say this is true because I still get mail from summer camps who still don’t know that I am an adult, admittedly an adult that still enjoys eating Fruit Loops every once in a while. All of the mail I get for summer camps are academic camps, which to me is a way to trick kids into going to school over the summer.

Now I have a few theories on why summer camps have disappeared, none of which are factually sound but indulge me anyways:

First off there’s the theory that kids are just more advanced nowadays and they are capable to skip straight to the soul sucking part of education without having to “waste” the first few years of their lives learning how to play. Now this may seem true to all the grandparents who believe that their three year old was born a genius, but this buzzfeed post seems to prove otherwise.

Secondly, there’s the theory that parents are trying to be protective of their kids. They make sure that their kids never touch anything sharper than a the side of their pencil case or dirtier than the handle of a tennis racket. This also is quite true and also the reason that cups of coffee at McDonalds now have warnings that the contents may be hot. I envision at some point in the near future parents setting locks that prevent their children from going to the backyard the same way parents currently lock their iPads to limit screen time. As a 19 year-old with no kids, I must give my expert opinion that while it may be great to protect your kid from every scratch and inkling of foul language, at some point they will experience these things and will be woefully unprepared. The kids I know who have grown up using knives and playing with fire have a much better understanding of how to stay safe compared to those who encounter them later on and don’t know how to safely handle them.

Lastly, there is the theory that parents feel that they are giving their child a leg up by making them well rounded. But the truth is that we need (and colleges look for) well rounded human beings, not students who are semi-versed in every subject. We need kids who are willing to design and build things by themselves, not follow directions that tell you how the pieces fit together. We need kids who will ask questions themselves, not just answer multiple choice questions. We need kids who will read stuff that they find interesting, not just books that they were assigned by someone else.

Now this next bit that is going to make me sound like an old fart. We NEED camps, because without them we end up living in a bubble of a society. I’ve grown up knowing my fair share of brilliant kids who are socially inept and I fear living in a future where everyone is like this.

So here are my thoughts, the thoughts of an 19 year old individual with no knowledge about parenting or child development, let’s bring back real summer camps and thank you to the adults who helped make going to summer camp possible.