If you have spoken to me in the last year, you will know that I am not quiet and shy like I was in high school. No longer am I the guy propping up the wall at a party or freaking out because a girl spoke to me. Not that I really ever was to the extent I am suggesting but I definitely remember feeling awkward around girls - and probably didn't hide it well.
I have said many times that travelling has improved my life, made me the person I always hoped to become and allowed me to try new things but it wasn't an easy journey. Just the other day I was reminiscing about SnowJam (the first major group setting on this Vancouver trip) and remembered that prior to chilling out and having a great time, I had been the new guy, stood alone in the car park afraid to talk to all the random strangers without the comfort of someone (in this case the Bowen's) to fall back on if I was rejected.
Allowing myself out of the "introvert" cage on the trip back in January not only made me a whole network of new friends but it made me realise that the world was not out to get me and that being myself didn't send people running for the hills. Being defensive and shy had really only ever made it harder for people to get to know me - a vicious cycle.
Since then I have tried a whole host of new things (some falling under the "Bucket List", others just random daily events) including foods previously dismissed as "gross" (the Bowen's cook great food even if it was something you thought you didn't like!), music (with opportunity to download as much as I desired!) and activities that at one point would not have appealed to me at all!
Working at SummerFun, new things (as well as the opportunity to explore new parts of Vancouver accompanying the kids to water parks and beaches) came in the form of dares and contests. As stupid as the challenges seem now, at the time they looked like fun and were exactly the thing that the kids needed to have crazy memories of the summer.
As much as we'd have liked the kids to tell all their friends that they made fudgsicles or went to a beach during the summer, they are much more likely to brag to their friends that they saw a dude pull string through his face! In fact, by the second week I had kids that I'd just met requesting that I do it again - the returning "first week kids" spreading the word rapidly! Not wanting to repeat my tricks (and already having video evidence of said stunt!), I decided to embark on other crazy pursuits in the name of entertainment!
For a $20 bet (that I may never receive) I ate large bites from a raw onion because a volunteer wanted to see it done! Dressed as a unicorn (with my coworker, Sage) I pranced down a makeshift catwalk to everyone's amusement - just for fun. Just before the camping trip (and 2.5 hour journey), I decided to drink 2 litres of water in one sitting (apparently dangerous because you can't vomit water!) and then not go to the toilet for two hours! I tried in vain to repeat my 3-minute breath holding record from last summer but found 15 gawping kids to be too distracting!
As crazy/ridiculous as these things sound, I did learn from them. For example, when you cover your nose an onion doesn't taste so bad. When you have to pee really bad, your body heat is all concentrated to your bladder and you get cold. When you prance around at a fashion show that everyone else is taking seriously, dressed as a unicorn, you probably won't win. Unless the kids are the judges! And things will always seem funnier when you are holding your breath or trying to drink!
At Camp Latona, where I spent the first few days of August, we were organised into teams and set challenges, competing for prizes at the end of the camp. I was placed in a strong team which bonded quickly and decided upon the name "Dirt Pigs". Most of the activities were games that we had used for the Summerfun kids - more fun when actually playing them, it turns out! - and then towards the end there were some more obscure challenges!
One such challenge was an eating contest where I was given the "Bachelor" meal - a mix of meaty tinned spaghetti and creamy banana yogurt! Despite the disgust factor that ran through my mind, I knew that food all went the same way in the end and that I should go for it anyway. Fortunately, I adore banana and even meaty spaghetti was bearable with a good mix of the yogurt - though I usually don't mix savoury and sweet!
The other memorable challenge was trying to eat dangling marshmallows with elastic stretched around my upper lip pulling me backwards! Knowing it would make me look silly was hardly reason enough not to try it and with this mind set I am sure to continue to have an amazing trip - even occasionally doing something new and interesting that isn't also goofy and stupid!