By: Nate Hausman
Photos By: Amber and Nate Hausman
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, striving to “be here now” and focusing on choosing our challenges wisely are mantras that La Vida sherpas continually share while leading expeditions. For Amber and Nate Hausman, not only did they recently have the opportunity to live out some of these La Vida sayings, but they also got to share the La Vida trip experience in China with 17 international school students. The trip was a year in the making and consisted of countless email exchanges, numerous Skype conversations and a lot of trust that it would all come together in the end.
To bring the trip to fruition, they partnered with Concordia International School of Shanghai, Journey Wilderness Adventures (JWA) and a Beijing-based company called The Hutong. The Hutong provides educational experiences for students that are a unique blend of cultural immersion and experiential outdoor education. They provided the logistical support needed for this trip by preparing a route, organizing transportation and guiding us through the wilderness.
The seven-day trip first became an idea in 2015 after Gordon’s Vice President of Student Life Jennifer Jukanovich made a connection with a staff member at Concordia who oversees all their off-campus experiences. What started as a question of whether or not La Vida could provide an international experience soon became a reality. Rich Obenschain and Nate then had the opportunity to meet with Chris Qualls of JWA who was visiting the Gordon area and heard about La Vida from a former student of his in China. One connection led to another and soon the nuts and bolts of the trip were coming together.
It was quickly apparent to Nate and Amber that this experience would be a unique one as soon as they landed in China’s capital. Surrounded by a sea of individuals all speaking foreign languages and being shuffled through long lines at the customs checkpoint, Nate and Amber were thrilled to stretch their legs after 14 hours in a plane. The first few days of their trip were filled with not only tourist activity, but also with final trip preparations. A visit to the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Hutong district in downtown Beijing were all highlights from those first few days. In addition to seeing some of the sites though, Nate and Amber all focused their attention on purchasing final food items and packing not only those items, but also food they needed to bring from the United States (who knew it was so tough to get M&Ms in China?)
Day one of the trip quickly arrived, and with that the leadership team headed to the airport to pick up the 17 students and two teachers from Concordia. Concordia has students from all over the world, so they have a strong focus on building community within the high school. Every year the students are a part of a different “TrIBES” (Transforming Individuals By Education and Service) group which is a weeklong educational travel experience. TrIBES seeks to develop communication, leadership skills, self-reliance and compassion. After a two-hour bus ride into the hills located outside of Beijing, gear, food and personal equipment was all distributed and the group of 23 headed to their first campsite. The group meandered their way through the wilderness and as often happens on La Vida trips, started to develop their own inside jokes, tight bonds over long days of hiking and friendships that would last for years after their experience in the woods.
The trip was a great experience overall for everyone involved. Nate and Amber left feeling positive that the spiritual curriculum they prepared reached the students well and opened the door for them to begin exploring their faith more. Topics of discussion were based on community development, cultivating your faith personally, learning to be present and not worrying about the future. During an end-of-trip debrief session, all six of the leaders commented on how much work went into the planning and preparation of this trip, but how incredibly evident that planning was in how well the trip was implemented. Many students commented on how they have become more aware of the role of technology in their lives and how they need to find balance with its use, but also came to realize that time with friends and family is something to be treasured, and not disrupted by the buzzing of cell phones.
Now that the trip has wrapped up and everyone is back home again, Nate and Amber have been able to share with numerous friends, family and co-workers about how God truly did provide for them during this entire experience. It is apparent that you don’t need to be located in the Adirondacks to experience the power of La Vida. The lessons you gain from spending time in the wilderness are universal and something that cross international borders. Although future plans for another trip to China are not confirmed yet, there is hope this was not the last international La Vida trip.