Note: This post is part of the “Voices of Trips” series, featuring the individual experiences and perspectives of current Dartmouth undergraduates regarding DOC First-Year Trips. Check out the introduction to the series here.
Leave the soap at home…
Hey ‘17s. I hope you are getting excited because the start of Trips (and Dartmouth!!) is only a few weeks away! By now you’ve already received your trip assignments and have hopefully started getting your gear together based on your trip’s packing list. Reading your list over you will see many essentials you do not want to forget, perhaps including hiking boots or well-worn sneakers (blisters are not your friends), a sleeping bag (so you don’t freeze over at night) and a bathing suit (for water-based frolicking). The toiletries listing, however, may look a little lacking. There it states: Toiletries: toothbrush, small toothpaste. You don’t need more than this! No razors, makeup, hairdryers, etc.
“Okay,” you might be saying, “I can survive a couple of days in the woods without shaving or putting on makeup. But I think they forgot to put everything on the list; surely I should still bring my soap, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner. Sorry to say it, but no they did not forget. There is no need for soap, deodorant, or shampoo on Trips because you won’t have access to a shower, and Trips isn’t about staying squeaky-clean and looking nice. Trips is about letting go and getting ugly. So please, save yourself the trouble and don’t bring any soap to trips. If you do, it will be confiscated, just like mine was during the first night of my Stoddard Art Trip last year.
No matter what trip you are on, you will be moving. You will be sweating and getting dirty. Your hair may frizz, and you may smell a little bit. But, that’s part of the experience! Screw social conventions: you are heading to the wilderness, not a job interview! Enjoy this opportunity to connect with nature while also getting down with your bad self! You and your trippees’ individual stenches will mesh together to form one supreme group stank, meaning no one will be individually held accountable (Just kidding!). But when you do find a river or a pond, such as “Monahan’s Bathtub”, the stream that was located near my trip’s cabin, taking a dip is all the more fun because it serves the added purpose of removing some sweat and stank.
Letting go of your appearance during Trips means more than just a good time; it can also be enriching. By getting ugly over the course of trips, you are also letting yourself get real. Not being able to shower or wash your hair means, in a sense, giving up control of your trip leaders’ and trippees’ “image” of you. This vulnerability is scary in that it opens you up to strangers’ judgments, but that same vulnerability is also powerful in that it allows you to get to know each other at a deeper and more personal level. That, I believe, is where the true bonding of Trips occurs.
To really gain the most out of Trips, I recommend letting yourself “get ugly” with your actions as well. I’m not telling you to be selfish or aggressive or rude. Don’t do that. What I mean is, be genuine: share who you are along with your hopes and fears about going to college. Try not to worry about being judged; your trip leaders chose to be there because they want to get to know you and Dartmouth is just as new for your trippees as it is for you! Also remember that no one has prior expectations of who you should be, nor are they trying to get anything from you. Letting your trippees see your authentic self and giving them the same courtesy will help your relationships grow naturally and strong in your five days in the wilderness.
In my opinion, by embracing the idea of opening up during Trips, you are doing yourself a huge service. Beginning college is a huge change and Trips can be a foundation for the challenges ahead– even if you, like me, don’t end up meeting your best friends on your trip. It is nice to begin meeting other students, and getting to know them and yourself better. This is not to say that it is always easy; listening to your genuine self is a gradual and ongoing process. I struggle with it all the time. But, being honest with yourself and others can make your time on Trips, and at Dartmouth much more valuable. So welcome to Dartmouth! Get ready for Trips. Don’t worry about not being able to wear make-up or shave. Be yourself, and leave the soap at home.