Jami, staff on our Californian Extravaganza Trip #5 last summer, writes about her experience.
The Westcoast Blogger
A few weeks back, I was asked to contribute to the WCC/360° blog with an entry about “what it means to be a Westcoast/360° staff.”
About what should I write? Evenings spent reviewing the following day’s itinerary? The chance to visit breathtaking National Parks and culturally rich cities? Coming up with creative programs for rides and encouraging everyone to make a new friend?
However, one memory persists and pushes itself to the front of the queue. No, not the memory of a student who is convinced he can’t surf mounting a colossal wave during surf lessons in San Diego, though I recall feelings of immeasurable pride. Not one of dizzily spinning on Alice’s teacups, even though I adore Disneyland. Not of my favorite activity on Californian Extravaganza: winding along the Snake River. Not even of the hilarity that ensued during our dinner at Los Angeles’ famous Improv. No, the moment I keep remembering is much simpler and took place in seconds.
I revert back to one of the most exciting days of our 28-day journey: exploring the Las Vegas strip in July. After wandering around and checking out the strip in the evening, we hopped on the tram back to the Monte Carlo at the end of the night. I have no idea what came over me, but I started loudly singing one of our morning songs. Next thing I know, our train erupts into a harmony of the most energetic rendition of this folk song that I could’ve imagined. The moment, which passed in a mere thirty seconds, epitomized the camaraderie of a summer with WCC/360°. At times like that, when we all share a joke that belongs solely to us, staff members can truly recognize the efficacy of our bonding ice-breakers and fun program on bus rides together. I experienced it a decade ago as a trip member, and it is undoubtedly what has brought me back, year after year.
I remember leaving my first trip (as a trip member), California & The Canyons, in 2001. I had traveled to beautiful places, tried new activities, made memories of a lifetime, and established friendships I would never forget (and still haven’t!). It took me a few years to realize in retrospect what else that summer offered me. In three short weeks, I had genuinely become a better person—more independent, a more purposeful leader, and somebody who could do her own dishes and laundry! I realize now that’s the best part of being a trip leader, too. Not only do you get to watch a similar positive transition in so many kids, but you come out as a better person, too. Think of all the qualities and values I strengthen each summer by surrounding myself with this environment and these people: leadership, the ability to make others smile, patience, punctuality, spontaneity, my sense of adventure and imagination, and countless other attributes.
So what does it mean to be a Westcoast/360° staff? Sure, it means taking responsibility for the trip member’s health and safety. It sometimes means long days. On some trips, it even means learning how to pitch a tent. The best thing, though, is that I can always trust that the staff will be respectable – people with whom I and the trip members will enjoy endless moments of laughter. Plus, I’m one of those lucky people who can vouch from experience that these memories last a lifetime, considering Westcoast Connection/360° has been a part of half of my own life. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: my one wish for the world is that every person could experience a summer with this company. Hey; it seems more probable than world peace!