I love what we do in Italy. I think there is a soulfulness, an authenticity to our trips that is an outgrowth certainly of where Kristi and I come from, our life experiences, our roots. There is much of that past from which I could draw, but I want to highlight just one today – and that is an extraordinary wilderness camp in Maine.
When I returned from four years in Afghanistan at the tender age of 14 it was quite a culture shock. In those intervening years the U.S. had changed a lot, but I returned expecting it to be the same. So it was difficult. After my freshman year in high school I had the great good fortune, through the exceptional intuition of my parents, to spend six weeks of the summer in Maine’s remote wilderness at Darrow Canoe Camp. The camp was made up of small groups, each of which spent the entire summer canoeing the lakes and rivers of Maine’s outback, where we only saw other people when we were transported by vans every few weeks from one wilderness to another. Here I found a place to belong, a group of people working together toward the same goals, in the natural environment which inevitably connects us to what is deep within.
It was a fabulous summer. I returned the next summer as a counselor in training and then the following years through high school and college working my way up to lead a group after my junior year in college. After graduating from college, newly married, I brought Kristi to Darrow where I served as the cook at the base camp and she managed the office.
The camp has changed, going into Quebec to find the wilderness once so prevalent in Maine. And it is now a nonprofit organization. But it is the same at its core.
The experience taught me much about working with people. It taught me how to listen, how to work together toward an end, how to deal with adversity, what it means to be part of a group. It also taught me to slow down, to connect to nature as a way to connect to life, to listen for the deeper urges in me sometimes obscured by the frenetic pace of life or the messages with which we are bombarded.
In short it was a formative experience. That experience influences our trips to Italy where we continue to connect to what is deep inside, to enjoy a place as a group, albeit with a little more comfort than what we had in Maine, to celebrate what is authentic.
So this is a tribute to Darrow Canoe Camp, all it has done for me and continues to do for scores of young people today, and, indirectly, does for all who travel with us to Italy.